Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Next visit - Pioneer Memorial Park

Pioneer Memorial Park

I was driving in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney last week and found myself driving alongside the old cemetery called the Pioneer Memorial Park which is part of the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park. This section contains some of the earliest burials in Sydney.

"Created in 1976 through the dedicated effort of Fred W. Read and fellow Botany Cemetery Trustees, Pioneer Memorial Park has 746 surviving memorials of the many that were transported from the early burial grounds of Sydney in 1901." (taken from Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park)

Old Burial Grounds and Town Hall Cemetery

The Sydney Burial Ground, or Old Devonshire Ground Cemetery was created in 1819. It operated until 1868. Roughly, 5,000 memorial stones were erected over this period. Family plot burials continued until 1888 (Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park)

Many bodies were moved from the old Town Hall Cemetery and the Sydney Burial Grounds (also known as the Devonshire Street Cemetery and the Sandhills cemetery) after the closure of these facilities. In 1901, the government of NSW asked the descendants those who had died and been buried at the Devonshire Street Cemetery to relocate the monuments and remains 'at the government's expense because of plans to build the Central Railway Station. They were given "2 months to arrange for the exhumation and removal of remains." (Wikipedia) They were duly moved to a number of different Sydney cemeteries including: Rookwood, Camperdown, South Head, Waverly, Gore Hill and Bunnerong.

Bunnerong Cemetery

"The remains that were unclaimed were relocated to a purpose built cemetery named Bunnerong Cemetery. This new cemetery south of the city had a tram line constructed to make the removal of recasketed remains as simple as possible. Bunnerong Cemetery was next to the Botany Cemetery and in the early 1970s was absorbed by that cemetery to create the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park."

Pioneer Burials

"The majority of the monuments, including some of those of Sydney’s earliest settlers, which had fortunately been relocated by their families from Town Hall Cemetery to the Old Burial Ground in the 1820’s, were taken to 25 acres known as Bunnerong Cemetery which was in the custody of the Botany Cemetery Trust..... In 1972 Botany Cemetery Trust was given permission to re-use Bunnerong Cemetery for current burials. At that time a part of the land, now known as Pioneer Memorial Park was set aside for the re-erection and display of the headstones that were still legible and salvageable or specimens of monumental art." (Easter Suburbs Memorial Park)

I am looking forward to visiting this historic site and hopefully wandering around the adjacent grounds. It is interesting to note that when government made this offer to move graves from the old burial grounds to the new cemetery in Botany that they created a tram line to make this process easier. Looking at the history of this now defunct tram line has turned up a few leads, but it would be interesting to find further information on when it operated and for how long...and what happened to it.

Link for Tram Line to Bunnerong Cemetery
City Rail - Central Station

Link to Map of the Cemetery

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