Shellharbour Old Cemetery
Shellharbour Beachside Caravan Park, John Street
Now hidden below Shellharbour's Beachside Holiday Park, this cemetery was the first site used for European burials for the surrounding district. In 1821, Darcy Wentworth received a 1650 acre coastal land grant, to be called Peterborough. When laying out his private village adjacent to the small natural harbour, he reserved the sandy headland south of the harbour to be used as a burial ground. The first recorded burial was that of John Roan in 1829.
The headland cemetery continued to be used as a multi-denominational cemetery through to the 1890's. The tendency for heavy seas or strong winds to repeatedly uncover the remains buried there-in finally forced the Shellharbour Municipal Council to seek out a more suitable location. The first burial in the new (current) Shellharbour General Cemetery took place in 1897.
Regular erosion of the old cemetery continued to plague the local authorities for decades there-after, Council's calls for families to exhume their loved ones' remains for re-burial elsewhere falling largely upon deaf ears. Limited transfers of both remains and headstones were undertaken, thereby leading to names (and still existent memorials) listed for this cemetery also appearing in listings for other locations.
The growing popularity of beachside camping and day visitation through the 1930's and 1940's saw the old burial ground regularly being surrounded by or actually used by visiting crowds for their recreation. Sometime in the 1950's to 1970's, the decision was made to knock over any remaining headstones and incorporate the area into the beachside reserve, eventually leading to it being covered by the current caravan park.
Local historians Wendy and Terry Nunan spent some 4-5 years full time research into burials which could be either proven or suspected to have taken place in the old cemetery. Their 506 page book Shellharbour's Forgotten Cemetery and Selected Pioneers details the history of the site, the history of shipping activities to and from the village harbour, and extensive biographies for all those buried there-in. Shellharbour Council has erected an historical plaque in the north-east corner of the caravan park listing the names uncovered by the Nunans' research. The plaque may be viewed from the seaside walkway heading south from Shellharbour Swimming Pool.
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