Welcome to East Perth Cemeteries
From tuberculosis, brought to the colony from the Old World, to typhoid, a fever that struck Perth at the same time as gold fever, the graves of East Perth Cemeteries are a record of the first 70 years of European migration to what is now Perth, Western Australia.
The first burial ground on what was called “Cemetery Hill” was a general cemetery and was one of the first public sites surveyed in the Swan River Colony. It was operational from 1829 to the end of the 19th century. Today the East Perth Cemeteries is a remnant of what was seven independently owned and managed cemeteries covering seven religious/cultural groups, in addition to an eighth burial ground for felons.
The East Perth Cemeteries is a highly significant heritage place. It is a rare surviving group of colonial cemeteries that have retained a high degree of integrity and authenticity within the central business district of an Australian capital city and is associated with the evolution of a small colonial community into a thriving metropolis. Among the graves are those of prominent and ordinary citizens from many different walks of life, from all levels of social structure and from all the established religious persuasions from the 1830s – 1890s.
This “reverse oasis in the city” provides a landscape setting that offers an experience of isolation, tranquillity and simplicity in stark contrast to the high density residential housing and public parks that encircle it. The management of the landscape over time has resulted in it maintaining a degree of biodiversity that is rare in the city. Flora and insect fauna survive from when this area was bushland, like Kings Park.
The individual headstones provide a valuable resource for genealogists and people tracing their family histories. They show changes in headstone and cemetery design and offer insights into mourning practices and the memorialisation of the dead. The headstones are a tangible reminder of the optimism that led people to settle in Western Australia, the hardships they endured, and of the fragility of life.
St Bartholomew’s Church was initially constructed as a mortuary chapel and is the only one in Western Australia to be converted to function as a parish church. It remains a consecrated church and continues to be used for services, weddings and funerals.
The East Perth Cemeteries has been closed to burials since 1899. Today it is a fragile and highly significant historic place cared for by the National Trust of Western Australia. All activities associated with the Cemeteries are underpinned by ongoing research and guided by contemporary heritage practice.