Located adjacent to Christ Church Cathedral and within the city centre, Cathedral Park is the site of Newcastle’s first cemetery and the resting place of 3300 of the city’s early residents. The park occupies a spectacular position adjacent the Christ Church Cathedral which attracts upwards of 80,000 visitors each year. This visitation and the stories waiting to be told present the opportunity to provide a showpiece for the city.
Cathedral Park comprises two parcels of land, the former Christ Church Cemetery (acquired in 1966) and the adjoining site of the former cottage ‘Mulimbah’ (acquired in 1990). The park is now classified as Community Land and is zoned as open space parkland.
Council acquired the site from the Anglican Church following the creation of the Christ Church Cemetery Conversion Act 1966. Works on site to convert the cemetery from burial ground to parkland commenced in 1972. Nearly 100 headstones were moved from the site of their associated burial and placed in rows on the east boundary of the park. Sadly, moving the headstones led to their deterioration and loss of association with the site of burial.
In response to the condition of the park and the headstones, Council prepared a Conservation Management Plan to guide the long term management approach. The key finding was that the headstones be treated as artefacts through conservation and recommended each headstone be returned to the recorded site of burial. The conservation plan provided the impetus for the development of the Master Plan in 2011-12 and efforts to secure funding.
Highlights of the Master Plan
- stabilise the surviving headstone monuments commensurate with their state heritage significance
- move the headstones back to the recorded burial position as a means of recovering as much of the cemetery layout as possible
- create a beautiful, contemporary and engaging public space which integrates parkland uses with heritage conservation and interpretation.
- minimise park maintenance costs
- create an outstanding and dynamic attraction that will complement the revitalisation of the city centre
The first stage of the project was completed in April 2013 and the results are outstanding. Ten headstones are reinstated to the site of burial along with the Hannell monument which has been carefully re-carved by stonemasons Delic and Co. Although just the beginning of the revitalisation program, visitors can now experience a fragment of the cemetery as it was in 1966. Stage I has been funded by a $150,000 grant from the NSW Heritage Council and Council's major asset preservation program.
The next stage of works are underway and will deliver improved access to the park, new pathways, signage and viewing decks areas. The Federal Government has also recognised the benefits of this project for Newcastle and allocated funding of $227,000 under the 2012-13 Your Community Heritage program.
Efforts to attract funding for stage three are currently underway. This final stage will complete the headstone conservation and two major public artworks to present aspects of the site's history. These artworks are included in the Master Plan.
The Christ Church Cathedral, Moveable Collections, Cemetery and Park are listed on the State Heritage Register in recognition of the importance of the place to the people of New South Wales.
City Administration Centre
282 King Street
Newcastle NSW 2300
Tel: 02 4974 2000
ABC Presenter Carol Duncan visited the site with Heritage Strategist Sarah Cameron
The Newcastle Herald have also covered the project