But there are many other notable features within the park. As I explored one day, I was most surprised to discover this plaque in the midst of a rose bed. It revealed that Pioneer's Memorial Park was formerly the Balmain cemetery.
The spot saw over 10,000 burials, most of which occurred prior to the 1900's. After years of consultation, families of those buried in the cemetery were given the opportunity to arrange reinterment and some of the graves were relocated by relatives. Among these were Robert Towns, after which Townsville was named. To my amazement, the remainder of those laid to rest there remain buried onsite.
But to all appearances there is no other clue that the site was a cemetery. All the gravestones were removed and either relocated or used for leveling the area and building the retaining wall on Norton Street.
Because of its history as a burial space, the park has not been used as a sports ground. Instead, it is a place for enjoying nature and quiet recreation.
The most impressive feature of the park is the memorial located just behind the entry arch. It was relocated from the corner of Norton and Marion street in Leichhardt. It is dedicated to soldiers from both world wars and also commemorates a number of Victoria's Cross recipients. Studying the memorial more closely I discovered that it included a British soldier James Gormon who fought during the Crimean war at the Battle of Inkerman. James Gormon was buried within the park grounds when it was still a cemetery.
Like thousands of others his grave lies unmarked. However, the Leichhardt library has a copy of the Burial Register for the site, that is available for viewing.
At the heart of the park is the massive rotunda. It was built to commemorate Australia's Bicentenary, which marked the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the first convict ships in Sydney. Larger than most rotundas in the Inner West, and of a unique design, it is used annually during the 'Carols on Norton' event.
After wandering around the park, I felt compelled to lay down under a tree and daydream the afternoon away, quite out of character. I didn't then know of all those who still call this park their final resting place. But now it seems fitting.