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a wooden bench sitting next to a tree

There are still some hidden places within Sydney. Most locals can find a cemetery nearby, but there are some that even locals did not know existed and they live with 100m of the spot!

Considering Camperdown Cemetery’s location right off King Street, smack-bang in the middle of Newtown, it’s incredible how few people know it exists. Camperdown cemetery was established in 1848 and became the Church of England’s principal burial ground in Sydney. It is now the only surviving cemetery of the three main early cemeteries in Sydney:

  • The cemetery in George Street Sydney, now the site of Sydney Town Hall,
  • The cemetery in Devonshire Street Sydney, now the site of Central Railway Station, and
  • Camperdown cemetery.

The first burial took place in 1849 and the final burial in 1948. In the first twenty years after its establishment about 16,000 burials were performed. In all, about 18,000 people were buried in Camperdown Cemetery.

Perhaps the most frequently visited and largest tomb at Camperdown Cemetery is the mass grave of the Dunbar shipwreck, which is adorned with a rusted anchor. In 1857, the Dunbar was wrecked at South Head during a night of heavy rain and strong winds. Out of the 122 passengers on board, only one survived. A day of public mourning was declared, the city closed down for a funeral attended by around 10,000, and most of the recovered bodies were interred in a single tomb at Camperdown Cemetery. Annual memorial services were held, and the Dunbar took its place in the settler-colonial imagination as a symbol of perseverance.

The cemetery houses the graves of some of Sydney’s most influential historical folk and was once the place to be for locals’ late-night shenanigans. Later cleaned up and restored, today the once sketchy space is now far more day visitors-friendly. It’s often used for picnics and promenades.


IMAGE CREDIT: eggwah123 on Flickr