Cemetery of the Week #154: Melbourne General Cemetery

Melbourne view

This view of the cemetery and the photos that follow were taken from the book The Melbourne General Cemetery by Don Chambers. I’ll review it tomorrow.

Melbourne General Cemetery
College Crescent, Parkville, Victoria 3052, Australia
Founded: 1852
Size: 106 acres (43 hectares)
Number of interments: 300,000

Melbourne General Cemetery is the final resting place of Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister, authors, billiards players, and the Princess Theatre ghost, along with 300,000 others.

Established by trustees in 1852, Melbourne General Cemetery opened in June the following year. It stands two kilometers north of the city of Melbourne, in the suburb of Carlton North. The cemetery’s first burial was merchant John Burnett in May 1853.

As the first modern cemetery in Victoria, Melbourne General is crossed by wide paths that loop between its rotundas and chapels. Each denomination — Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Wesleyan, as well as Jewish and Quaker — was separated from the others. The cemetery’s oldest buildings are the Jewish chapel, completed in 1854, and the Catholic mortuary chapel, which dates to the 1870s. Several of the heritage buildings are built of bluestone.

Originally, the Chinese, Afghan, and Aboriginal communities were restricted to a small “Other Denominations” section of the the cemetery, but there they could pursue their own traditional burial rites.

A sandstone monument remembers native chief Derrimut, who died in 1864. Because Derrimut didn’t fit into the recognized Western religions, he was buried amongst the Chinese.  The Koori, his people, don’t traditionally mark their graves. After his death, Derrimut’s monument was erected to honor him for warning early colonists that some up-country tribes planned a massacre in October 1835.

Barry

The grave of Sir Redmond Barry, the Acting Chief Justice, who sentenced Ned Kelly

Also buried here are Irish-born Robert O’Hara Burke and Englishman William John Wills, chosen despite their lack of exploration experience to walk across the Australian continent from south to north. On the return trip, Burke and Wills starved to death. Their bodies were recovered in January 1863 and given state funerals.

Four Prime Ministers are buried at Melbourne General Cemetery. Two lay in the Prime Ministers Garden—Sir Robert Menzies and Sir John Gorton—alongside a cenotaph for Harold Holt, whose body was lost at sea while he was swimming. James Scullin is buried elsewhere in the cemetery, as is Sir Isaac Isaacs, the first Australian-born Governor General.

Lindrum

The grave monument of billiard champion Walter Lindrum comes with a pool cue and ball. It’s the cemetery’s most-visited monument.

Preachers, con men, musicians, actors, scientists, and other permanent residents include:

  • Patrick Hannan, who discovered gold at Kalgoorlie in Western Australia
  • Sir Redmond Barry, the judge who sentenced outlaw Ned Kelly to hang
  • Mendel Balberyszski, who survived the destruction of the Vilnius Ghetto in Lithuania
  • British opera singer Frederick Federici, who originated the title role of The Mikado in New York and who is said to haunt the Princess Theater, where he died singing Mephistofeles in Faust.
  • Walter Lindrum, buried beneath a tombstone in the shape of a billiard table
  • Boxing champion “Gentlemen Jack” John Reid McGowan

The cemetery offers tours both during the day and at night. The next day tour is coming up on July 12, 2017.

Useful links:

Melbourne General Cemetery’s home page

A well-illustrated wander of Melbourne General Cemetery

Images of the Jewish Section of Melbourne General Cemetery

The Holocaust Memorial at Melbourne General Cemetery

More famous people buried in Victoria

About Loren Rhoads

I'm the author of The Dangerous Type, Kill By Numbers, and No More Heroes. I am also the co-author (with Brian Thomas) of the novel Lost Angels and the author of the essay collection Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel. In addition to blogging at CemeteryTravel.com, I blog about my morbid life at lorenrhoads.com.
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2 Responses to Cemetery of the Week #154: Melbourne General Cemetery

  1. I like the way you call them “permanent residents,” don’t remember reading that description before but it fits.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Loren Rhoads says:

      I got that from the first series of cemetery guides I fell in love with: Permanent Californians, Permanent Parisians, Permanent Londoners, and Permanent Italians. Of course, the dead aren’t really permanent, since descendants or governments can uproot them, but I love the idea that they are now woven into the fabric of their “final” resting places.

      Like

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