Cemeteries: St Kilda Cemetery


This is the second in my series of posts about cemeteries. The first was about Melbourne General Cemetery and can be found here. This time I’ll be discussing St Kilda Cemetery. St Kilda is a suburb in southern Melbourne and its cemetery is an an excellent example of Melbourne’s inner suburban cemeteries.

I’ve always found cemeteries interesting as a lens through which to view a city, or a town, and I’ve always found the history they so neatly incapsulate fascinating. St Kilda has a personal connection for me as well because there is a plot there in which several of my ancestors are buried. One of them, Robert Henry Woodward, was originally buried in Melbourne General Cemetery. The family believes, however, that he was moved to St Kilda to be with his wife Letitia at a later date. His grave at Melbourne General Cemetery is certainly unmarked.


The Woodward Graves.


Robert Henry Woodward and Letitia Woodward

IMG_9755The site of Robert Henry Woodward’s original grave at Melbourne General Cemetery

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 7.25.39 PM

What the Woodward grave looked like in the 1970s. My extended family and I are in the process of restoring it somewhat.

Robert Henry was one of my first ancestors to come to Australia in the 1850s, and Letitia was born here in 1824 when her father was stationed in Sydney. So I was interested to see where they were buried.

The cemetery itself also has a fascinating history. It was first laid out in 1851 by an assistant of Robert Hoddle, best known for laying out the grid of Melbourne’s CBD. It opened in 1855 and the brick wall enclosing it was added in c. 1883.


The walls of the Cemetery

The cemetery covers 18 acres and contains approximately 53 000 burials. St Kilda has been a desirable place to live for over a hundred years and as urban sprawl in Melbourne has increased there have been several attempts to have the cemetery closed. Fortunately none have been successful. The cemetery is laid out in religious denominations as can be seen in the map below.

St Kilda Map-V3_DPMG - FINAL

Although in comparison to  Melbourne General Cemetery St Kilda is quite small, it is still large for a suburban cemetery. It certainly feels vast when you step inside, as you can see from the photos below.



St Kilda also houses many beautiful funerary monuments. A number of which can be seen below.





Religious Figures








Ornate fences.

There are also memorials to a number of well known people in St Kilda Cemetery.

I don’t feel it is necessary to go into the history of each of them, but I would like to discuss one in particular. Ferdinand Von Mueller, best known in Melbourne as the Director of the Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens from 1857-1873.


Von Mueller


His memorial can be seen below.


Von Mueller was born in 1825 in Rostock in Mecklenburg-Schwerin in what is now Germany. He trained as a pharmacist, but specialised in botany as part of his degree. He came to Australia in 1847 with his two remaining sisters, seeking a warmer climate for his sister’s health. He began his time in Australia in Adelaide, where he investigated the local flora as well as working as a pharmacist. He came to Melbourne in 1852 when Governor Latrobe appointed him Government Botanist. In Melbourne Von Mueller began collecting specimens of the local indigenous flora. He was instrumental in cataloguing Victorian and in fact Australian flora, adding new genera and greatly expanding exisiting knowledge. He travelled a great deal within Australia and was at the heart of bringing together isolated information from disparate sources on indigenous flora.

When he was appointed director of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens in 1857 he immediately arranged to have the herbarium built, added his own extensive collection of specimens and began collecting seeds and plants from all over Australia as well as internationally. In the herbarium he built what is now one of Australia’s most important dried plant, algae and fungi collections. Under his stewardship the gardens began to build towards the magnificence which you see today. They can be seen in the photos below.

Botanic Gardens Melbourne
Native mexico

Cork oak, Quercus suber

Botanic Gardens Melbourne

Part of the Children's Garden next to

Children’s garden Melbourne Botanic Gardens

Herb Garden, Botanic Gardens MelbourneHerb Garden Melbourne Botanic Gardens.

Along with the Melbourne Botanic Gardens Von Mueller played a role in the establishment of some of Victoria’s numerous rural botanic gardens. For example when the gardens in Hamilton were established in 1870 Von Mueller supplied 450 shrubs and trees, providing the start of planting for the garden. The tree below is possibly one of the ones he sent.

Corsican pine Botanic Gardens Hamilton

Von Mueller was also one of the first to recognise the importance of the native forests of Victoria and campaigned against indiscriminate clearing. Sadly there began to be complaints about Von Mueller’s management of the gardens in around 1868. There seemed to be the feeling that he was focusing too much on the plants and not enough on the beautification of the gardens. Complaints were along the lines of “‘no foundations exist … neither are statues erected … works of art we can call forth at pleasure, while time lost in forming the plantations cannot be regained”[1] He stoutly defended what he saw as the object of a botanic garden, saying in an 1871 lecture

“that from the early transcendental days of Greece up to the most recent decennia all institutions designated as botanic gardens were mainly or exclusively devoted to the rearing of such plants as were adopted for medicine, for alimentary or industrial purposes; and it would be little short of relapsing into barbarism, were we to alienate any such institutions of ours entirely from their legitimate purpose.”

He continued

“The objects of a botanic garden must necessarily be multifarious, nor need they be, in all instances, precisely the same; they may be essentially modified by particular circumstances and local requirements, yet, in all cases, the objects must be mainly scientific and predominently instructive. As an universal rule, it is primarily the aim of such an institution to bring together with its available means the greatest possible number of select plants from all the different parts of the globe; and this is done to utilise them for easy public inspection, to arrange them in their impressive living forms, for systematic, geographic, medical, technical or economic information, and to render them extensively accessible for original observations and careful records. By these means, not only the knowledge of plants in all its branches is to be advanced through local independent researches, conducted in a real spirit of science, but also phytologic instruction is to be diffused to the widest extent; while simultaneously, by the introduction of novel utilitarian species, local industries are to be extended, or new resources to be originated; and, further, it is an aim to excite thereby a due interest in the general study and ample utilisation of any living forms of vegetation, or of important substances derived there from. All other objects are secondary, or the institution ceases to be a real garden of science.”[2]

Unfortunately he was not successful in his arguments as he was replaced as director in 1873. He remained Government Botanist, but he was so upset by his dismissal from the gardens that it is said that he never set foot in them again. Von Mueller was a dedicated worker, writing over 3000 letters a year, publishing over 800 papers as well as a number of books. By the time he died in 1896 he was largely responsible for the international recognition that was given to Australian scientific endeavour. His work was also of the quality and magnitude that much of it has still not been superseded. He is to me one of the most fascinating people with a memorial in St Kilda cemetery.

St Kilda Cemetery as a repository of history has many more stories to tell apart from Von Mueller’s and the Friends of St Kilda Cemetery do run regular tours. Information can be found here.

St Kilda, like other cemeteries, is a fantastic place not just for its own history but also for the survival of the stories of the people who are buried there. It also creates an area of community space in a tightly urban precinct. It is well worth a visit if you are ever in the area. Cemeteries, like St Kilda, are a vital part of the community.

The photos are all mine apart from the photo of Von Mueller from the Dictionary of Biography and the Botanic Gardens and Hamilton Gardens pictures which were kindly provided by garden writer and photographer Penny Woodward.

For more information on St Kilda Cemetery see:


For more on Von Mueller see:



For the entirety of his speech in 1871 in defence of Botanic Gardens see



[1] http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mueller-sir-ferdinand-jakob-heinrich-von-4266

[2] http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-Stout33-t4-body-d9.html

Stone Forts

If you ever spend any time in Ireland you will come across the stone forts, also known as ring forts and cashels. They were usually farming settlements and normally date from between 500-900 CE, though they were reused later as well. Many are testaments to the brilliance of drystone walling and the skill of the builders as they are still standing today. Some were ‘fixed’ at later dates of course. They vary in purpose and in style but they usually have some common features. For example the majority contain stairs worked into the side of wall of the fort. These forts were not roofed over to create one residence, in fact the exterior walls were used for protection, from the weather and attack, and houses either of stone or wood were built inside. The design of the stairs allowed people to access the top of the walls simply. The forts often also command the high ground, giving an excellent view to any possible attackers, as well as providing a defensive position. Many stone forts feature souterrains, these are holes or tunnels in the walls of the forts. There is ongoing debate as to whether they were used for storage, for escape or both.

The five stone forts featured below are each good examples of a different aspects of stone fort building. The sites below are listed in no particular order.


Lecanabuile and the next stone fort listed Cahergall  in County Kerry are excellent examples of two forts built close together. These are two communities which would have interacted. You can see Cahergall in the distance in most of the photos below. Lecanabuile dates to the 9th or 10th centuries CE. The circular enclosing wall is more than 3m thick and roughly 20m in diameter. There has been some reconstruction. The remains of the round house you can see in the photos below is relatively contemporary to the outside walls and a souterraine inside leads to a gap between the external walls. The external walls were built by building two stone walls and filling the interior. The square building you can see attached to the round one is a later addition showing the ongoing use of these stone forts. The other structures you can see inside the walls are later again.





Cahergall, as you can see from its appearance in the earlier photos, is just down the hill from Lecanabuile. Its stone walls are very impressive as they tower over the surrounding landscape. The walls have been reconstructed to an extent in recent times. It was built around 600 CE and the walls stand at around 6m high and 3m thick. There is a stone house inside that is original and would have once likely housed someone important. Like Lecanabuile it is entirely drystone walled.








Dunbeg is a little different to the other stone forts in that it is a promontory fort. It was built around the 8th or 9th centuries CE and was occupied again in the 10th and 11th centuries CE. It stands on a sheer cliff on the Dingle Peninsula. One of the key issues with it standing on a sheer cliff is that the fort is currently falling into the sea, as can be seen in several of the photos below. It also has extensive earthwork defences surrounding it. There was also probably settlement on the site before the building of the fort. Behind the earthworks and the drystone wall there is the clochain, or beehive hut. The life in the fort would have been centred on the two hearths inside the beehive. The main entrance is currently blocked due to instability, but you can see how it is structured in the photos below. Additionally there is a souterrain which runs from the inside to the outside of the fort. There was probably also more buildings originally but they may have been claimed by the coastal erosion.



Grianan Aillgh

The original hill fort in this position would have been built probably sometime around the 1st century CE, but it was the royal citadel of the Ui Neill family from the 5th to the 12th century. It stands in Donegal. There is also a burial mound nearby which dates to roughly 3000 BCE and this might have attracted the builders originally. The walls stand about 4.5m thick and about 5 m high, but there was fairly extensive rebuilding work in the 1870s. The fort is surrounded by three earthen banks and it is believed that the track that runs through them and up to the fort might be the remains of an ancient roadway.



Staigue stands in County Kerry and happened to be the first fort I saw and it remains one of the most impressive. Dating it is uncertain but it is probably from the early centuries CE. The walls are up to 5.5m high, 4m thick and 27.4m in diameter. The steps in the walls run in a distinctive X shape possibly to make it possible for people to pass each other running up and down. There are no surviving buildings inside the walls, but there are two small chambers contained in the walls which might have been for storage. There would have been houses inside; they just either weren’t built in stone or haven’t survived. The top of the walls command an impressive view of Kenmare bay and would have given the local chieftain ample warning of any attack or visit from the sea. The drystone walling here is particularly impressive and seems to be largely original.



These stone forts are only examples of the thousands in Ireland, though not all of them are in anywhere near as good condition. If you ever get the chance they are absolutely worth a visit.

For more information see: http://heritagecouncil.ie/unpublished_excavations/section13.html

References: http://www.theringofkerry.com/cahergal-leacanabuaile-forts




Site visits in 2015

All the photos are mine.


Easy to Evil Australian History Quiz.

This is how the quiz works.

There are twelve questions.

There are three sections: easy, hard, evil.

There are four questions in each section.

You get the question then a photo and the the answer is below the photo.

Keep track of how you do because there is a scoring system at the end.

Enjoy 🙂


  1. What is the name of the market in Melbourne which is built on a graveyard on the corner of Victoria and Elizabeth street?IMG_1142

Answer: Queen Victoria Market. You get the point if you said Queen Vic, Vic or Victoria Market. For more information on the graveyard click here


2.  What is the southern most point of mainland Australia which is named after Thomas who was a friend of Matthew Flinders?

IMGP0304.JPGAnswer: Wilson’s Promontory



3. When was Federation in Australia?

PA0013 Answer: 1901 . The picture is Tom Robert’s painting of the opening of Australia’s first parliament in May 1901. For more information click here



4. What year was the Eureaka Stockade


Answer: 1854. The photo is of the flag of the Southern Cross.



5. Where did Australia’s parliament sit from 1901-1927?


Answer: Parliament House Melbourne. For more information on the fascinating building click here.



6. Where was the first shot fired by the British Empire in World War One ?

pn cheviot 1

Answer: Point Nepean in Victoria. For more information click here



7. What island did Captain James Cook name after he ‘discovered’ it on June 7th 1770?

IMGP3548.JPGAnswer: Magnetic Island.



8. What is the name of the beach Harold Holt drowned at and what year did he drown?

PN cheviot 2Answer: Cheviot Beach 1967. For more information click here.




9. What is the name of the boat that sank off the shipwreck coast in Victoria on the 1st of June 1878?

loch ard sunshneAnswer: The Loch Ard. The photo is of Loch Ard Gorge. For more information click here.


10.  What is the name of the man who named the Grampian Mountains in Western Victoria and mapped much of the district?

IMG_7551Answer: Major Thomas Mitchell. For more information click here. 



11. What is the name of the small Victorian town named after the man who was Governor of Victoria from 1926-1931?

IMGP2217.JPGAnswer: Somers. The photo is of Somers’ beach.


12. What is the name of the first lighthouse to be erected in South Australia?


Answer: Cape Willoughby Light House.



So that’s it. How did you do?

1-4: Well you’ve got some basics down pat. Good start.

5-8: Impressive. You know you stuff.

9-12: Incredible effort. You may know more than is sensible:)

12: If you got them all… Sure you didn’t write the quiz?


Hope you enjoyed it.


The photos are all mine apart from the Tom Roberts painting which can be found at http://www.aph.gov.au/Visit_Parliament/Parliament_House_Art_Collection/Tom_Roberts_Big_Picture and the Eureka Flag which can be found at http://www.artgalleryofballarat.com.au/exhibitions-and-events/collection/australian-collection/the-flag-of-the-southern-cross-(eureka-flag).aspx