Reverend Samuel Marsden, Principal Chaplain of the Territory, consecrated the Cypress Street Cemetery during his visit to the colony in early 1823.
New information uncovered when researching for a book on the cemetery has discounted the previously-held idea of its establishment in 1823 and that the first burial was George Reibey in October of that year.
One of the first maps showing land grants along the North Esk River has a small square marked at the bottom of W East’s grant which suggests that the cemetery was surveyed as early as 1814. Sharland’s 1826 map has the same square marked as the ‘burying ground’.
Reverend John Youl, the newly-arrived chaplain at Port Dalrymple, buried Sandy Mackenzie on December 11, 1819 at Launceston. This is the first burial on page one of St John’s Anglican Church burial register. But he was not the first person buried here.
Another early record of St John’s Church is a list of ‘tombstones erected without permission’ which includes ‘1819 Howard’. This was Thomas Howard who died in April 1819. Rev. Youl buried his wife Elizabeth in January 1820 in the same plot.
The Cypress Street Cemetery was Anglican, but before other cemeteries opened most burials took place here, convict and free.
There was no systematic record keeping for the cemetery until 1838 when it became compulsory to register deaths in Van Diemen’s Land.
From this time St John’s church wardens administered the affairs of the burial ground and ended unauthorised ground enclosures and vault constructions without payment.
The exact number of burials is unknown, but research reveals it would be around 10,000 to 11,000, nowhere near the estimated number of 30,000 mentioned in 1950s news articles.
Some notable Launceston pioneers who were buried in this cemetery include Dr. Jacob Mountgarret, Rev. John and Jane Youl, Peter Lette, Richard and Ann Dry, Bartholomew Thomas, David Rose, Thomas and Frances Henty, Charles Meredith and many more.
The cemetery closed for burials in 1905, with an exception for pre-purchased or family plots, which were allowed until 1925, however several burials occurred after this date.
By 1954 the cemetery was in a state of disrepair and the remaining headstones were destroyed or taken away. Most of the bodies were not removed. It became a sports ground for Broadland House in 1962.
The book Cypress Street Cemetery is available from the author. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.