Buninyong Cemetery

OLD BURIAL GROUND

There were a number of burials at Buninyong's old burying ground since the beginnings of the township in the early 1840s. The burial ground was located just outside the town, in Learmonth St, beyond the Post Office. An information board marks its location.

It is very difficult, if not impossible, to know who was buried in the old area, because there are no records and no headstones survived. Civil registration of births, deaths and marriages was not introduced in Victoria until July 1853. Before that date we rely on Church records of baptisms, marriages and deaths, and many names do not appear in these records.

There is evidence that the local Aboriginal people practised tree burial, leaving their dead in a particular orientation in burnt-out trees.

The first death recorded in the district was that of Terence McManus, a shepherd working for the Learmonth Brothers, who was speared by Aborigines near Sebastopol in April 1838. In November 1846 Edward Martin, a servant of John Veitch, was murdered at the Buninyong Inn, and Euphemia Innes, wife of George, King of the Splitters, died in childbirth on the 1st of January 1847. On 1st February Corporal William Harvey of the Buninyong mounted police, was mortally wounded and attended by Dr. Power as he died.

 

PRESENT CEMETERY

 
Historian, Anne Beggs Sunter, leading a tour of early graves in the Buninyong Cemetery

A map sketched by Assistant Surveyor Smythe in 1849, when he was making his preliminary survey of the township of Buninyong, shows the present cemetery designated as "General Cemetery" on the map, and divided up into four denominational sections. So it seems possible that from 1850 the cemetery began to be used.

On 9th December 1852, Dr. Richard Power, the district's doctor since 1842, died unexpectedly at the age of 50. He was a great loss to the district. His gravestone is the earliest in the Buninyong Cemetery, in the Anglican section, cared for by the Buninyong and District Historical Society. Another pioneer was Thomas Hiscock, the discoverer of gold, who died in 1855. His headstone is in the Presbyterian section of the cemetery.

The discovery of gold in the Buninyong district in 1855-6 brought great numbers of diggers and their families to the district, and many deaths by accident or disease. Many deaths related to child bearing, with women and their babies risking death in the unhygienic conditions of the tent towns. The need for a formal, large cemetery for the district dates from these rushes.

It would appear from entries in the Government Gazette that the cemetery officially began in 1855.

PLAN OF CEMETERY

This reduced plan of the Buninyong cemetery is basically the same as the original survey. It is a Christian tradition that graves face Jerusalem in the East so the denominational sections are laid out on a North-South axis.

The majority of the first white settlers to this district were of Scottish descent and the Presbyterian Church has a large section located on the Eastern boundary. The remaining denominations share the remaining area, with the Chinese being allocated the North-West corner. As the pattern of immigration changed, the Episcopalians (United Church of England and Ireland, or Church of England) and Wesleyans (Methodist) were allocated additional sections to the West of the Roman Catholic section.

In 1995 a rotunda was constructed in the grounds of the cemetery, a project of the Buninyong and Mt. Helen Lions Club, and a plan of the cemetery is displayed in the Rotunda. 408 Warrenheip St, Buninyong, which is open Sun-Tues from 10.00am to 3.00pm.

Rotunda with plan of Cemetery

A booklet about the cemetery is also on sale. (Click on the link for details)