Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to footer
Back to Sydney Insiders Blog

The dead centre of Sydney secrets revealed

E521-003-740402

Before large cemeteries were created throughout Sydney, the local parishes buried their dead within their own grounds.  Sydney’s first official cemetery was located where Sydney Town Hall now stands. Dating back to the 1790s, the site is commonly called the Old Sydney Burial Ground. The site, on the outskirts of town, was chosen by Governor Phillip and in 1792. It was decided this place would not affect the health of the living and could remain a place of quiet seclusion. In 1812, Governor Macquarie authorised the extension of the burial ground to the north and west, and granted a site for a new church, St Andrew’s, next door. The cemetery buried convicts and free people. There were no apparent denominational divisions but some social distinctions were maintained. By 1820 the cemetery was full so a new burial ground was set aside on Brickfield Hill – now the site of Central railway station. Once closed, the cemetery was neglected. By 1837 many of the headstones had been vandalised. The cemetery became “a resort for bad characters at night” and by day stray pigs, goats and horses wandered among the graves, many of which lay open. Most of the remains uncovered during the construction of Sydney Town Hall, changes to the train station and during subsequent archaeological works, were not identifiable.

@24hoursinSydney. We know Sydney

PHOTO CREDITRamon Williams