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Pennyweight Flat Children's Cemetery

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Colles Road, Moonlight Flat VIC 3450

Features

  • Historic cemetery
  • Used for five years during the gold rush
  • Around 200 graves of young children
  • Picnic table
  • Information signs
The Pennyweight Flat Children's Cemetery in Moonlight Flat is a heartbreaking result of the awful living conditions in the diggings during the gold rush of the 1850s. Around 200 shallow graves, most marked only by small stone rings and piles, are scattered amongst the trees.

The site of the cemetery was named and chosen because only a pennyweight of gold was found there, so no gold would be sacrificed by using this location as a burial site.

A lack of clean drinking water along with accidents and diseases were the main causes of death for children living on the goldfields. The first recorded deaths on the Mount Alexander Diggings were of two small children, who perished of dysentery in November 1851.

There's a gravel parking area, accessed from Colles Road, from which you can follow a well formed gravel walking track a short way over to the cemetery. Also alongside the parking area is the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park.

A fascinating and attractive information sign stands beside the walking track to the cemetery right near the car park. Another older sign stands by the gate to the cemetery itself.

Also along the walking track you will find an interesting sculpture: a 6 x 3 metre abstracted version of a miner's cottage made from mattress wire, created by Frank Veldze.

There's a picnic table not far from the entrance to the cemetery.

While many graves are simply marked by stone arrangements, quite a few also have proper headstones with readable engravings.

The following text is displayed on an information sign at the Pennyweight Flat Children's Cemetery:

PENNYWEIGHT FLAT CEMETERY: 1852 - 1857

This site is a rare surviving example of a Gold Rush cemetery. Shortage of water, contaminated water, poor diet and frequent accidents took a heavy toll on those who flocked to the diggings in search of fortune.

Those children who accompanied their parents and babies born on the gold-fields were particularly vulnerable to the harsh conditions. Between 1852 - 57 about 200 bodies, including children and babies, were buried here at Pennyweight Flat on the fringe of the Mt Alexander gold workings.

A pennyweight is a very small measure of gold, no wealth was sacrificed by establishing the cemetery here. The site was so barren it would not be disturbed by fossickers or miners.

Today's peaceful landscape, including the grey-box trees which began to grow just after the cemetery's establishment looks very different from the swarming activity of what was once the richest alluvial (surface) gold-field in the world. So wealthy were the Mt Alexander diggings that stories of gold "there for the taking" spread round the world, prompting one of the great mass-migrations of the nineteenth century.

Often unrecorded and uncoffined, buried in shallow graves, these fossickers and their families represented the coming free Australia.

Remember them as you visit here and respect where they rest.



DID YOU KNOW...

  • Many cemeteries in the goldfields were established as early as the 1850's. Walking through the historic cemeteries of the area is like taking a walk through time.
 

Comments

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Denis H McG Kirby
02/04/2018
I visited this cemetery around 1967. I was young and tough ( I thought ) and knew everything, but looking down at names scratched on a piece of slate brought a tear to my eye.
Today at 75 years of age, it's happened again.
I hope they are at peace.
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