Ballaarat Old Cemetery

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Ethersay's Book, Ballarat Old Cemetery, Entries 1-20,
Photograph: Dorothy Wickham 2002.jpg.
Ethersay's Book, Ballarat Old Cemetery, Entries 1-20 opp. page,
Photograph: Dorothy Wickham 2002.jpg.


Mr Ethersay established a cemetery in the Ballarat area when, prior to the gold rushes of 1851, he accepted fees to inter bodies around the site of the present Ballaarat Old Cemetery. Two burials were registered in 1847 and one in 1850. The Humffray Street Burying Ground, Tress-Peake Street Burying Ground at Mount Pleasant, and the Eureka Street Burial Ground are mentioned in Ethersay’s register, but it is difficult to locate precisely the sites of these early burial grounds. By 1854 more burials were recorded in Ethersay’s register whilst in 1855, with the great influx of people because of the official discovery of gold during the early 1850s, the numbers of burials escalated.

The Eureka Victims

in 1856 a small band of diggers gathered around the graves of those killed at the Eureka Stockade to honour their comrades. [1]

BALLAARAT OLD CEMETERY. This cemetery was gazetted on 20 May 1856 and covers 17 acres (approximately 7 hectares) with about 11,000 graves (35,000 interments). Half the burials in this cemetery took place before 1885. The cemetery was established on the site of a burial ground, which had been in use since 1848 with Mr Ethersay, the self-appointed Sexton, compiling the first registers. The rules were laid out on 13 June 1854. A Board of Trustees, formed by denominational representatives on 25 February 1856, was appointed to undertake the administration, Joseph Dixie nominated as secretary and Leonard Whittingham as Sexton. The first official meeting of the trustees was held on 24 April 1856 when Mr Ethersay was asked to promptly ‘remove himself … within 14 days [from the cemetery grounds] and to cease to interfere with the duties of the Sexton’. On 5 December 1856 the cemetery grounds were resurveyed and the southern portion attached.

Eureka Re-interments, Ballarat Star, 4 December 1857, Ballarat Heritage Services Picture Collection

In 1857 Mr Fowlkes completed the construction of the mortuary chapel, and the cemetery was fenced. By the 8 December 1869 Messrs Stamp and Son erected the fountain, and the impressive gates, designed by architect Joseph Doane, were erected by Stamp and put in place, the old gates being donated to the Orphan Asylum.

Chinese residents were granted permission by 4 August 1883 to build a brick oven for the purpose of burning deceased persons papers and wax lights. There are approximately 900 Chinese burials in the Old Cemetery.

A rotunda was built in 1892 and the central avenue metalled ten years later. The cemetery is run by the Ballaarat General Cemeteries Trust, and is well maintained with a full time groundsman.

On 27 February 1998 a new centre located in the Gatehouse near the entrance was opened. It allows visitors to search on a touchscreen computer for the location of graves of people buried in either the Ballarat Old or the New Cemetery.[2]

The Diggers' Memorial

Diggers Memorial, Ballaarat Old Cemetery, Eureka Sunday 2013, Photography: Clare Gervasoni

Most of the diggers were buried immediately after the Eureka battle in a common grave in the Ballaarat Old Cemetery. Alpheus Boynton, a Geelong carter, described the funeral procession, one of the largest seen for its time, which wound its way passed the soldiers’ Camp and proceeded to the cemetery. He wrote that ‘a number of dray loads of dead bodies were taken to the burying ground about a mile on Sunday. Many have died since of their wounds both diggers and soldiers. We were on our way to Ballarat and met coffins, and men with broken limbs returning to Geelong’. A government officer from the camp recorded that ‘the dead were buried the same day in the cemetery. The bodies of the insurgents, placed in rough coffins made hurriedly, were laid in a separate grave, the burial service being performed by the clergyman to whose congregation they belonged’. On 4 December ‘the funerals of several of those who fell at the Stockade and were removed by their friends, took place today. They were attended by several hundred men, who marched three abreast up the Main Road and past the Camp, during which the garrison was under arms’. The grave at the Ballarat Old Cemetery was, presumedly, marked, but on 22 March 1856 a monument, known as the Diggers’ Monument, was unveiled on the spot. James Leggatt, a sculptor from Geelong, donated it and the monument was described at the time as being ‘the finest workmanship of the kind seen in the colony’. It was a grey sandstone obelisk, surmounted by a draped urn resting on a bluestone plinth. It has the inscription: ‘Sacred to the memory of those who fell on the memorable 3rd December 1854 in resisting the unconstitutional proceedings of the Victorian Government. This monument was presented by James Leggatt, Geelong, to the people of Ballarat and by them erected on the 22nd March 1856’. The monument is 3.3 metres high and with a 1-metre width at its base. A cast iron fence on a bluestone plinth was erected on 15 Oct 1872. Although the name of Thaddeus Moore appears on the Eureka monument he was buried in Geelong on 4 December 1854. According to Ian McFarlane three men, Moore, Gittings and Hynes were buried at Geelong. [3]

THE EUREKA STOCKADE MONUMENT. -This memorial of the disastrous conflict of the 3rd of December 1854 is at present in a very neglected state. It would appear that when the bodies of some of those who fell were exhumed some time ago; and removed to the enclosure in which the monument stands, a part of the fence was taken down for the purpose of admitting the bodies, and left without being re-erected. The mound, also, under which the bodies lie, is very un shapely, and would be much improved by being dressed into a becoming figure, and turfed over with fresh sward. Surely there are some men on Ballarat who will attend to this. Half an hour's work by couple of men would do all that is required.[4]
40th Regiment re-enactment at the Ballaarat Old Cemetery, Eureka Sunday 2005, Photography: Ballarat Heritage Services Picture Collection.

The Soldiers' Memorial

The soldiers who died during the storming of the Eureka Stockade were buried in the Ballaarat Old cemetery: The day was hot and dusty as the cortege moved along to the place of burial, a slightly rising ground nearly a mile from the township. This rural cemetery was still wild and open; no fence having yet been placed around it, for even this was an expensive process at a goldfield. But some excuse appeared for this apparent negligence, for the ground had evidently been but recently devoted to its present purpose, as a small number of graves amongst a large population indicates[5]

Several headstones were erected to commemorate individual soldiers of the Military: Captain Henry Wise, Privates Michael Roney and Joseph Wall, of the 40th Regiment. and Captain George Littlehales and Privates William Webb, Felix Boyle and John Hall of the 12th Regiment, as well as smaller markers for children of soldiers. It is presumed that, as with British military graves in many other parts of the world, the gravestones were paid for by the individual regiments and maintained by the regiment. The soldiers’ area was unfenced until August 1872 when the Ballarat Council received a ‘voucher from the Department of Public Works for the payment (as loan) of fifty pounds for fencing the Soldiers’ grave at the cemetery when the work has been completed as therein directed’. In 1879 the Government of Victoria ‘at the request of the citizens of Ballarat’ asked for improvements to be made and the Soldiers’ Monument was constructed of Waurn Ponds limestone. [6]

The Diggers' Monument is 5.4 metres tall and 1.2 metres wide at its base. An obelisk mounted on a pedestal carried two marble slabs upon which were inscribed ‘Victoria’ and ‘Duty’. The inscription read ‘In this place, with other soldiers and civilians of the military camp then in Ballarat, were buried the remains of the British soldiers, … who fell dead or fatally wounded a the Eureka Stockade, in brave devotion to duty, on Sunday, the 3rd day of December, 1854, whilst attacking a band of aggrieved diggers in arms against what they regarded as a tyrannous administration’. [7]

The Courier, 29 February 1872, Eureka Soldiers' Graves, Ballarat Heritage Services Collection
Sir, — Be good enough to insert these few lines for me. I served in the 40th Regiment for a period of twenty-three years, during which I went through lndia and Scinde. In the year 1843 I was made sergeant by the late Duke of Welling too, for an act of gallantry when on duty. I was also present when the raw took place between ths diggers and the Government at the Eureka, and was present when the officers and soldiers of the 12th and 40th Regiment were shot, on the morning of the 3rd December, 1854. I take a deep interest in these men, as I drilled them and conse quently was personally acquainted with them. In the year 1864, I wrote to Majar-General Sir Trevor Chute, describing to him the flilthy state the graves were in; end that I would look after the place if he empowered me to do so. In answer to that application, I have received the following, by command of the Major-General:—
Brigade Office, Melbourne, 17th March, 1872 "John Neill, late 40th Regiment, is informed —with respect to his letter of the 29th ultimo, addressed to the Major-General — that it has been forwarded to the trustees of the Ballaret Cemetery, with a letter requesting them, if possible, to comply with the desire thereto contained by com mand, Wm Haywood, Major of Brigade." Under tbese circumstances, I hope the mayor and trustees of the Old Cemetery will refrain from interfering with that small plot of ground allowed by the Government to the remains of the officers and soldiers wbo fell on tbe 3rd December, 1854, whilst gallantly doing their duty. — I remain, Sir, your most obliged servant,
John Neill, late 40tb Regiment.[8]

The Eureka Monuments are now recognised on the Register of the National Estate being legally registered 30 June 1992.[9]

The Drummer Boy

Headstone for John Egan. Photography: Dorothy Wickham.

A headstone (since removed) was erected in memory of the Drummer Boy John Egan who was thought to have died on the 28 November 1854 while the 12th Regiment marched into Ballarat late at night. Others were injured in the fracas, Benden Sherritt Hassell and Young, a carter.[10]

Drummer John Eagan, born Athlone, Ireland in 1839. He enlisted as a thirteen year old on 10 February 1852. He was promoted to Private shortly after the Eureka Stockade and re-appointed Drummer in May 1856. Between 1854 and 1860, Eagan had been confined to cells on a couple of occasions and had also been on Sick Report in February 1860.[11] John Egan died from a heart related condition, aged 21 years, under the name John Eagan, on 8 September 1860 at Victoria Barracks, Paddington, Sydney, New South Wales. He was buried in the Roman Catholic section of the burial grounds.[12]

Eureka Related Burials

Alexander Bartholomew, (GN 10 02) buried 24 January 1895. - Robert Booley - Felix Boyle - Daniel Brophy - Robert H Byers - James Brown (from Ireland) - John Cahill, buried 22 August 1903. - Archibald Carmichael, 1 July 1870 (CN19 12). - Daniel Dark, buried 23 July 1910.[13] - Martin Diamond - John Donaghey Charles Dyte, buried 29 December 1893 (G4.2.22) - John Egan - John Emery (F1 4 (R1)- Thomas Fletcher, buried 9 January 1869 (H6b1.9) - William Fraser (B 7 6RI)) - George Goddard, buried 16 January 1912 (F17.1.18) - Sarah Goddard, buried 1885 - John Hall - J.B. Humffray - John Hynes - William Irwin, buried 24 January 1893 (CCN 3 3) - Henry Josephs - Thomas Kennedy, buried 8 March 1859 - Robert Lewis, buried 1884 - Stephen Lingham, buried 11 August 1909 - George Littlehales - Samuel Lukeis, died February 1913 - Andrew McIntyre - Edward Morey, buried 1907(BN-11-9] - Michael Noonan, buried 4 September 1886 (GNG.21) - Patrick O'Donoghue, buried 1880 - Eliza Perrin, buried 1969 - Caroline Ratcliffe - David Rattray - Michael Roney, 40th Regiment - Charles Ross (Diggers Enclosure) - Henry Salmon - George Scobie - James Scobie - Phoebe Scobie - Bridget Shanahan (E2 Section 19 24R1) - Timothy Shanahan (E2 Section 19 24R1) - Robert Sim, buried 11 May 1897 - Joseph Wall - William Webb - Henry Wise

Eureka Graves Visitor Centre

The new centre was opened on Friday 27 February 1998 in the gatehouse, Ballaarat Old Cemetery, by the Honourable Michael Ronaldson with many members of the Ballarat Historical Society and the Ballarat & District Genealogical Society in attendance. Members of both societies had been involved in the planning and implementation of the project.

The centre provides information on the Ballaarat Old Cemetery and houses a computer touch screen which has data on graves and burials in the Ballaarat Old and New Cemeteries and Crematorium. There is a database of early burials (to 1856) compiled by Dorothy Wickham and Ian Willcox from the death registrations at the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. This includes Eureka names compiled by Dorothy Wickham.

Ballarat 1854 Resident Burials

Thomas Bodycomb - William Braidie - Francis Carr - Charles Dassett - James Thomson - William Tulloch

In the News

THE EUREKA VICTIMS – On Thursday morning, about 7 o’clock, the bodies of Captain Ross, James Brown, Thonen, the lemonade seller, and Tom the blacksmith, who fell at the Eureka Stockade, and had been buried apart from the others, were removed fro the grave from the others, were removed from the grave and placed in they containing the bodies of the others who lost their lives on the memorable 3rd of December. The removal took place in the presence of Mr Superintendent Foster, Mr Salmon, trustees of the cemetery, and Mr Lessman. The coffins were in excellent preservation. We understand that no procession will take place on Thursday next, the anniversary of the Eureka affair, but the grave of the fallen will be decorated with chaplets and flowers.[14]

The Cemetery is now in its spring dress, and is on Sundays much frequented by the citizens. The sexton has extended his improvements in every direction, in the shape of flower beds, plantations, rustic seats, and lattice fencing, and the grounds look, in the improved parts, quite ornamental. A large number of expensively got up tombstones and carefully tended grave enclosures also add to the interesting appearance of the place, but we cannot include in the list of well-kept burial places the enclosure around the remains of the men who fell at the Eureka stockade. That place is a wilderness of rank weeds, and not a vestige of the flowers which were planted there can now be found. Is there no surviving relative, acquaintance, or friend of those poor fellows who can afford a few hours or a few shillings towards removing this scandal?[15]

Diggers Grave at the Ballaarat Old Cemetery, 2014. Photograph: Clare Gervasoni. Ballarat Heritage Services Picture Collection.
Sir, — The other day I was at the old cemetery of Ballarat, looking at the graves of dead friends of early days, with such thoughts and recollections of a dozen or so of years ago as the occasion might warrant. I had not visited the place for some years, and could not leave without visiting two enclosures. What I saw there I will tell you.
In the first was a stone monument, surmounted by emblems of grief not inelegantly carved, and on a sort of pedestal a bas-relief representing Victoria weeping, sculptured with a certain grace of outline. On one side was the following inscription :—
"Sacred to the memory of those who fell on the memorable 3rd of December, 1851, in resisting the unconstitutional proceedings of the Victorian Government. This monument was presented by James Leggatt, of Geelong, to the people of Ballarat, and by them erected on the 22nd March, 1856."
On other sides were inscribed the names and birthplaces of the twenty civilians who met their fate in that day's struggle. I remember well when thousands of hardy diggers marched in mournful procession to the cemetery to inaugurate that monument. For years after, on the anniversary of the Eureka disaster other mourning processions would go the same journey, to deck the memorial with crape; but the practice has long died out, and few remain with personal recollections of the event thus commemorated, and consequently a just appreciation of the feelings, which prompted those who resisted, or the grievances they found so oppressive. Now the monument is weather-stained ; the enclosure is patchy, weedy, and neglected; and the rotten fence scarcely promises to last through the winter.
The other enclosure I visited was set apart for the graves of the military, who in those troublous times were stationed on Ballarat. Among the rude tombstones were two which had a deep interest for me. One consisted of a coarse slab, scarce better than a paving flag, supported by rough-hewn blocks of bluestone to a few inches above the surface. On it is cut this inscription :—
"Sacred to the memory of Captain Henry Christopher Wise, of Her Majesty's 40th Regiment of Foot, who died on the 21st December, 1854, aged twenty- six years, of wounds received while in the execution of his duty on the morning of the 3rd of the same month.
Also to the memory of Privates Michael Roney and Joseph Wall, of the 40th Regiment, who, gallantly fighting, were killed on the same day."
The other grave, not more ornamental because it has an upright stone slab with a few vulgar conventional nourishes at its head, isinscribed thus :—
"Sacred to the memory of Captain G. R. Littlehales, 12th Regiment, who died 12th February, 1855, aged twenty-nine years and nine months ; also, of Privates William Webb and Felix Boyle, who died from the effects of gunshot wounds received in discharge of duty on the 3rd of December, 1854 ; also, of Private John Hall, who died December 31, 1854."
Like the other enclosure, this is in a weedy and thoroughly dilapidated state, unrelieved by the mean appearance of the graves, and the rough decaying fence ; and I cannot refrain from letting my mind revert to a certain magnificent memorial structure in the Melbourne Cemetery. As most of your readers will remember, it is not difficult to connect the whole of them by the same link of feeling.
But, Sir, in venturing to ask that something may be done to cause these monuments in the old Ballarat cemetery to be kept in a decent state, I must also impress the fact that the feelings and passions which were rife when they were erected have long since died away. We can only remember that the dead thus variously commemorated came to their end because of their unselfish fulfillment of what they deemed their duty. On the side of the defenders of the Eureka Stockade, all that was exaggerated and wrong is forgotten ; and we must bear in mind that it was not for love of gain, but feelings allied to the noblest instincts of our nature, that they fought, and fighting bravely fell. I can add that, who- ever were blamed for their conduct in that fight, it was not the military. They stormed the stockade, bore the brunt of the encounter, but never fired an unnecessary shot, nor struck a needless blow. The soldiers slain by the fire from within were heartily mourned, and the fate of Captain Wise — so young, gallant, and generous — was esteemed a public calamity.
Would not the people of Ballarat do well if, unsuccessful as to other memorials, they take some step to keep these in a condition worthy the circumstances of which they are nearly the sole token? Inasmuch as the Eureka affair was the culminating point of much misgovernment, and the event which gave birth to an improved and improving goldfields system, surely a memento of its heroes should be respected and made permanent. A few pounds for iron fences, and, perhaps, a little more, and the thing is done. So soon as the matter is taken up by those who have a greater right to do so than I, my co-operation shall be prompt.
I remain, Sir, faithfully yours,
D. D. W.[16] Eureka Graves [17]
Soldier's Memorial, Ballaarat Old Cemetery. Ballarat Heritage Services Collection
Grave of John Basson Humffray (left) beside the Eureka Graves at the Ballaarat Old Cemetery, 05 June 2016. Photograph: Clare Gervasoni
40th Regiment re-enactment at the Soldier's Memorial. Ballaarat Old Cemetery, Eureka Sunday 2013, Photography: Clare Gervasoni

Also See




  1. The Eureka Trails publicity brochure, undated.
  2. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  3. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  4. The Star, 21 May 1858.
  5. Withers, W.B., History of Ballarat and Some Ballarat Reminiscences, Ballarat Heritage Services, p156).
  6. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  7. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  8. Ballarat Courier, 29 August 1872.
  9. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  10. Dorothy Wickham, Deaths at Eureka, 1996
  11., accessed 05 May 2014.
  12. Death certificate NSW 1860 Registration number 2463
  13. Corfield, J., Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.
  14. 02 December 1857.
  15. Ballarat Star, 4 November 1861.
  16. The Argus, 23 February 1867.
  17. Evening Post, 23 February 1867

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