Sydney Cemetery


Burying the dead is a uniquely human trait that sets man apart from beasts. Throughout history, humans bury their dead out of respect, love, fear (from the dead rising again). Whatever the motivation can be, burial of the dead is an integral part of human life for most cultures or religions.

Some burial practices in history:

  • The dead are dropped into a hole and covered with a stone. Some of that person’s personal possessions may be thrown in with him.

  • The dead are sealed in caves.

  • The dead were buried under piles of earth. Barbarians such as the Saxons practiced this form of burial.

  • The dead were placed in a sarcophagus and placed in tombs or buildings. Ancient Egyptians, Mayans, Chinese, and other advanced civilizations practiced this.

  • The dead were burned in vessels and released into the open sea. Vikings practiced this.

Sydney Cemetery


The indigenous people of Australia, the Aborigines, who lived on this continent for more than 5,000 years before the arrival of the Europeans had their own unique burial practice. The following is their burial process:

  • The dead is placed in a grave about four feet deep.

  • The body is usually in sitting position and faces towards the area of his birth.

  • The body is covered with paper bark.

  • The grave is covered with earth.

History of Sydney’s first colonial cemetery:

  • 1793 – The site of the principal burial ground of the colony is the location of present day Sydney Town Hall at the corner of George Street and Druitt Street. It was called different names:

  • The Old Sydney Burial Ground

  • The George Street Burial Ground

  • The Cathedral Close Cemetery

  • The Town Hall Cemetery

  • 1812 – The burial ground was extended towards the north and the west by order of Governor Macquarie. The overall area of the burial ground became two acres.

  • 1820 – The cemetery became full and decrepit because of shoddy burial practices. The governor subsequently closed it down.

Facts surrounding the Old Sydney Burial Ground:

  • It served Sydneysiders for 27 years.

  • The area was never formally written down as a burial ground.

  • There was no board of trustees managing the area.

  • The burial ground was never consecrated.

  • It did not belong to any particular religion.

  • There were no formal records or register kept.

  • Over 2,000 corpses were conservatively tallied at the burial ground. Many are unaccounted for.

  • Only the dead military were given special treatment. Freemen and convicts were buried side by side without distinction.