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Pioneers Memorial Park

Home > Sydney > Memorials | Outdoor | Parks | Picnic Spots | Playgrounds
by Rota (subscribe)
Still out and about
Published September 1st 2014
A resting place in the heart of Leichhardt
Pioneers Memorial Park has always impressed me with its spacious grassy areas, wide paths and the unusual mix of shady trees and native shrubs.

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Entrance archway and the beginning of the olive grove

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.

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A rose garden to helps us remember

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.

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The Bicentennial Rotunda

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.


A neat children's play area is present to one side of the park, and apart from all the usual things, it has a great sandpit for kids. Toilets are nearby too.

There are also pleasant hedged off areas in the park. They separate space and give you a little privacy for lunch, a good book or a close conversation.


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.

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A resting place for many

You too may find a resting place and a window into the past in this lovely park.
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Why? A spacious park that invites quiet reflection
Where: Norton Street, Leichhardt
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Nice little article. A resting place for over 10 000 souls!
by glenop (score: 2|823) 1929 days ago
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