Historical records of our cemeteries


Gerringong Cemetery

Gerringong Cemetery was the first public cemetery in the Municipality of Jamberoo, Kiama and Gerringong. Its situation on the headland makes it one of the most picturesque resting places in the world.

Discussion surrounding the allocation and of land for a general cemetery was suggested as early as 1859 when suggestions were made for 10 acres of a sloping reserve outside of town be allocated. The cemetery opened in September 1864 (Officially dedicated 1863) and tenders were called for fencing and furnishing gates by the Council in 1869. 

Portions within the cemetery include: Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian, Uniting and Interdenominational (or General). Within the cemetery are many substantial monuments with beautiful carvings. There are also several sandstone monuments, some of which are now quite badly eroded. The site also contains three columbaria, two of which face each other.

This cemetery includes many members of families who immigrated from the small area around Kilskeery Parish near the border of Co. Tyrone & Co. Fermanagh in Northern Ireland in the mid 19th century. These were generally all Methodist and many of their descendants intermarried. Family names include Bleakley, Chittick, Johnstone, Love, Moffitt, Nelson, Newman and Sharpe.

Jamberoo Cemetery

The origins of Jamberoo Cemetery can be traced back to 1891 when local Council made plans for a general cemetery to replace individual denominational cemeteries provided by local churches.

The government advertised the resumption of land on Drualla Road for a public cemetery in June 1893. By 1894 a council meeting noted that sections had been allotted at the new Jamberoo Cemetery and the denominations clearly defined. The General Cemetery at Jamberoo was dedicated on 11 October 1895. A broad range of 20th century monuments are present within the cemetery. White marble urns, several with flames surmounted and others draped, contrast with a significant number of red granite monuments (urns, columns, and slabs). These date predominantly from the 1950s. Cast and wrought iron surrounds are also present but the cast concrete surrounds are more numerous. Graves are generally tiled or covered with concrete and/or marble gravel. The General cemetery is comprised of separate denominational portions, a small lawn cemetery, and a large columbarium.

Kendall’s Private Cemetery (Closed)

In 1827, Thomas Surfleet Kendall, son of lapsed missionary Reverend Thomas Kendall was sent to Kiama to manage his father’s estate, which was named Barroul.

Thomas Kendall Snr had purchased the 500-acre property at a cost of 5 shillings per acre and was one of the first three major landholders in Kiama. Thomas Kendall Jnr established a half-acre private cemetery on the estate, which was in use from 1853 to 1948 and became the final resting place for Thomas and many of his family, relatives, and neighbours. It is now closed. The cemetery is home to 35 headstones and 49 memorials. The Family History Centre has researched the cemetery and discovered that there are 79 confirmed burials in the cemetery. There is a plaque near the entrance listing all the people buried there.

Kiama Cemetery (Bombo Cemetery)

The history of Kiama General Cemetery can be traced back as far as the 1850s when local Council members requested the NSW Government for a plot of land on which to erect a general cemetery.

Any burials before this were either carried out in Jamberoo or Gerringong. Some were buried on the site where the Church of England (in Jamberoo or Gerringong?) was to be later built.

The Government of the day agreed that an area at Porter's Garden would be suitable for the cemetery, however Joseph King, whose property was adjacent to the suggested site, objected. Mr King stated that he would require compensation if the cemetery plans went ahead as the cemetery would ‘deteriorate the value of his property’.

Over the next 10 years there were numerous attempts to resolve the site issue with the NSW Government and finally in 1860, Kiama Council petitioned the government for the cemetery site to be approved. Each denomination was to have their own designated area for burials which was set out on an approved drawing of the proposed cemetery.

At the end of 1860, Kiama Council received advice from Department of Lands which enclosed an extract from the NSW Surveyor General with reference to the cemetery. The Department of Lands had deemed that an area in front of Mr King's house would be retained for public recreation and an area of 6.5 acres closer to the beach would be established as the site for the cemetery. The Council accepted this proposal.

During 1861, the site was surveyed and within the plan, each of the denominations and their boundaries were proposed. The plan was gazetted on 3 July 1861.

In November 1896, Kiama Council established rules and regulations regarding the cemetery which were approved and signed by the five religious sections within the cemetery. These rules and regulations were gazetted on 24 November 1897. The cemetery was officially dedicated on 14 February 1898. 

From December 1896 until 24 June 1969 the Kiama Roman Catholic Church kept its own record of burials in the cemetery. However, after this date, the Kiama Cemetery was run by the Council and the layout of the cemetery was changed from the old system of rows and numbers to a denominational numbering system.

In 1988 a Cemetery Committee was formed by the Kiama and District Historical Society.

Notable Indigenous Burial

King Mickey Johnston b.c 1834-1906 Grave unknown and unmarked

One of the most famous First Nations inhabitants of this area, King Mickey Johnston was born in Port Stephens about 1834 and arrived in the Illawarra around 1865. He joined the local tribe in his adult years, eventually becoming a senior member.

His wife, Rosie was born c.1840 and was a Wodi Wodi tribal member. She was with Mickey Johnson by the 1860s and supported him in his dealings with the growing European community. Like Mickey, Rosie was a communicator and managed to bridge the gap between the two communities.

The local community recognised Mickey and Rosie’s standing, as noted by Mickey’s ‘coronation’ in 1896 at the Illawarra Centenary celebrations, where he was crowned ‘King Mickey’ and was presented with a crescent-shaped brass plate inscribed with 'Mickey Johnson, King' by Archibald Campbell, MLA. However, no recognition was given to him or the tribe in terms of land, hunting grounds, or water supply.

It was reported that Mickey Johnston on the occasion of his ‘crowning’, was asked whether or not he had been invited to attend the coronation of King Edward VII in London. Mickey replied that he had not, however he was not expecting an invitation as he had not invited the King to his own coronation.

Mickey died in 1906 from pneumonia at the Minnamurra camp aged 72 and was buried at Kiama Cemetery (Bombo Cemetery).

Kiama Municipal Council acknowledges the Wodi Wodi people, the traditional owners of the land, their ancestors and the presence of all indigenous burials that may reside on Darahwal country. We recognise the lack of representation of indigenous burial in our written histories and that this knowledge may not be passed on to wider Australian audiences due to its sacred cultural significance. We acknowledge the significance of Aboriginal burials for Aboriginal people and the important physical and spiritual connections with the land, culture and their past.

If you’re interested in researching your family’s history or the history of Kiama, contact the Family History Centre.