I’ve spent alot of time at Carr Villa. I love wandering around the graves and have learned so much about Launceston’s history from reading the headstones and researching their stories. A walk from the main entrance on Nunamina Avenue, all the way to the new lawn section at the other end, is like taking a time-walk through 100 years of changes in burial traditions.
In April 2017, I was fortunate enough to be asked to give a tour of Carr Villa Cemetery to a group of Newstead College students. I really enjoyed sharing some of the more interesting stories about the people buried there and the students were really enthralled by them.
We can largely thank City Engineer Charles St David for the organised layout of Carr Villa, which is just as relevant today as it was when he designed it in the early 1900s. The graves at Carr Villa form neat rows, each section is easy to find and navigate, and are surrounded by an attractive network of paths, bushes and trees, streams and ponds.
The history of Carr Villa
The land that Carr Villa cemetery now occupies, is a section of land that was granted to the Knight family. Mrs Knight operated a ladies college there, known as ‘The Carr Villa Establishment for Young Ladies’. There were also several outbuildings, including sheds and stables.
In the late 1880s the Tasmanian Government started to consider the future of Launceston’s many burial grounds. They were filling up fast, and there was some fear in the community that water run-off from cemeteries was making people sick. The Tasmanian Government purchased the land at Kings Meadows in the 1880s, and although they thought it was a good site for a new cemetery, not everyone agreed. Some people, including members of the Launceston Council, thought it too far out of town, and that the cost of conducting burials there would be too costly for most people. Clergymen who had previously provided their services for free said that they would have to start charging due to the cost of getting to Carr Villa. Additionally, there was no sewerage or water, and the soil was thought to be of poor quality.
In the early 1900’s the cemeteries in Launceston were at capacity, and it was decided to proceed with the plans for Carr Villa. City Engineer Charles St David designed the layout of the cemetery, after inspecting designs used in England and that of Cornelian Bay in Hobart which had opened 30 years previously. The existing cemeteries in Launceston were closed, except for reserved plots.
The cemetery opened when the first burial took place on 1st August 1905. It was that of John Doran, who was an inmate at the Launceston Benevolent Home. Although John was buried as a pauper, monumental mason John Dunn donated a marble headstone for John to mark the occasion of the cemetery’s first burial. This headstone can be seen in section D. It’s quite easy to spot when you know where to look, it sits against the fence and appears to be the only headstone facing East in this section. Although the engraving is very worn, it would have been an example of their best work in the day.
Sadly, a fire in 1992 destroyed a hedge and some outbuildings, which were the last remaining links to the sites earliest history.
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