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Where is Brisbane's Oldest Surviving Municipal Cemetery?


I have asked a few Brisbane residents and historians this question, and very few of them ver give the correct answer of 'South Brisbane Cemetery'.* The actual 'birthday' of a place like this open to interpretation - was it 15 March 1866 (when the land was selected), or 7 May 1870 (when the cemetery was declared 'open'), or 1 August 1870 (when the first recorded burial took place there)?

Jane Hockings' headstone, portion 8A, South
Brisbane Cemetery (BRGHS)

There were earlier cemeteries at Milton (now the site of Lang Park); a convict burial ground on Skew Street (near Roma Street); and a cemetery on the site of the current West End State School that was used either once or never, depending on your source. All these have long since disappeared. There are also older surviving cemeteries in Brisbane, such as the ones at Nundah and Gods Acre, but South Brisbane is the oldest intact municipal cemetery.

That first burial there was that of Jane Hockings, who died aged 74 at her 'Rosaville' home in South Brisbane on 31 July 1870. She was the mother of Albert J Hockings, a successful politician and businessman, and one of the original trustees of the cemetery. He ensured that his late mother had a fitting memorial that not only reflected his affection for her, but also the prominent social standing of the family. Maybe he also wanted make the first headstone special to give the cemetery a dignified start in life. Jane's memorial, which depicts a woman dropping flowers, is quite beautiful, not just because of the artistry of the stonework, but also because of the massive fig tree that stands nearby and drapes a dappled green canopy over the whole area.

Despite its status as the city's oldest municipal burial ground, for a number of years South Brisbane Cemetery did not receive as much historical attention as its younger sisters at Balmoral (1874) and Toowong (first burial 1871, officially opened in 1875). There are many 'Friends of...' cemetery groups in Brisbane, at places like BalmoralGods AcreToowongTingalpa and Nundah, but the last cemetery to have such a group formed was South Brisbane, in 2005. Even the excellent Brisbane: Cemeteries as Sources book from the Brisbane History Group contains a number of articles on a wide range of cemeteries, but none about South Brisbane. This is of course all changing now as the Friends of South Brisbane Cemetery have done a massive amount of research work over recent years and are now publishing books and conducting tours to increase awareness of the importance of this heritage-listed place.

* Article originally published 30 July 2011.