One of Leichhardt's most popular parks was the final resting place for over 10,000 people.
In the 1860s a group of five people formed the Balmain Cemetery Company. The company purchased land on the corner of Norton and William Streets, Leichhardt and the land was subdivided into small plots and sold as grave sites. In 1886 the area was transferred to the Leichhardt Municipal Council.
The Balmain Cemetery covered 11 acres and by 1912 contained 10 608 graves. The first recorded burial was that of Henry Guttridge, aged 45, on 26 January 1868. The last recorded burial was that of George Holley, aged 79, on 7 May 1912. The majority of burials took place before December 1908.
In 1918 the Commonwealth Government strongly advocated the conversion of the cemetery into a recreation area, but this was opposed by the State Government as the cost of removing the bodies was a particular concern. Over the next 20 years several other unsuccessful attempts were made to convert the area and during this time the cemetery was neglected and the condition of the existing headstones deteriorated.
In 1941 the Old Balmain (Leichhardt) Cemetery Act was passed which dedicated the area as a public park. Under this act Leichhardt Council was directed to appoint trustees to maintain the area as a public park "within the true meaning of the Public Parks Act, 1912". The Council was also directed to compile an index plan and register of the names of persons buried in the grounds. Other relevant information relating to those buried in the cemetery was also included in this register.
Prior to the conversion and preparation of the cemetery as a park, Leichhardt Council advertised its intentions to remove the headstones and grave enclosures. Relatives of the people buried in the cemetery were given time to arrange reinterment. In total 14 tombstones were removed to Camperdown Cemetery, two moved to Ebenezer Presbyterian Churchyard, and two to St Barnabas Church ground, Broadway, Sydney. Those headstones not removed were used for stone walls and the leveling of the park.
Included among the graves in Balmain Cemetery were those of Edmund Blacket, architect, and his wife Sarah. Their tombstone was moved to Camperdown Cemetery. At this time the tombstone of the merchant and politician who the City of Townsville was named after, Robert Towns, was moved to Townsville. Also buried in Balmain Cemetery were the architect Ferdinand Hamilton Reuss, the merchant William Salmon Deloitte, and Captain Thomas Stephenson Rowntree.
Conversion commenced in 1942 and the park was called Pioneer's Memorial Park, dedicated to the pioneers of Leichhardt. In 1949 the War Memorial which stood at the corner of Marion and Norton Streets was re-erected in the park as a monument to the soldiers killed during both World Wars. After the closure of Balmain Cemetery burials continued at Waverley, Rookwood and Field of Mars cemeteries.
Leichhardt Municipal Library has a copy of the Burial Register on microfiche that is available for use in the Library. The information contained in this register includes name, date of death, age, suburb of residence at time of death, and undertaker.
Balmain Cemetery Register (PDF 2.7MB)
Charles Frederick Davis, 16 October 1880
William Graham, 10 June 1879
Rebecca Graham, 3 January 1889
Henry Morgan, 14 May 1878
Ann Mary Morgan, 6 August 1883
Henry Morgan, 1 June 1874
Edward Martin, 3 August 1872
Martha Porter, 22 February 1874
Jane, wife of Samuel Thompson, 25 October 1877
Henry Blome Palgrove, 19 June 1870
Bridget Sloan, 1 July 1881
Samuel Long Sloan, 22 April 1882
William John Sloan, 27 January 1889
Catherine Dorothy Victoria Ross, 30 March 1894
James Sloane, 30 November 1896
Richard Fowler, 12 April 1881
William Charles Fowler, 30 April 1888
John Fowler, 23 September 1888
Enoch Fowler, 6 November 1875
Annie Jane Fowler, 7 November 1876
Sidney Gordon Fowler, 7 May 1885
Mary Hall, 15 May 1882
David Hall, 11 (?) July 1882
James Hall, 4 February 1908
John Leys, 11 October 1883
Bessie Mary Breillat, 30 April 1881
Sarah Blacket, 15 September 1869
Edmund Thomas Blacket, 9 February 1883
Marian, 2 March 1909
Samuel Hopkinson Turton, 17 October 1870
A bottle containing a scroll giving particulars of Samuel Hopkinson Turton was placed under the foundation of this monument.
A bottle containing a scroll, giving the names of the Aborigines and a copy of the inscription that was formerly on the stone relating to the Shoobert Family was placed in a prepared cavity. Details of inscription: Matilda Anne, wife of James Shoobert, 15 January, 1874.
Rev George Macfie, 18 December 1869
George Alexander Macfie, 10 May 1886
Eliza Macfie, 23 June 1899
Rev Robert Blain, 26 April 1871
Rev Joseph Barnier, 12 September 1889
Rev Thomas Smith, 12 August 1882
An obelisk was re-erected in the grounds of the church, Rev Elijah Smith, 10 October 1870.
Rowntree, monument to Balmain.
A granite monument was erected at the Spit, Middle Harbour to commemorate significant local events. This was formerly a memorial to the Harwood Family.
Thomas Soutter Harwood, 4 May 1883
Eliza Harwood, 6 February 1884
May, wife of Dr Harwood, 1 March 1884
Amelia Mary, 10 November 1904
A scroll, giving the history of the stone, with inscription, was placed in a prepared cavity under the stone. An obelisk was erected at McCarr's Creek, Pittwater to commemorate the surveying of McCarr's Creek by Captin John Hunter and William Romaine Govett.
A scroll, giving the details of the survey and the history of Church Point and Pittwater, was placed in a steel container under the obelisk. It also recorded on the scroll that the obelisk was a stone from the Balmain Cemetery and was erected there in 1871 in memory of:
William, Shaw, MD, 29 May 1871
Edgar Peveril, 10 March 1868
George Henry Hamilton, MD, 15 June 1888
Old Balmain (Leichhardt) Cemetery Act, 1941
Solling, M. The Balmain Cemetery, Leichhardt Historical Journal, No. 3, December 1972
Gledhill, P. W. Old Balmain Cemetery, Australian Genealogist, Vol. 5
Balmain Cemetery, West Sydney News, undated
For more information on the Balmain Cemetery go to the following website: Balmain Cemetery
The information on this page is drawn from the files of the Leichhardt Local History collection.