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Indigenous archaeology & cultural heritage management

Kensington Cemetery

The History and Archaeology of the Maesbury Street Cemetery

In 1848 the Foundation Stone was laid for a church in Maesbury Street, Kensington. The following year the adjacent land was consecrated for use as a cemetery and over the next 25 years the area was used for more than 550 burials. In 1964 the cemetery was official closed by proclamation and ceased operation. In 1968 the Norwood Apex Club – acting with the best of intentions and as was common practice in the days before heritage conservation strategies were well established – removed all of the headstones in the cemetery (many of which were broken and fallen over) and grassed over the entire site (after which it was renamed Pioneer Park); unfortunately they made no records of the grave locations and consequently today people are entirely unaware of exactly where the burials are situated within the Park.

Discussions during 2006 between Lynley Wallis and Denise Schumann – the cultural heritage consultant to the City of Norwood, Payneham and St Peters – revealed that members of the local community were keen to establish a memorial garden in the Park to commemorate those buried there along with heritage values of the place. They were particularly interested in possibilities for using archaeological techniques to locate the grave locations, however were concerned that the methods used should be as least invasive as possible given the sensitivity of the area. The need to locate the original grave locations with a high degree of accuracy relates to the community desire for the proposed memorial garden layout to reflect the original layout and design of the cemetery.

The primary aim of this project was to use non-invasive archaeological and geophysical surveying techniques to establish the locations of unmarked graves in one of the oldest cemeteries in Adelaide. The grave locations will subsequently be used by the local community as the basis for designing a memorial garden commemorating the heritage values of the place and people buried therein. This project represented a rare opportunity to undertake a comprehensive geophysical survey for historical graves in Australia driven by community interests for the purposes of managing and commemorating local heritage.

Another important aspect of the Kensington project was to build up as much information about not just the locations of the graves within the cemeteries, but also about the people buried in the cemetery as well as their families through historical research and documentation.


The Kensington Geophysical survey was carried out over June and July 2007.

The field work team comprised the following people:

• Dr Lynley Wallis, archaeologist (Flinders University)
• Ian Moffat, geophysicist (Ecophyte Technologies)
• Alice Beale, archaeologist.
• Morgan Disspain, Yoko Luscher, Claire StGeorge, Matthew Ebbs, archaeology student volunteers (Flinders University)


This project involved a multi-technique approach to surveying Pioneer Park in order to establish the locations of graves. Initially a tightly oriented survey grid was established over the expanse of Pioneer Park using an highly accurate RTK differential GPS system – this formed the basis for the subsequent geophysical instrument surveys and enabled researchers to link the collected data back to physical locations for providing advice on specific grave locations. Once the survey grid had been established a series of different geophysical techniques was used to indicate the grave locations including single sensor magnetometer, Ground Penetrating Rader (GPR), electromagnetic induction and direct current resistivity. Now that the on-ground data collection has been completed, Moffat is currently undertaking the processing and interpretation in order to identify where the graves are situated. Onc the processing is completed, a report will then be provided by Moffat to Wallis and Schumann, who will use it as the basis for preparing a community style report that can be used by community members to assist in layout planning for the memorial garden.

Research concerning the people known to have been buried in the Kensington cemetery was carried out by volunteer students from Flinders University. This research included searching documents available at the South Australian Geneaology and Heraldry Society, The State Records office, The National Archives office and the State Library.


Moffat, I., L.A. Wallis, N. Chang and A. Beale. 2008. Locating historic graves with geophysical techniques. Unpublished paper presented in the Department of Archaeology (Flinders University) Public Lecture Programme, 13 March Canberra.

Moffat, I., L.A. Wallis, N. Chang and A. Beale. 2008. The geophysical detection of historic graves. Unpublished paper presented to the ANU Archaeological Science 2008 Conference, 4-6 February, Canberra.


The Maesbury Street Cemetery project was generously funded through a Flinders University URB project grant.

WHC Research Projects