St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta

Last Saturday, I was fortunate enough to attend a booked out tour of St. John’s Cemetery in Parramatta which is known as the oldest surviving European burial ground in Australia.

Parramatta is now known as a central business district and to see this patch of land enclosed by sandstone walls, surrounded by high rise buildings and constructions is an interesting contrast.

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The Cemetery is surrounded on all sides by the Parramatta CBD

 

It’s a significant site, both culturally and historically, and up until 12 months ago it had fallen into disrepair.  Luckily a few local historians joined forces to form the Friends of St. John’s Cemetery and they have worked tirelessly to clear away the weeds and look at conservation of the historic site.

The site is important because not only is it known as the oldest European burial site in Australia, but it is home to the oldest marked grave in Australia, Henry Dodd among other notable Australians such as Samuel Marsden, Augustus Alt, Francis Oak and many First Fleeters.  There are 17 First Fleeters who are in marked graves but a much larger number unfortunately are unmarked.  Sadly, the cemetery records were destroyed by fire in the 1930s so it is impossible to know exactly who is buried there unless you have the information on a Death Certificate and where their final resting place is, if they’re in an unmarked grave.

I believe it is vital to save this heritage site and so I immediately signed up to become a member.  I look forward to learning more about the lives of the people who are buried behind the sandstone walls.

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4 Responses to St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta

  1. Thank you so much for coming along Tiphanee and for taking the time to write this fantastic post about the tour and the site as a whole. Your photos are wonderful too. We will be sharing this blog post on the Friends of St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta Facebook page tomorrow to mark one week since the big tour day event! Thanks again for your support!!!!!

    • Thank you for hosting! I really enjoyed the tour, it just wasn’t long enough… I was hoping to get to your meeting on the 10 September but unfortunately will be attending the NSW Family History Association Conference that weekend so will have to wait until your next one.

  2. D. Anderson says:

    I think it needs to be said that the new Friends group has not been responsible for clearing away the weeds. This was done by the Corrective Services Department – an arrangement that has been in place for over 30 years. The cemetery was never as bad as the hysteria in the press indicated. Certainly at times it became a bit overgrown but it does need to be remembered that it is not a lawn cemetery and a bit of growth allows the native grasses there to flourish. That being said, the Friends group is a positive step that will allow long postponed high cost tasks, such as the much needed repairs to the wall, to be done.

    • Hi Duncan,

      Thank you for your comments and for correcting me regarding the maintenance of St. John’s Cemetery. It is good to hear that there was such an arrangement in place. I agree with you that the Friends group is a positive step and I hope that at least it can help raise awareness (and funding) to go towards further maintenance and conservation of this valuable historical site.

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