General History of South Brisbane Cemetery

Pre-1863: The area now known as Dutton Park was originally thickly timbered and cut by steep gullies. A rough track from Woolloongabba to Ipswich passed through it. Some farms were established in the 1840s, the road was surveyed, but there were few houses.

Above: South Brisbane Cemetery, ca. 1890s. (John Oxley Library)

1863: The area around what is now Dutton Park was surveyed. A large recreation reserve was set aside, and then divided into recreation and cemeteries reserves by a later survey.

1865: The Cemetery Act provided for the government to set up general cemeteries under the control of local trustees.

27 January 1866: Trustees appointed for South Brisbane Cemetery. They were TB Stephens, AJ Hockings, WT Blakeney, WM Baynes and J Mooney.

March 1866: Land selected for use as cemetery. It was described as ‘eighteen acres on the old Ipswich road, about a mile and a-half from the city, and extending from the road down to the Brisbane River at Oven's Head. From its position, there is no danger of its ever being surrounded with houses, and the access from the river makes it available for the large population settled on Oxley Creek and both sides of the Brisbane River.’

31 October 1866: Regulations adopted for South Brisbane Cemetery.

Trustee Thomas Blacket Stephens, 1867 (John Oxley Library)

7 May 1870: South Brisbane Cemetery officially declared open.

1 August 1870: First burial took place - that of Jane Hockings.

Brisbane Courier, 7 May 1870.

1881: A Caretakers Cottage was built.

1888: Entrance gates, railings and a boundary wall were erected.

1904: The cemetery was full by this time and so seven acres on the south side of Cornwall Street were added to the cemetery reserve. This was an area that had been surveyed for residential subdivision and adding it to the reserve effectively closed a section of Cornwall Street.

1908: A tramline reached the area with a terminus close to the cemetery at the corner of Gladstone and Cornwall Roads. The area developed rapidly in the 1900s and it became known as Dutton Park, in reference to the local park named after CB Dutton, Secretary of Public Lands.

1925: The Greater Brisbane Council was created by amalgamating the metropolitan councils. The Brisbane City Council assumed the management of public cemeteries from this time and took control of the South Brisbane Cemetery in 1928.

1930: The portion of Cornwall Street between the two sections of the cemetery was officially closed.

1939: The Brisbane City Council embarked on an extensive programme of works at the cemetery. Over the next few years, concrete paths were laid, internal roads upgraded and kerbing installed. 60 feet of stone wall was constructed within the cemetery and a new chain wire fence erected from the existing iron railings in Cornwall Street to the cemetery corner.

1941: Two modern brick toilet blocks were constructed in 1941 at a cost of £500. Alterations and repairs were also carried out to the caretaker's cottage and waiting shed. The landscaping at the cemetery was improved with the planting of many trees and shrubs, including cypress pines and blue gums along the Brisbane River.

1945: Work on the cemetery recommenced after wartime shortages of labour and materials, and a survey of the cemetery noted lavatory blocks for men and women, two shelter sheds, a timber sexton's cottage, a timber tool room, motor shed and men's room.

1954: A brick staff amenities block was constructed. It was later falsely claimed that this block was once a morgue.

1961-62: The cemetery was closed to new burials, but continuing use of family plots was permitted and a small number of new plots were released in 1998-99.

1970s: Council ‘beautification scheme’ results in the removal of thousands of headstones deemed to be ‘unsightly’ or ‘dangerous’.

1996: The caretaker's cottage burned down and the shelter sheds have not survived.

2005: Friends of South Brisbane Cemetery formed.

2013: One of the toilet blocks burned down and was subsequently demolished.