Tag Archives: Cemeteries

Great things have been achieved by those that lie here.

When do the dead die? When they are forgotten –
Laura Esquivel, The Law of Love.

By Rebecca Doughty, Graduate Diploma Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management student

Documenting the burial sites found in St Philip’s Anglican Cemetery, Culham, Toodyay, was like meeting with old friends. A quaint little cemetery, exclusive to original pioneers and their descendants, my past research came over me like a wave. The little gothic church stood by as I recorded, photographed and documented the sites in reverence.

Seventy four burials were identified between 1830-1930, many of which shared a similarity in materials and style.

Syred Family, St Philip’s Cemetery, Culham

As I carefully picked my way through I recognised the names and realised the marital connections of the people who had founded the Toodyay region, donated the land for the church and cemetery at Culham and first settled further along the Avon River, at Bejoording and Bolgart.

Drummond Family, St Philip’s Cemetery, Culham

My arrival at Toodyay Cemetery, however, was met with a greater sense of  foreboding. This was the only cemetery which stood on the Main Street through town, where I was most obvious to curious eyes and it was also the largest cemetery of the four. The enormous space is divided into five sections: three were Roman Catholic which contained 71 sites and two were Anglican, which contained 157 sites. This cemetery took me two days to properly record. There were 228 burial sites in total and, again, an enormous number of familiar names from the district, such as Lee-Steere, Reverend Harper, Butterly and Chitty. Their descendants are still living here today.

Lee Steere Family, Toodyay Cemetery, Toodyay

As I had anticipated, my recording brought the attention of local residents and before long I was hosting an impromptu information session for a small group of elderly people, explaining my purpose, intentions and methods. Once they realised I was not there to desecrate the final resting places of their great grandmothers, aunts, relatives and friends, I was left to complete my work.

I returned home with my precious photographs, careful measurements and descriptions and set about analysing the results.

Chitty Family, Toodyay Cemetery, Toodyay

As I set up tables and documented total burials I felt privileged to be trusted by the Toodyay Cultural Heritage Officer, with such private and precious information; I held the history of the township in my hands and was determined to do it justice in my report.

Butterly Family, Toodyay Cemetery, Toodyay

And so the analysis begins and a careful study of those prominent names of the district. Just how were these people remembered in death and did the burial practices employed reflect the social and economic position they had enjoyed in life? We shall see.

And What Shall Become of our Dead?

By Rebecca Doughty, Graduate Diploma of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management student

When among the graves of thy fellows, walk with circumspection; thine own is open at thy feet.  –AMBROSE BIERCE, “Epigrams of a Cynic”, 1912.

Katrine cemetery, Katrine, WA

My directed study project is to learn how Colonial and later burial practices, from 1830-1930, reflect attitudes towards death and the economic and social status of the settlers of the Toodyay region, Avon Valley, in Western Australia.

It was with great reverence and excitement that I took my first steps inside a graveyard. What would I discover? What would it all mean? And how would I decipher and interpret my results?

I started with a rigorous gathering and reading of resources: maps, tourist brochures and texts. This led me, in great anticipation, to identify and locate the four main cemeteries in Toodyay. I plotted each on my own map and set off to photograph and record the gravestones of location number one: Nardie Cemetery.

Nardie Cemetery is the original and first small cemetery in the area. It lines the bank of the Avon River and protects 40 burial plots dated to between 1830 and 1930. It is beautiful; large shady gum trees, a carpet of leaves on the floor, stately cast iron fencing and big, bold, strong headstones.

Nardie cemetery, WA

A bustle of organised recording ensued: photographs of each burial plot, recording the details of each headstone, taking compass points and documenting measurements. How exciting; I was on my way!

Katrine Cemetery is situated just 10km north east and so my journey continued. Burial plots of 21 individuals were recorded and photographed, measured and documented in the shade of large pine trees and St Saviour’s, a towering Gothic Church standing guard over the cemetery.

Katrine cemetery, Katrine, WA

Gentle discoveries were made as I came across matching names, prominent members of the Toodyay district and family connections from times gone by. Not to mention the new and exciting realisation that many of the headstones I was recording and researching belonged to the ancestors of the people whom I  live and work amongst today.

On completion of the recording of the two smaller Toodyay cemeteries, I reflected on the lives of the individuals who lie here, but also on those whose lives have been affected by their deaths.

Never before has such a true realisation of one’s own mortality been so clear and prominent as when once walks amongst the dead.

An exciting start to an enthralling directed study.

Next step: Continue my historical research and record and document Toodyay and Culham Cemeteries.