Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Taphophile Tragics


St Peters churchyard, on the busy Princes Highway in the suburb of St Peters, is my kind of graveyard. Overgrown and falling into disrepair, I think its absolutely beautiful. I've known of it for years, always intended to visit but never had. I'm glad I did.


Cooks River Parish was named after the river which flows through it. On 13 May, 1838 the first service was conducted in a temporary church. The foundation stone of the present church was laid on 7 July 1838, and the building was completed in November 1839. Thomas Bird was the architect and the builder Henry Knight, of Macdonaldtown. St Peters is one of the oldest churches in the suburbs of Sydney. Built of sun-dried bricks, by free labour, it represents the English Commissioner’s Gothic style in Australia. Twelve pillars, made of ironbark, support a plaster vaulted nave. The church itself, which I remembered as being quite run down, has had a new paint job and seems now to be Evangelical Christian.


Adjacent to the church is the graveyard which was in use from March 1839 till April 1896. Bishop Broughton consecrated the graveyard on December 26th, 1840. There are 2,515 people listed in the burial register. Two thirds of these burials are of children under the age ten. Of the two thirds, more than half are under three years. There are many memorials to the pioneers of the district and beyond. Symbols of a past era – draped urns, hourglasses and broken branches are carved on the headstones. The graveyard is not only a place of burial, but a great source of social history.

Unfortunately, I don't know anything about the individuals buried there but the St Peters Cooks River History Group has an open afternoon on the first Saturday of every month which would be worth a look.


Stories behind the graves can be found on the St Peters Cooks River History Group website.


The text at the other end of this grave reads "Erected by his brother officers to the memory of Henry Reeve, Money Order Department. Son of Lieut L(?) A Reeve RM. Born in England 1 November 1821. Died at Newtown 21 June 1875."


For more taphophilia please visit Julie's Taphophile Tragics.

15 comments:

Dina said...

This place has the graveyard mood and character that orderly cemeteries lack, you're right.
Just sad so many kids died back then.

Julie said...

Hey, wow! This is a bit like Camperdown Cemetery - which sinced 1945 is more graveyard than cemetery,I guess. What a superb find. That Saturday tour is tempting. Drats, I am doing the Dragon Boat races in February but will enter into my diary for March. I want to trawl through both those links you have provided, thank you very much. My Tuesday is a smidge hectic nowadays.

You are right, you know, about the atmoshere of overgrown graveyards. They reduce me to absolute muteness and a very slow aimless meander. And they are full of people who need to know that there are folk on this earth who still are interested in small lives.

Thanks for this contribution to Taphophile Tragics. You have opened my eyes to just how many graveyards there could be in the more central areas of Sydney. There must be a way of finding this out. Leave it with me for this week and I shall try to have an 'answer' come next Tuesday.

Fascinating hobyy, taphophilia.

Julie said...

Oops ... too quick with the enter button.

What was it with the preponderance of infants, I wonder? Was there disease? Was there inadequate medical care for specific social strata? Both those ... ? See Violet Sky for more deaths of infants. Quite harrowing.

Ann said...

I haven't gone through the website in detail but this cemetery would have served the brickworks jut down the road and I think Sydney Park was a marsh area. I think the whole area would have had a faily low social demographic at that time. You, however, are the historian.

hamilton said...

Cemetery walks are fascinating activities. Ours has an historian who leads them during the summer months - I must start taking notes when they start up again!
There are an awful lot of bodies buried in this church yard, and it is sad to see that it has gotten so overgrown.

Dianne said...

I'm so pleased you took a visit Ann... Overgrown for sure but with so much character and history. It seems to be a sad fact that so many children died in infancy or soon after due to Diphtheria, cholera, scarlet fever etc diseases that are rarely heard of now-days.
Your pics are excellent!

Peter said...

Agree, my sort of graveyard too, a bit run down, love to visit it.

Jim said...

I have always wanted to take some pics there. Yours are excellent.

Gemma Wiseman said...

The atmosphere weighs so heavy in overgrown graveyards like this! Awed silence seems to be the order when wandering around! I used to feel that way when I wandered Berrima cemetery, south of Sydney! That was a wild one! Unfortunately, in my peninsula world, most cemeteries are relatively ordered! Even the old Tyabb one at Hastings was "spruced up" for the bicentenary! But I can still find some interesting quirks there if I look carefully!

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I love the tilty headstones. This place has wondrous character.

Joan Elizabeth said...

A delightfully wonky place.

PerthDailyPhoto said...

You could spend ages wondering around here, it's the best kind of cemetery. There are some very intricate headstones here, lovely work indeed Ann.

Kathy said...

This is certainly a cemetery that I could spend hours traipsing through. Ironically the state of its disrepair is what lends to its character.

Mark said...

Yeah I like this kind of cemetery that is just left to be overgrown and not 'lawnised'! great shots Ann.

Annie said...

I know it may sound odd but this cemetery feels very alive.