Melbourne General Cemetery History
Opened in 1853, the historical and iconic Melbourne General Cemetery is regarded as one of Australia’s most important cemeteries. It was the first cemetery in Victoria to be designed as a public park, with curved pathways, trees and shrubs, gate lodges and rest pavilions. It was also laid out in distinctive denominational sections by architect/surveyor, Albert Purchas.
The cemetery was closed for new burials in 1904 and reopened in 1927. It was extended by 2.5 hectares (6 acres) in 1933. The gate lodge, now administration building, was rebuilt on the present site in 1934-35. It was primarily made from the materials of two demolished entrance buildings built in the western part of the cemetery in the 1850s. All other gate lodges were demolished many years ago. The oldest surviving buildings are the Jewish chapel of 1854 and the Catholic mortuary chapel of the 1870s and 1880s.
There are about 300,000 burials in the cemetery. The site covers 43 hectares (106 acres). The construction of three mausolea from the 1990s has given the cemetery a new life.
The cemetery has a substantial number of notable interments, which is reflective of the fact that Melbourne was considered, in many ways, to be the premier city of the Australian colonies from the mid-nineteenth century, until the early twentieth century. People from all walks of life and cultural groups are represented.
These include Governor-General Sir Isaac Isaacs, Prime Ministers, Sir Robert Menzies, James Scullin and Sir John Gorton, several Premiers, including Sir James Patterson and Sir John O’Shanassy.
Other notable interments include major figures of the famous 1854 Eureka Stockade Rebellion including Governor Sir Charles Hotham, the ill-fated explorers Burke and Wills and well-known pioneers, such as John Pascoe Fawkner and George Evans.
Prominent women include philanthropist Lady Janet Clarke, artist/teacher Julie Vieusseux and singer Florence Young. Popular memorials include the extraordinary tribute built in honour of Elvis Presley and Walter Lindrum’s monument, which is shaped like a billiard table.
- Governor-General Sir Isaacs Isaacs
- Prime Ministers Sir Robert Menzies, Sir John Gorton and James Scullin (and a symbolic memorial to Harold Holt)
- Governor Sir Charles Hotham
- Premiers Duncan Gillies, JG Francis, Sir John O’Shanassy, James Service, James Patterson
- Burke and Wills – Ill-fated explorers
- Derrimut, Aboriginal tribal chief (Bunurong tribe)
- Lady Janet Clarke – Society woman and philanthropist
- Mietta O’Donnell – Restaurateur and writer
- Walter Lindrum – Billiards player
- Greg Ham – Musician (‘Men at Work’)