Fremantle Cemetery Heritage Walk Trail
We set off to explore WA history by following the Heritage Trail at Fremantle Cemetery but soon realised that we hadn't printed a complete list of the heritage sites and we were missing the names for almost half of the gravesites. Note to self: check the printing parameters next time! We did however have a mostly complete map with the trail and the sites marked on it. You can download the Heritage Trail Map here and more detailed information about the gravesites on the trail here.
The trail starts at Bon Scott gate on the corner of Leach Highway and Carrington Street and as you pass through into the Garden of Remembrance there are numerous tributes from paving inserts to the memorial plaque and seat. Bon Scott, the lead singer of iconic rock band AC/DC, was laid to rest in 1980. The gravesite has become a cultural landmark and has been heritage listed by the National Trust.
We followed the map, which sounds easy but in reality the cemetery is quite large with sections not marked on our map heading off in every direction! We located the Heritage Trail entrance and decided that as most of the names on the heritage walk had little or no meaning for us we would just follow our feet and discover things as we came across them. If you want more detailed maps of the various sections of the cemetery to assist your wanderings download them here.
The cemetery was established in 1899 and since then many prominent and notorious Australians have been laid to rest here. Look for the state’s earliest gravestones of the pioneers that first settled in the Swan River colony. What stood out for us was how young everyone had been; some were explained by the First World War but there are also heartbreaking gravestones of young mothers and their children passing within months of each other. I wondered at the stories behind the gravestones and, especially now in the midst of a pandemic, counted my blessings for modern medicine.
The Heritage Trail is quite beautiful, even in winter when many of the trees were displaying bare branches. There are some magnificent and very old gum trees. One would think that the walkway would be free of graves but there are gravestones in almost every available place which makes it very interesting. There is such a contrast between the different sections of the cemetery , some with ornate memorials, others with simple metal "frames" marking the grave site and some with nothing at all but bare dirt. This gives such a sense of history as you ponder the rich and the poor and how life treated them so very differently.
We did manage to locate the gravesite of Eric Edgar Cooke, a convicted serial killer, hung in 1964 and buried alongside Martha Rendell, a child murderer who died in 1909. Fitting companions maybe.
There were some familiar names like Marmion and Samson amongst the heritage sites and many other names synonymous with the development of Perth and Western Australia. We came across the grave of Joseph Bolitho Johns, known as Moondyne Joe, who was listed as an escapologist!
We passed the Children's Gardens on Samson Avenue, a section where tiny babies are remembered. Reading the plaques was heartbreaking but in deference to the families I chose not to photograph individual plaques.
I certainly came away from this walk with a feeling of the weight of history on my shoulders. It saddens me to think that so many of these older graves are possibly long forgotten as the passing of time dulls the connection. With our relatives now flung far and wide across cities, countries and indeed globally who is left to honour all these people that have passed over the last nearly 200 years!
I commend Fremantle Cemetery in offering this Heritage Walk which recognises a cross section of it's "inhabitants" in a respectful way. The cemetery is simple yet beautiful.
On a side note all the heritage walk sites have plaques detailing information on the "inhabitant" and if you have a QR code reader you can scan the QR code. This information is also available online at https://mcb.wa.gov.au/our-cemeteries/fremantle-cemetery/heritage-walk-trail/fremantle-cemetery-heritage-walk-trail-one. The walk literature suggests the walk will take 90 minutes to complete. We spent an hour wandering around reading some of the information signs without completing the full trail. You can spend as little or as much time as you want wandering around, depending on your interests.
If you wish to research your personal history you can search cemetery records here.
Parking is available in the cemetery carparks and there are toilets and a cafe on site.