Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Taphophile Tragics - The earth moves even after death

It seems sacrilegious, and disrespectful of our ancestors and our history, but cemeteries in Sydney have closed, and the interred 'moved' on a number of occasions. My first image today, is one of the few images available (courtesy of NSW State Records) of the Devonshire Sandhills Cemetery. What the pedestrians are walking along here is Devonshire Street, which is now replaced by the Devonshire Street Tunnel beneath Central Railway Station. The view is to the NW, with the steeple of St Laurence on the left, and the turrett from the old Anthony Hordern warehouse in the mid-distance. Here is an 1895 interactive map of the area, with the camera positioned about the 'v' in Devonshire pointing to the NW. It did my head in trying to work out what was now on this very site, but it is all the country and city platforms of Central, which were opened in 1906 (with the recently-refurbished clock tower added in 1924).

The image below was taken at St Stephen's graveyard in Newtown, aka Camperdown Cemetery. Chiselled into one post is the inscription:
These gate posts erected prior to 1830 at the old Devonshire St Cemetery
Removed 1901 and erected Camperdown Cemetery 1946
This was after Camperdown Cemetery underwent its own cosmetic surgery from a cemetery to a 'memorial peace park' with the headstones brought within the 'protection' of the churchyard.

Devonshire Sandhills Cemetery opened about 1819, just prior to the Old Burial Ground on the future Town Hall site in George Street closing. Remains and headstones were moved the mile or so down to Devonshire Street. When construction of Central Station commenced at the turn of the century, remains and headstones from Devonshire Street were scattered to other cemeteries across Sydney. I have seen headstones from Devonshire Street in Gore Hill Cemetery, many in Rookwood Cemetery, and in Waverley Cemetery. The two-image set below, is a monument moved from Devonshire Street to St Jude's graveyard in Randwick. The inscription reads:
Reinterred after removal from Devonshire Street Cemetery, the mortal remains of
Hugh MacDonald
Lieutenant and Quartermaster of H.M. 46th Regiment.
Other remains rest beneath the same monument, but I cannot be sure they were transferred from Devonshire Street.

Down in Botany Cemetery (Eastern Suburbs Memorial Rest Park!) there is a 'Pioneers' Park' of headstones removed from Devonshire Street. It does not specifically say that the remains were reinterred, so I think they simply retrieved the unclaimed monuments. The bodies that were reinterred were done so by descendents, who were given financial assistance by the government of the day. Go down to Botany and have a look, but take a packed-lunch, and be dedicated.

This is my contribution to the Taphophile Tragics community.


Ann said...

I've never seen a photo of Devonshire Street cemetery before.

Nicola Carpenter said...

Interesting. Such great photographs too. I love the first one, nice to see old photographs of cemeteries.

Did you know in London in the 1840s the cemeteries and graveyards were so over crowded that older burials were exhumes and the rmeains scattered on the grounds to make way for new burials. This caused decomposing bodies to contaminate the water supply causing the great Cholera epidemic.

Finally in 1849 it was decided this could no longer go on and the London Necropolis Compnay was formed and Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey 25 miles from London was open to receive London's dead.

Beneath Thy Feet

Gemma Wiseman said...

Those headstones back to back in that way are a little formidable! Like a silent army in waiting! (Immediately thought of Emperor Qin's terracotta army for some reason!) Fascinating stories of cemeteries on the move!

Joan Elizabeth said...

Wow what an interesting track you have followed here. Some many bits and pieces of the old cemetery strewn about the city.

PerthDailyPhoto said...

I wonder if some of these poor souls moved more after they were deceased than while they were alive Julie.

'Tsuki said...

I like this Tanophile tragic thing going on : cemetarry are great place to catch slices of life. ^^

hamilton said...

so much for 'resting in peace'.

VioletSky said...

It does seem that Sydney has had more than its share or removals and reinterments.
I have seen stones later embedded in walls but your last picture is rather touching with them all lined up like that.

Joe said...

It does seem inappropriate even disrespectful to relocate a grave let along a whole cemetery. I guess all things eventually change and “progress” is inevitiable.

CaT said...

that last photo; wow, seems so packed...
and i like the first one.

in the netherlands graves are often removed after a certain amount of years, or when people (family) do not want to pay for it anymore. i think that is so sad! but i guess its a matter of space available... i guess. but i still dont like it.

Julie said...

In the state of New South Wales, graves are held in perpetuity. So, the cemeteries that have been 're-purosed' have been so as a result of an Act of Parliament and about 80 years after the final interment in that cemetery. This is not the same for all states of Australia.

Dina said...

"Dedicated" is certainly what you are, Julie.
That last photo is so striking!

JM said...

GHreat post, Julie! Love the old photo and the bottom shot too.

Sandra Cross said...

My Great great great Scottish Grandfather was buried at Balmain Cemetery, I only found him a couple of months ago and I was devastated to find out that his headstone may have been moved or used to create a wall!!! ... somewhere I don't know. I as his great great great granddaughter and my children cannot visit his grave as it is concealed... he was a pioneer of the great land of ours, he helped build buildings that are still standing to this very day and I feel very resentful that Governments of this country can be so disrespectful to not only my grandfather but to other pioneers that came before these interfering people, is there no respect for the dead !! Obviously not!!
It seems as though my grandfather was never here and helped build this country with its buildings. Shame on all who were involved with this move.