Annie Springthorpe (nee Inglis), wife of renowned Melbourne doctor and philanthropist Dr John Springthorpe, died 23 January, 1897, as a result of child-birth complications but was buried in her family grave on the 26th. She was not interred in the Memorial crypt until 1899. They had been married on her twentieth birthday, 26 January, 1887.
Dr. Springthorpe was devastated by the death of his soul-mate but at the same time, he was aware of the universality of death and grief. So, he decided to build a memorial that would not just be for Annie alone but which would seek to express the hope in loss for all mankind. Thus, he would inscribe no name on it. The beauty of love, he felt, is immortal and in being so overcomes mortality. All the structure’s major features have symbolic value. Underneath each of the four gables, or tympanie, is a line ending in the word “evermore”. If you walked around the temple, looking up, you would move from “Peace Evermore” to “Life Evermore”, then to “Light Evermore” which faces the west and finally to a resolution in the affirming “Love Evermore.” Springthorpe wanted the visitor to read each of the sides of the temple as a panel, so that beginning on the eastern side and proceeding clockwise you read a story of Loss, Memory, Separation and finally Reunion.
The temple was Springthorpe’s concept and he worked with architect Desbrowe Annear on the working drawings for the structure and with artist John Longstaffe on drawings for the sculpture group which they had ready by April 1898. The marble was carved by well-known ex-pat sculptor Edgar Bertram Mackennal in London.
Supporting the 100 tons of Harcourt granite are twelve highly polished granite columns so deeply green in colour that they appear black, shot through with opalescent flecks of mica. Quarried in Labrador, the stone was shipped to Aberdeen in Scotland where it was polished into tapering pillars ten feet high and two feet in diameter. The floor is covered in mosaic tiles manufactured especially by the Mitcham Tile Company to Springthorpe’s design. He spent many hours agonising over the wording for the floor inscriptions, the pediments, and the gate. They are not only reflections of his love and sadness, but are also evident of his wide reading and scholarship and include words from the Greek classics, the Bible, Walt Whitman, Wordsworth, Dante, Browning, Riley, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.