Explore the history and beautiful monuments of St Kilda Cemetery with Meyer Eidelson, author of Nation Builders, including key Australian identities such as Alfred and Pattie Deakin, Baron Von Mueller, Albert Jacka, Tilly Aston, Alfred Felton, Madam Brussells, the Glen Huntly shipwreck and much more (see below).
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St Kilda General Cemetery, occupying a rectangular site of around 20 acres, is bounded by Dandenong Road, Hotham Street, Alma Road and Alexandra Road and includes over 51,000 burials. The earliest known record of St Kilda General Cemetery is a grid plan drawn by Robert Hoddle’s assistant surveyor HB Foot in 1851. This plan provided separate sections for the Church of England, Catholic, Presbyterian, Wesleyan, Independent and Baptist denominations. The new cemetery had a capacity for 20,000 graves, with no allocation made for Jews, Chinese or Aborigines. By the time the cemetery opened on 9 June 1855, Hoddle?s grid plan had been overlaid by a less formal system of winding and intersecting paths, inspired by the contemporary garden cemetery movement, which in turn drew on the Picturesque landscape tradition that was popular in England at this time and the writings of landscape designers such as John Claudius Loudon.
By 1900, there were no grave sites left according to the original plan and the cemetery was closed except to holders of burial rights. The Minister of Health agreed to reopen the cemetery in 1928 and a further 250 graves were offered for sale. Additional plots had been created by narrowing roads, and by appropriating pathways and ornamental reserves. The cemetery experienced degrees of decline and neglect throughout the twentieth century, the most extreme in the 1950s. By 1967, all grave sites had been sold and the cemetery was in crisis; about 50,900 burials had taken place since 1855 and only 700 graves remained to be used. The Necropolis Trust, Springvale, assumed responsibility of St Kilda Cemetery in 1968. St Kilda Cemetery was closed for burials in 1983, except for some remaining places in niche walls and the lawn cemetery.
The grounds are divided into bands of denominational sections, with Church of England to the east of the entrance followed by Catholic, Church of England, Wesleyan, Presbyterian, Independent, Baptist, Other Denominations, and Hebrew. The occasional iron denominational marker can be found in the grounds; a remnant marker, for example, survives in the Church of England B section.
A curving central roadway, which extends down the middle of the grounds, is broken by two circular islands that were once garden beds with rockeries. The rear island near the Alma Road gates now comprises Hebrew burials. The island near the middle of the cemetery retains its lawn and two Bhutan Cypresses, but also contains one prominent grave, that of airman and World War I hero, James Bennett (1894-1922). There are three shelters along the central axis, located at the front (west side of central roadway), middle (rear/south of Middle Island) and rear (front/north of Hebrew Island). All three are different but of similar interwar period construction, featuring timber and terracotta fabric. At least two were built in 1930. A series of red brick paths extend either side of the central roadway providing access to compartments. A ring road of gravel encircles the outer compartmental areas.
There is a large collection of monuments of fine workmanship or unusual design and construction, including rare cast iron and sandstone memorials and those built by prominent Melbourne sculptors, such as Jageurs & Son. Many graves have decorative iron fences or grave surrounds. There is also a large variation in funereal motifs, including some rare examples. Significant monuments include the Robb memorial with a seated woman in a colonnaded tomb; the Arts and Crafts Celtic Revival design memorials for Joseph Panton (1913) and Eleanor Panton (1896); the Anne W. Murray memorial (1875), an obelisk with ivy and gum leaves entwined around an anchor motif; the Captain Robert Russell Fullarton memorial (1895), a capstan with rope; cast iron memorials of the Klemm and McDonald families, 1870, 1877 and 1878; the fireman?s motifs on the memorial for James Kelly; the Macmeikan family memorial, a representation of a Scottish stone cairn surrounded by an iron fence in the form of a rustic vine; and the Art Deco style grave of Evelina Nathan, 1938.
St Kilda Cemetery contains a varied collection of plants that are typical of nineteenth-century cemetery planting, although most of the trees date from the twentieth century. The cemetery landscape has undergone considerable changes with a number of trees removed.
This book includes the stories of more than 40 people buried in St Kilda General Cemetery whose lives tell important stories about the building of the Australian nation.
Each story is one piece in an historical jigsaw. Put them all together and the general picture emerges of a new generation entering the twentieth century with growing confidence, awareness and pride despite inherited divisions of religion, politics, class and race.
As we enter the 21st millennium, much of this picture seems eerily familiar. History is about our present and future, not only about our past. The road we have traveled as a country now extends before us with few signposts apart from the lessons of our forebears. They have much to teach us. This book is dedicated to all those who dare to dream, take risks and challenge their fate in any era.
ALLEN, Arthur & Lorna
ASTON, Matilda ‘Tilly’ Ann
BROOKES, Herbert and Ivy
DUFFY, John Gavan
GRAHAM, Edward Joseph
HADDON, Frederick William
HOAD, Sir John Charles
HOLROYD, Sir Edward Dundas
JENSEN, Jens August
KERFERD, George Briscoe
MICHIE, Sir Archibald
MITCHELL, Sir Edward Fancourt
O’LOGHLEN, Sir Bryan
RENTOUL, Laurence John
SARGOOD, Sir Frederick
SMITH, Robert Murray
ST. LEDGER, Anthony James Joseph
STEWARD, Sir George Charles Thomas
STONES, Emily, Constance and Clara
The Glen Huntly Memorial
TURNER, Sir George
VON MUELLER, Baron Sir Ferdinand