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.
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.