By Sheila Welbergen
photos by DJ Seaton
The Soldiers’ Chapel was opened in 1915. Planned as a club room when the parish hall was being built in 1914, this changed when war started and in 1915 the chapel became known as the Soldiers’ Chapel. A stained glass window by McCausland was “Erected in Memory of the Boys of St Luke’s Sunday School who gave their lives in the Great War of 1914-1919.”
Because it was planned as an integral part of the parish hall, it was always accessible from there (down the stairs at the east end of the parish hall) and from the Stradbrook Street entrance. Accessing the chapel from the basement of the church was by a devious route, eventually winding through the Fort Rouge Day Care. Either way there were a lot of steps. The chapel was not wheelchair accessible or friendly to non-climbers.
There used to be an ambry (a cupboard) for the reserved Blessed Sacrament down in the chapel. This was quite awkward since the rear of the ambry stuck out into the room next door, which had also been designated as a ‘club coom.’ Eventually the ambry was moved to the right of the chancel altar in the sanctuary and dedicated to the memory of Wayne Eyers.
The club room/conference room had many incarnations, among them storage for our rummage sale, The Whale. It suffered from neglect, water damage etc.
Once the Soldiers’ Chapel became the home of the Columbarium the issue of accessibility became urgent.
Once the Soldiers’ Chapel became the home of the Columbarium the issue of accessibility became urgent. Between February and March 2012 the Soldiers’ Chapel Accessibility Project was approved by vestry and a letter of agreement signed with the architect.
With Neil Almdal as the project co-ordinator and a grant from the small project component of the Enabling Accessibility Fund plus generous donations from parishioners , the work started in September 2013.
To make the chapel more easily accessible, the conference room was gutted with the dividing wall between the conference room and chapel gone. The open area now houses a wheelchair lift. This is an open, shaftless, elevator, which allows a wheelchair and occupant to roll on, rise about seven steps and roll off through the new west door of the chapel.
Nothing in the interior of the chapel has been disturbed. The stained-glass window remains as do the niches in the columbarium. The entrance has, however, been moved from the east end to the west end of the chapel. And the trek through the day care has ended.