St. John's Cemetery
St Johns cemetery was established on the outskirts of Parramatta as a general burial ground for all denominations. Formerly the Parramatta stock paddock, it is the oldest existing European burial ground in Australia, the first interment being James Magee, a convict’s child, buried 31 January 1790. The first burial to be marked with a stone memorial was that of Henry Edward Dodd on 28 January 1791, the earliest settler’s grave in Australia with headstone in situ. Henry Dodd, Superintendent of Convicts at the Government Farm, is noted for growing the first successful wheat crop in the colony.
The site is outstanding as a place of cultural heritage and a true pioneer cemetery. Many early landholders, whose names reflect local suburbs, are buried here. D’Arcy Wentworth of Wentworthville, John Harris of Harris Park, several members of the Blaxland family, Mary Kelly of Kellyville, Mary Pymble of Pymble and John Thorn of Thornleigh are a small selection.
Other notable burials include Reverend Samuel Marsden, Chief Cleric of the colony, Minister at St Johns Cathedral for almost 50 years, Robert Campbell of Campbell’s Wharf and Duntroon, noted as the father of Australian commerce, two Governor’s wives, Mrs Elizabeth Bourke and Lady Mary Fitzroy, two Assistant Commissaries John Palmer and Thomas Freeman, many pioneer missionaries and seventeen marked graves of those who arrived on the first fleet.
The remarkable cemetery wall with many of its bricks stamped with government arrows was built by public subscription in the 1820s. It replaced the 1811 bank and ditch enclosure while the lychgate is a modern copy of James Houison’s entry gate. In colonial times, bodies from the convict hospital were carried to their graves by the chain gang, contrasting sharply with elaborate funerals of the hierarchy of the colony.
The significance of Parramatta is embodied in the setting, contents and textures of the cemetery. It continues to be a focus of spiritual and cultural sentiment for the area.
Today the cemetery is visited by many tourists, as a place of research for historians and by school students fulfilling local cemetery studies for the school curriculum. Past Times Tours conducts tours of the cemetery for coach groups, schools, walking groups and individuals by day as well as regular night tours on the second Friday of each month. For further information and bookings contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tours are also conducted by the Cemetery Trust. Contact 9635 5904.
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