The heritage values of St Kilda Cemetery have been recognised at both a Commonwealth and State level. St Kilda Cemetery was entered in the Commonwealth Register of the National Estate on 14 May 1991.
The Statement of Significance reads:
St Kilda Cemetery is one of Melbourne’s oldest cemeteries and was the principal burial place south of the Yarra River during the nineteenth century. It is closely associated with the settlement of greater Melbourne and, particularly, the settlement and development of St Kilda (Criterion A.4). The Cemetery is a local landmark because of its large size featuring many undisturbed headstones and memorials, surrounding iron, stone and brick fences. Its townscape value is further heightened by the fact that it is adjacent to one of the city’s great boulevards (Criterion F.1).
St Kilda Cemetery has also been entered in the Victorian Heritage Register and is protected under the State Heritage Act 1995. The Statement of Significance adopted by the Victorian Heritage Council is as follows:
What is significant?
St Kilda General Cemetery, occupying a rectangular site of around 20 acres, is bounded by Dandenong Road, Hotham Street, Alma Road and Alexandra Street and includes over 51,000 burials. The earliest known record of St Kilda General Cemetery is a grid plan drawn by Robert Hoddle’s assistant surveyor HB Foot in 1851. This plan provided separate sections for the Church of England, Catholic, Presbyterian, Wesleyan, Independent and Baptist denominations. The new cemetery had a capacity for 20,000 graves, with no allocation made for Jews, Chinese or Aborigines. By the time the cemetery opened on 9 June 1855, Hoddle’s grid plan had been overlaid by a less formal system of winding and intersecting paths, inspired by the contemporary garden cemetery movement, which in turn drew on the Picturesque landscape tradition that was popular in England at this time and the writings of landscape designers such as John Claudius Loudon.
By 1900, there were no grave sites left according to the original plan and the cemetery was closed except to holders of burial rights. The Minister of Health agreed to reopen the cemetery in 1928 and a further 250 graves were offered for sale. Additional plots had been created by narrowing roads, and by appropriating pathways and ornamental reserves. The cemetery experienced degrees of decline and neglect throughout the twentieth century, the most extreme in the 1950s. By 1967, all grave sites had been sold and the cemetery was in crisis; about 50,900 burials had taken place since 1855 and only 700 graves remained to be used. The Necropolis Trust, Springvale, assumed responsibility of St Kilda Cemetery in 1968. St Kilda Cemetery was closed for burials in 1983, except for some remaining places in niche walls and the lawn cemetery.
The site is bounded by a red brick, stone and iron fence. The boundary fences on the west (Alexandra Street) and east (Hotham Street) are high with stone coping. The rear (Alma Road) and front (Dandenong Road) fences are lower, featuring a low brick wall with stone coping supporting iron palisades. The front and rear gates connect with a series of tall stone pillars designed in a Gothic style. The central entrance gates and immediate fence are set back from the roadway in an arc formation. Inside, is the Michaelis Lawn with niche walls and a memorial rose garden. The gate-lodge or sexton’s residence and office once stood at this location. This pair of nineteenth-century brick, slate-roofed buildings, designed in the Picturesque cottage orné style, were demolished by the Trust in the early 1970s
The grounds are divided into bands of denominational sections, with Church of England to the east of the entrance followed by Catholic, Church of England, Wesleyan, Presbyterian, Independent, Baptist, Other Denominations, and Hebrew. The occasional iron denominational marker can be found in the grounds; a remnant marker, for example, survives in the Church of England B section.
A curving central roadway, which extends down the middle of the grounds, is broken by two circular islands that were once garden beds with rockeries. The rear island near the Alma Road gates now comprises Hebrew burials. The island near the middle of the cemetery retains its lawn and two Bhutan Cypresses, but also contains one prominent grave, that of airman and World War I hero, James Bennett (1894-1922). There are three shelters along the central axis, located at the front (west side of central roadway), middle (rear/south of Middle Island) and rear (front/north of Hebrew Island). All three are different but of similar interwar period construction, featuring timber and terracotta fabric. At least two were built in 1930. A series of red brick paths extend either side of the central roadway providing access to compartments. A ring road of gravel encircles the outer compartmental areas.
There is a large collection of monuments of fine workmanship or unusual design and construction, including rare cast iron and sandstone memorials and those built by prominent Melbourne sculptors, such as Jageurs & Son. Many graves have decorative iron fences or grave surrounds. There is also a large variation in funereal motifs, including some rare examples. Significant monuments include the Robb memorial with a seated woman in a colonnaded tomb; the Arts and Crafts Celtic Revival design memorials for Joseph Panton (1913) and Eleanor Panton (1896); the Anne W. Murray memorial (1875), an obelisk with ivy and gum leaves entwined around an anchor motif; the Captain Robert Russell Fullarton memorial (1895), a capstan with rope; cast iron memorials of the Klemm and McDonald families, 1870, 1877 and 1878; the fireman’s motifs on the memorial for James Kelly; the Macmeikan family memorial, a representation of a Scottish stone cairn surrounded by an iron fence in the form of a rustic vine; and the Art Deco style grave of Evelina Nathan, 1938.
Monuments to prominent individuals include Alfred Deakin, politician and Prime Minister (1856-1919); botanist Ferdinand von Mueller (1825-1896); Albert Jacka, (1893-1932) awarded the Victoria Cross; architect William Pitt (1855-1918); Sir Frederick Sargood (1834-1903); photographer Nicholas Caire (1837-1918); early pastoralist Janet Templeton, died 1857; businessman and philanthropist Alfred Felton (1831-1904); writer Tilly Aston (1873-1947); and three 1840 fever victims from the emigrant ship Glen Huntly (1898), reburied at St Kilda in 1898. The cemetery is also notable for including the graves of a number of Victorian Premiers including the first William Clark Haines: George Briscoe Kerferd; Sir Bryan O’Loghlen; the politician, temperance leader and land boomer Sir James Munro; and Sir George Turner (who was also the first Federal Treasurer).
St Kilda Cemetery contains a varied collection of plants that are typical of nineteenth-century cemetery planting, although most of the trees date from the twentieth century. The cemetery landscape has undergone considerable changes with a number of trees removed.
How is it significant?
St Kilda Cemetery is of aesthetic, architectural, historical, and social significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
St Kilda Cemetery, which opened on 9 June 1855, has historical significance as one of Victoria’s oldest public cemeteries, and for its remarkable collection of monuments and memorials. The oldest human remains in the cemetery are the re-interred remains of three men from the fever ship Glen Huntly, which were first buried at Point Ormond (Elwood) in April 1840.
St Kilda Cemetery is of historical and aesthetic significance for its rich and remarkable collection of monuments dating from the 1850s onwards, which demonstrate changing customs and attitudes associated with the commemoration of death. Many monuments are notable for their fine or unusual design. The collection charts the lives and deaths of many ordinary as well as prominent Victorians. The large number of graves to notable Victorians reflects the development of the south-eastern suburbs as a relatively prosperous area in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.
St Kilda Cemetery has aesthetic and architectural significance as an early and sophisticated example in Victoria of cemetery planning that was inspired by Picturesque notions of beauty. The influence of the garden cemetery movement is particularly evident in the layout, curving paths and roadways, plantings, ornamental fence and gates, shelters, as well as the memorials which form a major visual element of the cemetery landscape.
St Kilda Cemetery is of aesthetic significance for its landscape with its collection of significant trees including several large and outstanding Bhutan cypress (Cupressus torulosa); three large Camphor Laurels (Cinnamomum camphora); Flowering Gum (Corymbia ficifolia); a large London Plane (Platanus x acerifolia); Himalayan Cedar (Cedrus deodara); an Irish Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo); Chinese Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei); a Velvet Ash (Fraxinus velutina), an unusual planting for a cemetery; and a Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata). A major landscape feature is a hedge of Golden Privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium ‘Aureum’) planted behind the palisade fence along Dandenong Road and Alma Road.