Melbourne General Cemetery, Australia
by Samantha Kent
My interest in photographing historic cemeteries began in August 2015 and has turned me into a serious taphophile and admirer of ironwork and stonemasonry. The beauty and history leaves me in awe and I have to make sure I have at least two hours to explore each cemetery because I get so enthralled in what I find. The majority of the cemeteries I have explored and photographed have been in and around my home town of Brisbane, Australia but recently on a trip to Melbourne, Australia I made a visit to the Melbourne General Cemetery and within minutes of being there it became my current favourite historic cemetery! I adore the statues and crosses within the grounds with most still in excellent condition despite being decades old.
Melbourne General Cemetery was opened in 1852 covering 43 hectares (106 acres) and is now considered one of the most important and historically significant cemeteries in Australia. The cemetery has different sections including chapels, gardens, 3 mausoleums added in the 1990’s, and religion sections specifically for individuals of different faiths including Church of England, Roman Catholic, Baptists, Methodist and Presbyterian. The cemetery holds several notable interments including Prime Ministers, Premiers, explorers and entertainers. The cemetery holds 300,000 burials which will mean several more visits by me in future.
|Claude Cricket Williams' headstone|
On this visit I came across several graves of interest. The first is that of Claude Cricket Williams. Claude’s grave inscription says he was “accidentally killed at the Bijou Theatre fire in 1889.” He was 28 years of age. My research has revealed that Claude was the hall porter at the theatre and Claude died along with Captain Parsons, 33 years old, of the East Melbourne Brigade. The inquest found that there was “abundant evidence to show that both men came by their deaths through disobedience of order.” In Captain Parsons’ case, he was with a group of fire fighters who placed a ladder over a narrow gangway in an attempt to get onto the stage. Despite being warned by others that the walls could be heard cracking from the heat, the men proceeded with the ladder until the east wall gave way, striking Parsons in the head. In the case of Claude it was deemed he stayed in the burning building in an attempt to assist with the fire “without any right as he was not a member of the fire brigade.”
|A "Father" of the Australian Labour Day|
The second grave I came across is that of James Stephens who the founder of the “8 hour system” in Victoria, Australia. James was a stonemason, Trade union official and Chartist who on 21 April 1856 lead a group of stonemasons who walked off the job demanding the 8 hour system (8 hours of work, 8 hours of recreation, 8 hours of sleep) be introduced in Victoria, with the same pay. The movement worked and a public holiday called “Labour Day” is now held every year to remember this achievement.
This grave really caught my eye because it is the grave of a local undertaker, John Allison. I look forward to my next visit and what other stories I will find.
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