Off Old Princes Hwy
(The cemetery is located off a dirt track that runs south from the Garrawarra Aged Care facility. It is on crown land and access requires a permit.)
A badly neglected and overgrown cemetery with very few headstones still in existence. It contains the remains of around 2,065 people, mainly victims of tuberculosis (consumption) who died at the Waterfall State Sanatorium for Tuberculosis between 1909 and 1949. The hospital was converted into the current Garrawarra Aged Care facility in 1958.
In 1967 responsibility for the cemetery was transferred from the State Government to Wollongong Council. Unfortunately the cemetery was simply abandoned and forgotten. Over the years many graves and headstones were badly damaged or destroyed by falling trees and branches, vegetation, vandalism and theft.
In 2000 local family historians Carol and John Herben presented Wollongong Council with a lengthy report on the sorry state of the cemetery and sought action, but nothing was done.
In 2001 much of the cemetery was destroyed by a major bushfire. Over 100 timber crosses were burnt out, the lead lettering on numerous headstones was destroyed or badly damaged and many marble headstones suffered apalling damage.
In 2011 Helensburgh Historical Society raised the issue with Wollongong Council. It finally decided to commission a report on the cemetery, which was published in June 2013. It set out recommendations on the restoration and future management of the site. It was claimed that it would cost $200,000 to restore the cemetery to a state that would allow public access, plus $20,000 pa. in ongoing maintenance. No money was allocated however and nothing was done to stem the ongoing deterioration of the graves.
Frustrated by the lack of action the Australian Cemeteries Index spent 3 months in 2014 restoring around half the cemetery, including the Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and most of Methodist sections. The areas were cleared of all fallen deadwood, undergrowth, leaf litter and large stands of noxious Pampas Grass. Most broken graves and headstones were also restored. The first 15 photographs show the cemetery before the restoration work. The remainder show the cemetery following the restoration.
An offer was made to carry out similar restoration to the Anglican section and to bring the cemetery up to a standard that would allow it to be re-opened for public access, at no cost to Council or ratepayers, however the offer was declined. The Council report only identified 211 marked graves.
As a result of the restoration work Australian Cemeteries Index was able to identify and document 322 marked graves. The Council adopted the 2013 report in July 2014, however no budget was allocated until 2015/2016. There is no provision in the report for replacing the marble plaques that have been stolen or damaged or installing name plaques on the other graves. Australian Cemeteries Index believes that that is the least Council could do to make up for the nearly 50 years of neglect.
The cemetery contains four official WWI war graves. The plaques for three of those were transferred to Rookwood cemetery many years ago due to the neglected state of the cemetery. The graves are in the restored sections of the cemetery. It is therefore hoped that the plaques will be returned to their rightful location before too long. Visible inscriptions for only 64 people remain. There are another 43 formal sandstone/concrete graves with missing inscription plaques, 105 graves marked out with rough stones and 110 graves with just the burnt-out stump of a wooden cross. Photographs are available of all of the above marked graves. Photographs of 12 graves marked with stones in CE rows T-W are not listed as the names of the people buried in those graves have not yet been established. The rest of the graves are unmarked, but are generally detectable via a depression in the ground.
A copy of the original burial register is no longer available on the Council's website. All of our individual records contain a reference to the entry in that register. A different copy of the register is available at the State Records Office in Kingswood, Sydney. It is referred to in our comments as Reg 2 and is slightly more accurate than the online version, although both contain numerous errors. We have managed to correct many of the errors in the register and have recorded the exact latitude/longitude of the graves of most people buried in the cemetery.
One unresolved problem is that many graves show two people as having been buried in the same grave. In many cases there was an obvious error in the records which has been corrected, however 26 graves remain unresolved. In some cases there is a vacant grave beside the one in question, which is the more likely position of one of the people rather than both actually having been buried in the same grave. The problem is in determining which person is wrong. In other cases that row/plot number is vacant in another cemetery portion. eg. there are two Presbyterians buried in "C13", Patmore and Alexander. One was probably buried in Methodist C13, which is supposedly vacant. Identifying the exact burial locations of people in Church of England rows T-X presents a problem. The south boundary runs at an angle, eliminating an unknown number of graves from the start of each row. That makes it very difficult to determine which column "plot 1" starts in relative to the earlier rows. Row T only has 35 recorded burials vs 49 in rows O-S. That could suggest that the first grave in row T (ie. "CE-T-1") starts in column 15. The problem is there is a visible grave marked out with stones in column 4 of row T. In row U there is a marked grave (Grieves) which according to the register is "U9". U9 is also listed as occupied by Harry Dennis, which appears to be correct based on dates etc. Grieves' grave is in column 32 relative to the earlier rows which, if U9 was correct, would mean U1 would be in column 24. That is not possible since row U numbers run from 1 to 33. If the first grave started in column 24 the last would be in 56. There are only 49 CE columns in total. Grieves therefore cannot be "U9". CE rows V-X are even more uncertain as there are no visible inscriptions to work from. The problem is compounded by the fact that many burials occurred outside the documented boundaries of the cemetery portions. That includes some graves in CE Rows R-U, all graves in CE rows V-X, and RC rows R-V. Those graves are in what is shown on the original cemetery registration plan as boundary roads. When space ran out at the north end of RC and the south end of CE a new row, labelled "AA" was added to each section before row A. There are a number of anomalies in those areas as well. There is a full sandstone grave in CE AA 44 and a partial sandstone grave in CE AA 45, but there are no entries in the register for either of those positions. There are two rows of graves south of RC row A. The first row (AA?) contains one full sandstone grave with no headstone plus several visible depressions indicating unmarked graves. The second row (AB?) contains 4 full sandstone graves with no headstones plus one exhumed grave. Since the burial register does not contain any entries for a row "AB" it is difficult to determine where the people listed as being in row "AA" are actually buried. Several graves are marked with burnt wooden crosses or stones but do not appear in the burial register (CE Q45, Pbn O12, RC R23) Entries in the second register (Reg2) from 1943-1949 contain both the date of death and date of burial.
The first register and Reg2 earlier dates contain the date of death only. Family historian Carol Herben is conducting a much more comprehensive study of the cemetery, which includes documenting the full family background of each person. Australian Cemeteries Index
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