|Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency|
The Melbourne Old Cemetery was in existence as a burial ground apparently from 1837. The burial ground was made up of several parcels of Crown Lands each of which was granted by the Crown for the use of certain named Religious Denominations. The cemetery was divided into sections for each religious denomination.
In June, 1854, the old Cemetery was closed as a burial place. However, the rights of certain parties who possessed land prior to 1850 were reserved. The cemetery was not then placed under trustees, but under a committee, the members of which were chosen from the different denominations.
In 1864 it was re opened and placed under trustees. (Refer to the Cemeteries Statute 1864, (27 Vic. No. 201), appointment of trustees gazetted on 26 April 1864).
Each trustee represented one of the religious bodies to whom Crown grants were made. The trustees included the Bishop of Melbourne who was merely the owner of the parcel of land held in Trust and for the interment of deceased persons of the Church of England Community. The Chairman of the Trust was responsible for the discharge of statutory duties.
The Cemeteries Act 1880 (44 Vic. No. 677) provided for grants of money for the Management of Cemeteries.
Prior to 1890, responsibility for cemeteries was split between Lands (VRG 18), Chief Secretary (VRG 26) and Public Works (VRG 28). Thereafter, responsibility passed to the Minister for Health, (VRG 39). Cemeteries were controlled by a Trust. Trustees were approved by the Governor in Council on the recommendation by the responsible Minister. The Trust was responsible for the maintenance of the cemetery and the erection of monuments, handling of funds and submitted to the Commission of Public Health an Abstract of Accounts of all money received and expended.
The gradual encroachment of what is now known as the Queen Victoria Market saw portions of the Old Cemetery (the Old Melbourne Burial Ground) land being taken over by the market. In 1877 the sections allocated to Aboriginals and Quakers and the unused parts of the Jewish section were taken over by the Corporation of Melbourne City for the purpose of the General Market. The parcel of land granted to Bishop of Melbourne and his successors in trust for the United Church of England and Ireland in Victoria remained untouched.
In 1917, the Melbourne General Markets Land Act (No. 2913) allowed the Melbourne City Council to reclaim cemetery land for the use of the market. The Council had the responsibility of overseeing the operations of the cemetery through the appointment of trustees. The Melbourne City Council was a co-trustee of the cemetery with the Board of Land and Works (VA 669).
The final burial in the old Melbourne cemetery took place in 1917. It was closed permanently in 1922.
Exhumation of bodies began in 1920. Only marked graves were exhumed. George Simms of the Melbourne City Council had the responsibility for the exhumations and he identified 525 marked graves. Human remains were found in the early 1990's during excavation work for the market car park, the site of the major part of the Old Cemetery grounds. As part of the exhumation process 70 significant memorials were identified and relocated to the Fawkner Park old Pioneers Section. Other bodies were reinterred at cemeteries around Melbourne.
For burial records, see inventories of series for VA 511 Melbourne City Council.