“The dead are soon forgotten…”
So said an “Old Parramattan” in 1890 in reference to the people buried at Australia’s oldest surviving European cemetery: St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta (1790). But the dead are not so easily forgotten if their stories live again!
The St. John’s Cemetery Project is an online database for Australia’s oldest surviving European cemetery, which was established in January 1790 in an old stock paddock on the outskirts of Parramatta, the land of the Darug Nation’s Burramattagal clan. Thenceforth, it became the final resting place of Dicky Bennelong, the son of Woollarawarre Bennelong; more than 50 First Fleeters; a multitude of convicts, soldiers, pioneers and colonial elites who were immortalised in place names in Parramatta and surrounds; Governors’ wives, women and children who died at the Parramatta Female Factory; orphans who passed away at the Orphan Schools at Parramatta and Liverpool; as well as patients from the nearby convict hospitals and various mental health institutions in the colony — to highlight just a few major groups that are well represented in this historic cemetery.
Originally a non-denominational cemetery, St. John’s is also a place of diversity that provides a more nuanced view of the early colony and the town of Parramatta specifically, with Aboriginal, Jewish, Chinese, Indian, Muslim, Romani, African American, German, Dutch, and French people buried here as well as British Anglicans. This State Heritage listed site, then, is significant not just for Parramatta, New South Wales, or even Australian history, but for World History.
Our first feature collection, “St. John’s First Fleeters,” begins the process of bringing to life once more the stories of the people buried herein. As for the other notables buried in the cemetery — they, too, will be “remembered” in time…
To search the cemetery database go to the SEARCH page.