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Ballaarat Old Cemetery

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904 Macarthur Street, Ballarat Central VIC 3350

Explore other locations around this area using our interactive map


  • Historical cemetery gazetted 1856
  • Eureka memorials
  • Information and display centre
  • Anzac Heritage Walk Trail
  • Chinese section, funerary oven and altar
  • Toilets
  • Bench seating
  • Rubbish bins
Take a stroll through the Ballaarat Old Cemetery and learn some of the area's fascinating history through a series of displays, walks and memorials. Notable features of the cemetery include the Eureka memorials, the beautifully restored 1890's rotunda, Anzac Heritage walking trail, Chinese section with funerary oven and altar, an indoor information centre with detailed displays, and a touch-screen computer for burial record searches. 

A map of the cemetery is provided on a sign near the information centre, which shows the location of the Pioneer's Block, the 1892 Rotunda, the Eureka Diggers' Monument, and the Eureka Soldiers' Monument. The sign also provides the following key points in the cemetery's history:
  • Ballaarat Old Cemetery gazetted 20th May, 1856
  • Cemetery re-surveyed and southern portion attached 5th December, 1856
  • Mortuary Chapel completed 10th June, 1857  Builder, John Faulkes
  • Cemetery fenced 10th May, 1869  Contractor, R. Tunbridge
  • Fountain erected 8th December, 1869  Contractor, D. Stamps
  • Water laid on December, 1869
  • Drawings of Gates prepared by Mr Doane 8th December, 1869
  • New Gates erected February, 1870  Contractor, Stamps & Son
  • Chinese residents granted permission to erect brick oven for the purpose of burning offerings, 4th August, 1883
  • Rotunda built 21st November, 1892  Contractor, Laird & Park
  • Centre Avenue metalled September, 1902

The following text is displayed on a series of information signs at the Ballaarat Old Cemetery. When visiting the site, you will also find more signs within the information and display centre, which cover the funeral customs of the late 1800's, the Eureka story, the people of Eureka, multi-culturalism, and Ballarat notables. 

Old Cemetery

The Ballarat 'Old' Cemetery is the last resting place for approximately 25,000 former residents. As you wander through the Cemetery you will notice that many people are buried according to their religious denominations. Most of these people have contributed something to Ballarat's history but the Eureka Memorials commemorate two very special groups.

Following the battle at Eureka many of the bodies were buried in a mass grave but later their remains were treated a little more respectfully.  In 1856 a Geelong man provided funds for the construction of the memorial to the fallen diggers. Two decades later local citizens and the Victorian Government decided to mark the soldiers' graves. The inscriptions on the memorials give a clear indication of public attitudes in the 1880's. 'Rebels', 'Tyrants', and 'Duty'. You will still find differing opinions on what these words mean today. 

Ballaarat Old Cemetery

Gazetted 1856

The first registered burial at the Ballaarat Old Cemetery was that of Ann Seymour, aged 33, on 20th May, 1856. However records show that burials had taken place on or near this site from 1848 - a man by the name of Ethersey had appointed himself Sexton and buried the dead here for a fee. The Cemetery is a rich repository for Ballarat's history, including those events connected with the Eureka Stockade. 

The early years

The first official meeting of the Cemetery Trustees was held at the George Hotel on the 24th April, 1856. Mr Elliot was elected Chairman; the Secretary was Mr Dixie and Mir Whittingham was appointed Sexton. 

Many bodies were re-interred at the Ballaarat Old Cemetery in the first few years, with bodies coming from afar afield as Adelaide, Brisbane and Tasmania as well as from the temporary cemeteries within and surrounding Ballarat. 

The Rotunda

The Rotunda, shown above, was built in November 1892. It has long served as a meeting place prior to burials. 

James & Piper and . CC. Smith were awarded £5-0-0 for their designs The builders were Laird & Park. 

Unseemly conduct in 1882

In 1882, police were stationed at the Cemetery every Sunday to stop 'unseemly conduct' - the pilfering of flowers from the grave sites. 

The following year, the Chairman reported that 'The petty theft of flowers from the graves ... have been of much less frequent occurrence during the year; this is no doubt attributable to the publication of intention o the Trust to prosecute offenders, and to the constant surveillance of the police.'

Gold under foot

Gold has been found on this site. In 1907 when the grave diggers were preparing for the burial of T. C. Thomas, himself a gold mining investor, they discovered good gold bearing quartz. This was assayed at the School of Mines, yielding 3ozs per ton. Ballarat residents were eager to begin mining operations. Fortunately, the quality off the gold waned after 12 feet o exploration, decorum prevailed, and the dead have been allowed to rest in peace. 

11 feet under!

Some of the graves here are more than 11 feet deep! This was to allow family members to be buried in the same plot - one on top of the other. Throughout the 1800's, it was also common for up to 5 paupers to be buried in the same grave. 

With only picks, shovels and buckets, it is estimated to have taken two men the best part of a day to complete. Today, the "hole" operation is largely mechanised - taking about 20 minutes using a back-hoe 

The new site

Only two years after the Old Cemetery was opened, the Trustees o the day foresaw the need for another cemetery to accommodate Ballarat's rapid growth. The Ballaarat New Cemetery, located at the north end of Lydiard Street, was gazetted on 8th February, 1858 and declared open on 10th June, 1867. 

The Eureka Monuments

Dedicated to the Fallen...

Many of those who fell at the Stockade were buried here in the Ballaarat Old Cemetery. On March 22nd, 1856, the citizens of Ballarat erected a monument dedicated to the Stockaders' memory. 23 years later, one was erected "b the Government of Victoria at the request of the citizens of Ballarat" to honour the dead soldiers. 

They did their duty ...

The soldiers gravesite consisted of two headstones inscribed to their memory. 

Captain Wise was "buried with the honors due to his rank beside those of the three meritorious soldiers which lie there interred" "The day was hot and dusty as the cortege moved to the place of burial, a slightly rising ground nearly a mile from the township." Quoted in W. B. Withers, "History of Ballarat".

In 1879 the Soldiers' Monument was erected. The east face of the obelisk bears the inscription:- 

"In this place ... were buried the remains off the British soldiers ... who fell dead or fatally wounded at the Eureka Stockade, in brave devotion to their duty."

Common grave

Following the attack on the Stockade, most of the dead miners were buried here in a common grave.

The next day, with the soldiers and police on alert in the Government Camp, a procession of several hundred men, three abreast, accompanied a few more coffins along Main Road, up past the Camp, and out by Creswick Road to the Cemetery. It is not known how the graves of the diggers were marked following their burial.

The monument lists the twenty one known miners who were killed.

When erected, the monument was not enclosed by a fence but it is believed that the present enclosure, a cast iron fence on a bluestone plinth, was erected on October 15th, 1872. 

Leggatt's legacy

The Diggers' Monument as donated by its sculptor, James Leggatt of Geelong, whose talents were well recognised.

Newspaper articles described the monument "as the finest piece of work-manship of the kind seen in the colony."

Why James Leggatt should have donated the monument is unknown, however it is thought that his children attended St Alipius School in Ballarat. 

Anarchists and Ruffians

"The Major General has deep regret in announcing ... the death, at Ballaarat Camp, yesterday morning, the 21st Instant, of Captain Henry Christopher Wise of the 40th Regiment. He died from the effect of Wounds received on the 3rd Instant, while bravely leading his Company, in storming the 'Eureka' Stockade, which a numerous band of Foreign Anarchists and Armed Ruffians had converted into a stronghold." Colonel Edward Macarthur, Deputy Adjutant General. 

The Anzac Heritage Walk Trail

The Anzac Heritage Walk trail consists of 26 locations highlighting the graves and memorials of soldiers and Nurses who fought in the Great War 1914 - 1918 These graves are a selection from over 180 within the cemetery and cover a variety of persons not necessarily famous or distinguished but reflect the effect war had on people, their families, their work and Ballarat as a city. 

The heritage walk will take approximately one hour to complete and offers you the opportunity to reflect on how the war may have had some influence on your family.

Maps and information booklets are available from the information centre A gold coin donation is appreciated to coer the costs of the booklets and maintain the heritage walk trail. You can also followw the trail by downloading the audio podcast. Simply scan the QR code at the bottom of this panel.

For further information please refer to

Also of interest


  • Many cemeteries in the goldfields were established in the early-mid 19th century. Walking through the historic cemeteries of the area is like taking a walk through time.


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