History of the Cemetery

St Kilda Cemetery was opened in 1855 and covers an area of twenty acres. The area surveyed included four acres each for the Church of England and the Catholic denominations, and two acres each for the Presbyterians, Wesleyans, Baptists and Independents. There was also a further four acres reserved for extensions. Part of this reserve became the Hebrew section and the rest was left for other denominations, not specifically named. The specified capacity of the cemetery was 20,000 graves.

In June 1855, the cemetery was officially opened, although the burial registers indicate that a young girl, Charlotte Green, had been interred in the Baptist section in May that year.

The management of the cemetery was provided by the St Kilda Cemetery Trust. Eventually there were eleven trustees, two representing each of the local municipalities of Prahran and St Kilda, and one each representing the various denominations.

By 1899, the government declared that all available grave lots had been exhausted, and that the cemetery was to be closed. Up until that time there had been over 20,000 burials. The closure meant that there were to be no more burials except for those who already held a right of burial.

Closure of the cemetery was varied in 1923 to allow the sale of a small number of allotments, and in 1928 when a further 250 became available. Over the years since then, the Trustees had sought variations of the closure order, and this allowed an increase in burials to reach 50,869, in 1965.

In 1967, the management of the cemetery passed to the Springvale Necropolis. A lawn cemetery was established on the site of the old lodge in 1970.


A short chronological history follows and further information can be found in a special issue of the newsletter Cemetery Conversations prepared by the Friends for the 150th anniversary of the cemetery in 2005. This special newsletter (Issue No 18 – June 2005) may be purchased at a cost of $8.00 (plus postage).

1835Port Phillip District settled.
1837Old Melbourne Cemetery established.
1851Robert Hoddle surveys proposed site of St Kilda Cemetery.
1853Melbourne General Cemetery established.
Crown land reserved for a cemetery at St Kilda.
1855Trustees gazetted.
First burial, Charlotte Green, in May.
Cemetery opened in June.
c1857Residence built.
1858Prahran Council joins cemetery Trust.
1860Pavilions constructed.
St Kilda Council joins cemetery Trust.
1861Purchase of trees and shrubs.
1865Attempts to close cemetery fail.
1868Complaints from residents seeking closure.
1873Cemetery infested with snakes.
1877First Jewish burial.
1878First Jewish trustee appointed.
Land at Springvale bought for a new metropolitan cemetery.
1883Charles Truelove appointed secretary-manager.
c1883External brick wall constructed.
1890Residents petition for closure.
c1893Plant nursery established.
1895Trust ordered to close cemetery.
1896Board of inquiry sought.
1897Libel action brought against Charles Truelove.
1899Discontinuance order.
1901Sales of graves continue.
1905Charles Truelove dismissed.
Trustees investigated.
1906Variation to discontinuance order to approve illegal burials.
1907Board of Inquiry held into the administration of the cemetery.
1913Variation to discontinuance order.
Alleged trafficking in graves by undertakers.
1918Cemetery overgrown.
1928Two releases of additional graves (140 graves plus a further 250).
1930Conference held to discuss future of cemetery.
1931Sustenance relief sought to clean-up cemetery.
1932Cemetery Lodge converted into flats.
1935Overselling of graves prompts further investigation.
Selling of new graves allowed to continue.
1941Plan to erect a crematorium.
1962Government assistance sought.
Review by Health Department.
1963St Kilda Council declines management of cemetery.
Prahran Council withdraws from Trust.
1966Trustees threaten to resign.
St Kilda Council approached to run cemetery but declines.
1967Necropolis appointed temporary managers.
1968Passing of legislation and Necropolis appointed as Trustees.
1970Cemetery Lodge demolished.
Michaelis lawn and garden established.
1983Formal closing order.
1998Friends of St Kilda Cemetery formed.
2004Redevelopment of main entrance.
2005Celebration of 150th anniversary.
Release of new gravesites.