Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Taphophile Tragics # 4 - Botany's Pioneer Park


A well-worn epitaph for the deceased is 'Rest in Peace' (Requiescat in pace). However, in the first century of this city, we denied the dead a restful peace. We were a gaol, a convict colony. We did not treat our dead venerably, and we had no expectation that the colony would thrive. So we plonked our boot-hill in the middle of the town. Not once, but twice. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to mislocate one burial ground may be regarded as a misfortune; to mislocate two smells distinctly like a lack of vision.


Many of the original inhabitants of the city (and, by definition, the nation) were not left to rest peacefully, but were moved around willy-nilly. It beggars belief that mortal remains were kept intact, were relocated with correct head and foot stones. In total 2,285 plots were relocated from where they were originally interred. Here at Pioneer Park in Botany Cemetery (originally Bunnerong Cemetery) just 746 gravestones have been preserved. No mention of the remains. The rest of the stones were worn away by weather and neglect. Although the park lacks a graveyard authenticity (no need to worry about where one treads here), it is a very moving experience to walk up the rise through Botany Cemetery into this distinctly different area of commemoration.


The first official burying ground for Sydney was in the area now occupied by the Town Hall and St Andrews (Anglican) Cathedral. However, this was not cared for and became full and foul by 1819. So most (but not all, as we gloriously discovered just a few short years ago when digging up the basement of the Town Hall) of the bodies and headstones were moved down to the Devonshire Street (Sandhills) Burial Ground.

However, in 1901 it was determined that the main railway station of Sydney was to be erected on this self-same site. So, all the bodies were, once again, exhumed and relocated. However, this time, they had to be relocated where space (and descendants) permitted. Some remains were devolved to Rookwood Cemetery to the West, some to Gore Hill Cemetery to the North, some to both South Head and Waverley Cemeteries to the East, and still others to Bunnerong Cemetery to the South. Scattered to the four winds, if you will ...


View Cemeteries in Sydney in a larger map

32 comments:

Francisca said...

Oh dear, all that moving of head stones without remains would be a horror to feng shui believers! The top photo is wonderful!

Nellies said...

These photos are beautiful, the different shades of red in the photos are really, really beautiful. And again a very interesting read Julie, thanks!

Kate said...

Thanks for the history lesson. I was struck by the bio. info on Howe's headstone. Don't think I've seen that before.

Oakland Daily Photo said...

Oscar Wilde always provides the mot juste, doesn't he? Seems to me Howe deserves a larger headstone now in recognition of his contributions to the colony.

Breathtaking said...

Interesting read,and wonderful photos.

Carole Meisenhelter said...

a well-studied post with great photographs

VioletSky said...

It looks odd - and in a way, sad - to see so many headstone so close together, like rows of tenement housing.

Gemma Wiseman said...

As soon as I saw the name "Bunnerong" I was doubly intrigued! The indigenous community who lived round Arthurs Seat/Dromana were named Bunnerong. Bunnerong Track weaves right by Dromana cemetery on the hillside.

I am amazed at all the movement of the cemeteries in Sydney! I guess with "progress" and urbanisation, there was a need! But it seemed so "ad hoc"!

Fascinating post!

Ann said...

Its very well maintained. You don't hear Bunnerong much these days, I lived in Bunnerong Migrant Hostel for a short time as a child.

Jim said...

Thanks For showing this, Julie. It brings back memories of a visit here as part of a school excursion. I haven't been here for years. I should go back and have another look.

hamilton said...

Oh dear me, imagine the logistics of all that moving around! And so interestingly short sighted to have put the cemetery where it was.

Mark said...

We have a similar taphophile theme today!
I agree with Francesca's comment.
So enjoying this new meme Julie!

freefalling said...

Isn't that what happened in Melb too?
Isn't the Queen Vic market on the site of the original cemetery?
I'm gunna go check that now.

freefalling said...

oh.
they just built a carpark over the graves - 9000 of them.

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/bodies-under-queen-vic-haunt-market-revamp-20110311-1bqsp.html

Peter said...

Excellent. The first unofficial one was down near where the MCA now is. I think I fixed my linky.

Julie said...

Peter, I need more info on this please. Down near the MCA is where the Tank Stream empties into the harbour (actually beneath the didge players!). And about there, sort of where the SMH animal sculpture is, is the location of the first army encampment/gaol. So it makes sense that they hung 'em and flung 'em. But as for an unofficial 'graveyard' ... sources please!

Julie said...

Letty: They poured a cement slab on top of a historic graveyard/cemetery. Wuhoo ... SydneyisbetterthanMelbourne!!!

And they want to do it again, but underground. Who is that burke, Peter Clarke? I love how the journalist says it may have reached a 'dead end'. Very drole.

This is something that will never happend. No matter which bunch of jerks have the keys to city hall.

*hangs head in shame on behalf of all victorians* ... at least Sydney did its moving of bodies over a century ago before the days of the Heritage Act and legislation relating to the Coroner’s Act, Cemeteries and Crematoria Act, Aboriginal Heritage Act and Local planning legislation.

Shame!

Joan Elizabeth said...

Fascinating history.

s.c said...

Beautiful pictures Julie and the moving of the headstones is still better than removing the grave totally after 10 years if the family or other people are not willing to pay for the grave. The person in question will be moved to a common grave. Now practice in the Netherlands since 1992. Perhaps it has something to do with to many people on to little ground. Luckily graves before 1900 are considered of historical value and therefore not falling under this regime.

Mark said...

Julie, I know I posted the link on the meme @ 9 this morn but my wireless keeps dropping out lots lately, thanks for alerting.
My post for next week, god willing I am back in Lismore next Monday, began in the Northern Star but i am sure it would've featured big time in the Post & Pix!

biebkriebels said...

What a fascinating story about the history of the graves and the photos are so beautiful.

PerthDailyPhoto said...

Seems to me Julie, that some of the deceased have done more traveling a.d than b.d.. It's still a very impressive sight to see all those headstones standing like soldiers in rows.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

This blog entry is so great Julie). And so relatable to me being that we're both daughters of the colonies. While putting my post together I've come across info that is so similar to this. Our land was Spanish and therefor Catholic so burial was around the Spanish established Missions----until the Yanks came marching in and protestants had to be accommodated - and in much the same way. Neglectfully. Oscar Wilde quote is hysterical

tapirgal said...

Gore Hill? Really?

There is so much to comment on. This is a wonderful meme, thank you! As I said to JM: !!! What a great find, JM, the more I "travel" this meme, the more I realize that I/we probably many of us) have posted and photographed lots of cemeteries without thinking to connect them. We needed this!

I love the coloring of these tall stones. Also, is there any other gravestone in the world that says, "besides which"?

Several people asked about the placement of that lighthouse columbarium. I assume the long cliff of Tillamook Head left few places on the shore for a light, as the cliff is probably too high. A few miles north is the mouth of the Columbia River, which takes in lots of ships and is so dangerous it's been called "the Graveyard of the Pacific."I guess a light anywhere along here would be useful.

Julie said...

Thank you for your kind words, Sheryl. It is a great meme, I agree. The variety of posts it extraordinary, and it is so good to be able to post on something 'meaty', although like 'gore' this word might be out of place. William Gore was an early land-holder.

I did not realise that the Colombia River carried much shipping, but that is not something that I have much knowledge of at all, obviously. But it makes sense that the coastline is too high and the flashing warning would be over the 'head' of ships potentially in danger. Thanks for returning and letting me know.

I do try to get around to each contributor a second time before the end of each round. To see how they fared, and to read what else has been tossed up in the interim.

JM said...

The top shot is truly amazing! WOW! And, as usual, I just love your detail shots, Julie.

Annie said...

It says a lot about a society that so strongly respects the remains of its dead.

The line of headstones, so closely set next to each other, makes a sort of natural barrier between the world of the living and the world of the dead.

Julie said...

Welcome, Annie, and thank you for your comment.

I had not thought about the reflections upon our society from the various types of 'respect' shown the dead. You are right, though. We have all types in my city, as you probably have in yours. And even within each cemetery. Sometimes it is out of sight out of mind, sadly.

Thanks for taking the time to visit.

diane b said...

Love your detailed photos. It is an interesting story too. I'm glad they have kept the headstones in an easy way to view. I'm sorry I have no post this week but I would like to finish my SA trip first then I will join in again. I still have a few in the archives as well as a few interesting local cemeteries.

Julie said...

Yes, I understand about breaking into longer plans, so not a problem. You are most welcome to dip in and dip out when you wish.

TheChieftess said...

Fascinating...that top photo is stellar Julie!

Julie said...

Thank you, Kathryn.