This is a photo of the entrance to the Pioneers Memorial Park which can be found on famous Norton Street in Leichhardt. A peaceful green space used for recreational purposes but go back 100 years ago this place was used for a very different purpose.
The story begins in 1852 when the Balmain estate was first planned. There were concerns then that there was no land reserved for a cemetery. As a result, in the 1860s, a group of five people formed the Balmain Cemetery Company who bought 11 acres bounded by Derbyshire Road, Allen Street, Norton Street and William Street for the purpose of selling burial plots. And so the Balmain Cemetery opened in 1868.
Over the next 50 years there were more than 10,000 burials at Balmain Cemetery from 24 religious denominations. Almost all occurring before 1908 with the final burial in 1912.
But how did it become a park? The first suggestion of converting the cemetery into a park came in 1918, but it is said the cost of removing the bodies was too big an obstacle. I suspect the hesitation was not simply due to the cost given it was only 6 years since the last burial. Several more attempts were made over the next 20 years as the cemetery’s condition was deteriorating. In 1941 the Old Balmain (Leichhardt) Cemetery Act was passed which would see the area dedicated as the Pioneers Memorial Park.
The conversion was advertised so that relatives of those buried in the cemetery could arrange reinterment. But only a handful of families responded, with the majority of those moving memorials to Camperdown Cemetery. One such memorial moved was that of Robert Towns who was the founder of Townsville, I believe his monument was moved to the North Queensland city where it remains today.
Note: I try to be as accurate as possible but make no guarantees. Please use this information at your own risk.