Corner of Davey St & Sandy Bay Rd, Hobart. Google Maps.
The original burial ground for the settlement of Hobart Town, and for many years the only one. It was closed after the establishment of Cornelian Bay. After sitting unused for fifty years, it was converted to a park in the 1920s. Some of the larger tombs remain in situ but all the other headstones were removed. The surviving stones have been built into memorial walls at the south-eastern end of the park.
No transcriptions, as they are available elsewhere. Although I did some years ago.
Transcriptions & photos of stones in park & memorial wall
Transcriptions & photos of stones moved to Anglesea Barracks
[Links not working for below]
The LINC has two albums with photos taken prior to and during removal of headstones.
Album 1 is mostly individual stones (see here for more information).
Album 2 is a mixture, including photos taken during removal of headstones (pp. 4,5, 8, 13 & 14).
ST. DAVID’S BURIAL, GROUND
For many years various opinions have been expressed as to the beginnings of the historic burying ground of St. David’s, at Hobart. At a meeting of the historical section of the Royal Society on July 12, Mr. W. F. D. Butler, in the course of some remarks, based on the early days of Tasmania, produced a statement from the journal of the Rev. Robert Knopwood under date Friday, April 27, 1804, as follows:—”At eleven the Lieutenant-Colonel and self went and marked out a burial ground at a distance from the camp.” On the next day Mr. Knopwood has this entry in his journal —”At half-past 2 p.m. I buried Mr Edwardes’ child.” A return by David Collins, showing the persons who died in his expedition from the time of leaving Spithead to July 31, 1804, included the entry, “Elizabeth Edwards, a free child at Hobart Town, April 27, 1804.” It is difficult to say who “Mr. Edwardes” was, as his name does not appear in any of the official lists of Collins’s party. The interesting point is a demonstration of the fact that two months after Collins’ landing at Hobart the burial ground was actually marked out and used for the first time.
The Mercury, 14 July 1922
A Ditch having been dug round the Burial Ground preparatory to its being enclosed, is no longer to be considered as a Thoroughfare; and all Persons are prohibited from passing or driving Cattle across it. Any Person or Persons found trespassing thereupon, after this Notice, will be dealt with according to Law.
Hobart Town Gazette, 18 July 1818
On Sunday last, the Burial-ground of the Church of St. David was consecrated by the Rev. S. Marsden, Principal Chaplain of the Territory.
Hobart Town Gazette, 8 March 1823
A sketch of the Hobart Town burial ground with cows feeding in it, is under examination.
Hobart Town Gazette, 25 February 1825
CONDITION OF ST. DAVID’S
Historic Monuments Crumble
Continuing our series of articles on the old cemeteries of Hobart, we now come to deal with what, from its position and history, is undoubtedly the best known to this general public of them all, St. David’s Burial Ground. Right in the heart of the city, the Sandy Bay tram running round two sides of it, this hallowed, yet desolate, spot is a familiar sight to thousands of our citizens every day of the year. Before proceeding to speak of some of the graves therein it may be useful to refresh the reader’s memory as to the present ownership of the place. By an Act of the Tasmanian Parliament, “following an agreement dated October 13, 1919, the ground passed from the trustees for the property of the Anglican Church in Tasmania, to the ownership of the City Council. Thus terminated disputes, negotiations and misunderstandings which had extended over many years, and further paved the way for one control which would bring about a state of decency and respect tor the dead long desired by the Inhabitants of the capital. Alas, for the vanity of human wishes we are no further forward after nearly three years. By an order of Governor Sir Charles Da Cane (July 22. 1S72), the ground was closed as from November of that year. Since then no burials have taken place, but the agreement of 1919 provided that the City Corporation should remove at the request of descendants and without cost (if made within two years of the enabling Act) any remains and headstones to Queenborough cemetery. The area of land thus transferred is about five and a half acres, and the price paid to the Anglican authorities, £4500 in debentures, redeemable in ten years and bearing interest at five per cent. The Act states that the object of the sale is that the Corporation may make the spot a “place of quiet recreation for the public under proper conditions and regulations, and so that the same may in time to come be an ornament to the city.” Well, it must be admitted that the city fathers don’t seem to be in any hurry about it. There are no rents to collect.
World, 21 August 1922
ST. DAVID’S BURIAL GROUND
CONVERSION INTO PUBLIC RESERVE.
For some time past the Reserves Committee has been considering the best method of dealing with the St. David’s burial ground which is to be turned into a public reserve, and at last night’s meeting of the City Council they re ported that after going thoroughly into the matter the Committee recommended that the following four historic monuments remain in their present position but that they be repaired, at an estimated cost of £130:–
Eardley Wilmot (Lieutenant-Governor).
David Collins (Lieutenant-Governor)
William Bedford (Senior Chaplain and Pastor of St. David’s)
James E. Bicheno (Colonial Secretary)
The Committee further recommended that the inscriptions be cut out of the remainder of the stones and set up in concrete in the Queenborough cemetery. The ground could then be laid out as a public reserve.
The Mercury, 19 September 1922
ST. DAVID’S BURIAL GROUND.
The City Council announces its intention to remove the whole of the vaults, monuments, and tombstones, with the exception of those of Governor Collins, Sir Eardley Wilmot, Dr Wm Bedford, Archdeacon Hutchins and Captain Kelly from the St David’s Burial Ground to Queenborough Cemetery.
The Mercury, 11 January 1923
NEW CITY PARK.
St. David’s Cemetery Reserve.
What Will Be Done.
Work in Operation.
Out of accumulations of broken stone, untidy dumps of earth, and long grasses on the site of the old cemetery of St. David’s Cathedral fronting on Davey and Harrington streets in the city is soon to emerge a garden of sweetly-scented roses, wisteria, flowering shrubs, extensive areas of green lawns, and ornamental trees. The City Council has decided that Hobart shall have to her credit a park worthy of the name, whose attractions will be manifold, and a place where citizens may roam at leisure, where oaks will mingle with elm and gums, and weeping willows droop their tresses over richly-verdued lawns. Over the morbid atmosphere which has surrounded the spot for over a century will be draped an air of dim forgetfulness, for roses and climbing flowers will find their way up along the walls, where some 600 headstones are now located, and gradually veil with beautiful blooms the inscriptions made years ago. Its long hallowed recesses beneath tall, sombre cypress pines will shortly ring with the laughter of children, and resound to the music of bands, to say nothing of the calls of birds that will be attracted by the flowers, and the transformation will be complete.
The work of clearing the cemetery for the purpose named was commenced under the direction of the Superintendent of Reserves (Mr. L. J. Lipscombe) some four or five months ago, and up to the present much has been done. Headstones and coffins have been removed, the former to positions round three sides of the ground, and the latter to Sandy Bay, while monuments, which it was desired to preserve, have been repaired, and in some cases moved to another part of the ground, and the bed of a creek filled in. The work has been made the more, difficult by the unexpected task of breaking into and covering to a depth of 4ft. many hundred brick and stone vaults in which the whole ground abounded, a work which has not yet been completed. Some 2,000 to 3,000 tons of stone have so far been removed. While it is the intention to maintain as closely as possible the present contour of the ground, much filling and levelling of banks will be necessary, particularly in the centre, where at one time a deep ditch existed and towards the north-western corner overlooking the site of the proposed bandstand.
The Mercury, 18 November 1924
ST. DAVID’S CEMETERY.
IT THROWS LIGHT ON EARLY HISTORY.
THE FIRST CHURCH.
BURIAL PLACE OF GOVERNOR COLLINS.
(By J. Moore-Robinson, F.R.G.S.)
The cemetery of old St David’s, Hobart is yielding its century-old secrets. Bravely has it held the romances of the settlement days in Van Diemen’s Land, but now yielding to modern requirements and in the course of changing from a cemetery to a recreation ground a veritable harvest of romance is being gathered.
Chief among those lying in this old-time “God’s Acre” is David Collins. Around the story of Collins a fabric of uncertainty has been woven. This is due in part to the loss of early records in part to the fact that Collins was not one of the great men of history, and in part to a chronological error made by no less an authority than Sir John Franklin. It is a curious fact that the date of Collins death is wrongly inscribed on his tomb. Epitaphs are proverbially unreliable but dates on cenotaphs are usually correct. Then, again, historians have juggled with the facts. It has been said severally that Collins was not buried in the cemetery, but under the altar of the Cathedral; that his remains had been removed, that one of the early doctors—sometimes Hopley and sometimes Bowden—was buried in the same vault. In all of these has rumour proved to be the lying jade of repute.
An examination of the ground in the vicinity of Collins’s tomb has resulted in several interesting revelations. To begin with, Tasmania’s first Governor was not buried under the tomb but some distance from it. Again, his vault was unusually large and deep. Again, the vault lies at an angle compared with the modern cenotaph. This is interesting because it indicates that the vault was constructed while the old burying ground was still “in the bush,” while when Franklin erected the tomb in 1837 its alignment conformed to the boundaries of the cemetery. The vault lies east and west, the tomb faces the S.E. The vault was over 8ft deep and 9ft long and over 4ft wide. It was constructed of bricks—bricks typical of the first decade of the 19th century, bricks long and wide and very flat. I have observed similar bricks at the first settlement at George Town, and probably both came from the same place. The vault was strongly arched, and the original entrance was from the western end. When 27 years later Franklin, with native generosity erected the handsome monument, he probably decided that, owing to its great weight, it should be built on solid ground at the western end of the vault, and in order to guard the remains he laid a massive block of freestone over the vault. This is a beautiful piece of stone 10ft long, 4½ft wide, and over a foot thick. It is said to weigh three tons. Franklin opened a new entrance to the vault at the eastern end and chiselled on the freestone slab: “The Entrance to Governor Collins’s Vault.” A recent examination of the vault indicated the fact that Collins has rested in solitude. There is no sign of the presence at any time of another interment. This effectually disposes of the story of one of the doctors having been buried with Collins.
The Mercury, 18 April 1925
ST. DAVID’S CEMETERY.
WHAT IS TO BE ITS NEW NAME?
Mr J Moore-Robinson has written to the Mayor regarding the re-naming of St David’s cemetery as follows –
I notice that the question of the reserve being created from old St David’s cemetery was in two forms, before your Council at its meeting on Monday night last. I desire to refer to both phases of this question. Relative to the question of naming the reserve the committee reported in favour of Wilmot Park. I have no objection to this name which is to a certain extent satisfactory. At the same time I think a better title would be St David’s Park or reserve. This name would be most desirable as it would preserve the identity of the ground. I need not here state the historical importance of this particular piece of land. It is sufficient to say that it was the first burial ground marked out in Tasmania and therefore the first reserve of any kind and on it was built the first church erected in the State. Although the evidence is so scanty it is certain that at a very early date it was known as St David’s Cemetery. From the points of view of sentiment, historical accuracy, and continuity of identification the name St David’s is entirely appropriate. I conceive that its adoption would prevent any confusion in the minds of people who might be revisiting Hobart.
I was very much surprised to observe that a letter had been received from the Very Reverend the Dean of Hobart asking that the remains of Collins and the monument erected by Franklin should be removed from the cemetery to the precincts of St David’s Cathedral. From an historical point of view and as a citizen of Hobart I desire to enter a most emphatic protest against this request being acceded to. Governor Collins has absolutely no historic or other connection with St David’s Cathedral. Although the laying of the foundation stone of old St David’s Church is stated by one authority to have been commemorative of a church to be named after Governor Collins’s Christian name, yet at the laying of the foundation stone of St David’s Cathedral Bishop Broughton specifically emphasised the fact that the patronymic had its origin not in David Collins, but in St David, the patron saint of Wales. The Bishop’s pronouncement was consonant with ecclesiastical practice. From this point of view there would be no relevance in the remains and monument of Collins being in the precincts of the Cathedral. On the other hand there is a distinct significance in Collins’s monument being in its present position, namely, as marking the site of the first burial ground, as being the site of the first church to be erected in Tasmania, and being the burial place of Tasmania’s first Governor. Additional to these arguments, which I conceive to be very much to the point, the City Council in consenting to the removal of Collins would place itself in the position of possibly losing the most important of the historical monuments left in old St David’s, with the logical result that only the less important ones might remain.
I confess to surprise at the action of Dr Crowther in making the suggestion presumably with the assent of the council of the Royal Society, because it was the Royal Society which chiefly participated in the movement for the retention of the six historic monuments in old St David’s. It is difficult to discover any logical corollary in the action of the Royal Society two years ago and that emanating from Dr Crowther this month. I sincerely trust that permission will be refused for the removal of Collins’s tomb and monument unless similar action is taken relative to the six historic monuments now remaining in old St David’s.
In this connection I am at a loss to understand the action of the Very Reverend the Dean in asking for the Church possession of Governor Collins and ignoring the high church dignitary, Arch deacon Hutchins whose remains are also counted among the historic six of old St David’s. The preference to Collins in this connection is so extraordinary as to leave me to wonder if, to use a colloquialism, “all the cards are on the table.”
The Mercury, 4 May 1925
ST. DAVID’S PARK
OFFICIAL OPENING CEREMONY.
BIG CROWD GREETS MISS AUSTRALIA.
The official opening ceremony of St. David’s-nark with its fine central rotunda took place on Saturday evening in the presence of over ten thousand persons. Prior to the ceremony the city bands paraded the streets and afterwards gave a musical programme in the rotunda The participating bands were L.?.L. Risdon, Citizens. and Derwent. The park was opened by the Mayor of Hobart (Mr. K. J. Rogers), who was supported by the Chairman of the Reserves Committee (Mr. H. H. Facy). Several other aldermen were present, and in addition the function wan attended by Miss Australia and her mother.
The Mayor in declaring the park open said that actually the public had opened it themselves. It was some time since the City Council had decided to build the rotunda, but he believed now it was completed there was none better in Australia. He was glad to say that in four years it would have been paid for, as from that night the City Council’s subsidy to the bands would cease. It was his privilege to declare the park open. (Applause.)
Mr. Facy said the Reserves Committee had already received several offers from citizens to provide seats for the park, and he hoped many similar offers would be forthcoming now the park was open.
Cheers and applause from the great crowd greeted Miss Australia, who in a typically happy speech congratulated the people of Hobart and the City Council of having such a fine park and bandstand. She urged the people to bear in mind the fact that the park was their own property and as such it was their duty to protect it. (Hear, hear.)
“I am sure,” she added, “that every one of you will do something towards seating accommodation. I believe the grass is often wet in Hobart, so that you want plenty of seats when you are out taking the air. (Laughter and applause.) I thank you all for the wonderful welcome you gave me yesterday and for your reception here to-night. Use your park, support your bands, for I have heard no better music in Australia than I have heard here to-night, and you will know that Hobart has something of which she may be proud.”
With great difficulty Miss Australia’s car moved slowly through the crowd on its way to the Theatre Royal.
The Mercury, 15 November 1926
A HOBART ENTERPRISE
Until a few years ago (writes “J.W.D.” In the “Sydney Morning Herald”) one of the few unsightly spots of Hobart was the old cemetery of St. David’s* Church of England. The original St. David’s was destroyed many years ago by lire, but the cathedral in Murray-street carries on the name of Its forebear. This old cemetery has now been changed from a shunned and dilapidated home of the dead to a well-patronised park, covered with a fine carpet of lawn, and possessing well-kept Mower beds.
Those responsible for this rapid metamorphosis have evidently had in mind the travelling and tourist season, as well as having more than a sneaking regard for antiques. Whoever heard of a municipal council collecting headstones? But here it has been done. Most of the park on one side is a stone fence, and on the inside of this and all other sides the headstones have been re-erected so that he who walks may read. As one reads these epitaphs one cannot help feeling the definite link-between our day and’ the Infant days of our colonies.
Here is a tablet erected when Napoleon received his final blow. There are more first erected In the year Queen Victoria was born. Here are others recording deaths in the year in which Port Arthur was established as a convict settlement. Now is one reminded of the trooper who met his death at the hands of bushrangers, erstwhile convicts. Now it is the loss of a “burke” and bodies washed ashore.
In 1844 the number of military men on the Tasman Peninsula was 317, and in the park we see headstones erected to the memories of members of the 50th, 40th, and 63rd regiments, Others there are, too, bearing the names of the King’s Own Light Infantry, the 21st Reg. Bengal Native Infantry, Tasmanian Volunteer Force, and the H.D. Royal Artillery.
A captain of the 21st Fusiliers wrote the following epitaph to his wife’s memory:
Lo, she lies here in the dust; The Hand of Elegance is at rest, The Kind, the Candid, the Meek is now no more, and her memory fills me with grief.
It was In this company that the martinet commandant of Port Arthur, Captain Booth, held his commission.
Another epitaph, not unlike one in Eden (N.S.W.) is:
But words are wanting to say what,
Think what a wife should be,
And she was that.
Some graves have not been disturbed. The tombstones over these are undoubtedly worthy of preservation. Beneath one are the remains of Sir John Eardley Eardley-Wilmot, who was Lieutenant-Governor of the colony. Nearby is one erected to the memory of “David Collins, Esq., Lieut.-Governor of this colony. On first establishment of the colony of N.S.W. he was employed as Deputy Judge Advocate, and in the year 1803 he was entrusted by H.M.’s Government with the command of an expedition destined to form a settlement at Port Philip, on the south coast of New Holland, but which was subsequently removed to Van Diemen’s Land. He it was who directed the choosing of the site of Hobart, the first building of which was begun in 1804. The first church, that of St. David’s, was built in 1810 over the grave of Lieut.-Governor, Collins, whose body rested beneath the altar.”
The Mercury, 31 March 1927