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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
St Paul's Burial Ground

The Burial Ground at St Pauls was placed on the ACT Heritage Register in 2011. The history of the church, school and cemetery are recorded as part of that decision. The following is an extract relating to the Burial Ground:

'On 12 May 1861 St Paul's Church of England was opened on top of a hill on the Ginninderra Station. It serviced the spiritual and social needs of the rural community for 40 years. An associated cemetery adjacent to the church building dates from at least 1872 and includes about 18 burials. Today the cemetery site is included in Block 1, Section 95, Evatt. Neither the church building nor any gravestones are evident at the site today, though the burials remain.

In 1845, the first churchyard burial grounds in the region were established, at St John the Baptist Church at Reid. St Paul's at Ginninderra (Evatt) followed in 1862 with the first known burial there in 1872. Churchyard burial yards were usually specific for parishioners of that denomination. Following this, 'other religious denominations felt a need to establish their own cemeteries and churches which were managed according to their own beliefs and customs' (Claoue-Long, 2006; 24). In 1846 Thomas Southwell of Parkwood had introduced Methodism to the region. In 1863 he constructed a chapel and Sunday school on his property. In 1873 a slab church was moved to Weetangera, and an associated cemetery was established (Claoue-Long, 2006; 24). Forty-four burials are recorded here. Today, headstones remain, and a stone cairn marks the spot where the church was located (Claoue-Long, 2006: 24).

There are 18 European burials known to have taken place at the St Paul's Burial Ground between 1872 and 1900. A commemorative plaque listing their names was placed on the site by the Southwell Family Society in 1995. Many of those buried were from pioneer families in the Ginninderra district and some are connected to the Southwell family through marriage. The Southwells were prominent in the early history of the ACT playing a significant role in the social and economic development of the northern areas. Unfortunately, there is no known map showing the location of the burial plots, nor can the list be confirmed as being complete.

The first known burial was that of Ralph Edge who was interred on 9 September, 1872. Although unconfirmed, an earlier burial may have been that of a person by the name of Ryan on 4 September 1865, four years after the church was opened. The Parish faithful were buried close to the little church building and others were interred further down the hill side. The last burial in the cemetery was that of two year old Charlotte Eliza Stear who was drowned in a well near her home on 19 September 1900. Her burial was recorded on 21 September 1900. The Reverend Pierce Galliard Smith, Rector of St. John's, Canberra, conducted the ceremony. This was almost certainly the last burial in the cemetery and services at the church ceased around this time.

The Reverend Pierce Galliard Smith was a notable character in the region at the time, having ridden his horse around the district, including to St Paul's, until he was over 80. He used to give a Sunday morning service at St John's and an afternoon service at Gininderra, visiting many people along the way. The Reverend was responsible for planting trees in Glebe Park in Civic – he was said to have carried seeds in his saddle bags, gathered from his travels around the district.

There is also the possibility that at least two Aboriginal people were buried in the grounds of the cemetery. The area on the northern bank of Ginninderra Creek (the southern boundary of the original glebe) was a common gathering place for Aboriginal people, particularly in times of drought when the creek flow would fail. There was a permanent pond in this section of the creek near where the present Melba shops are now located. It is believed that Aboriginal people who died when in this area were buried in the cemetery in 'the furthest corner from the church' (Ferret & Murdock 1983:4) but this cannot be substantiated.

In 1904 the church was closed and the cemetery was no longer used. The remaining 197 acres of the glebe, however, continued to be used for grazing. The cemetery had been fenced but it was not enough to stop the deterioration and vandalism of the graves and the grave markers. In 1905 the Glebe is said to have been affected by fire. By 1970 there was very little left of the cemetery other than the corner posts of the fence (Canberra & District Historical Society file) and stone from one of the graves (Gillespie pers. com). The growth of the Belconnen suburb of Evatt in the 1970s resulted in residential and road development impinging into the cemetery area. The cemetery field was used as a vehicle park during the construction of the subdivision and roads. The northern extremities of the cemetery now lie under a section of Copland Drive (Canberra & District Historical Society file). To some of Canberra's residents this was seen as a desecration of the cemetery. Even the bulldozer operator refused to clear the ground within the cemetery, though this failed to halt the development (Gillespie 1992: 202).

The pioneering legacy of St Paul's is continued with the current Anglican parish of St Paul's Ginninderra formed on 15 February 1981. Establishing St Paul's formalised the work from 1973 of the local Anglicans to form a new parish to serve those suburbs covered by the Glebe Farm'.


Further information about the St Paul's cemetery can be found at Canberra Tracks

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