Governor Macquarie informed the citizens of the Colony on 11 May 1811 that:
"the respective burial grounds have been lately consecrated by the Principal Chaplain... in future all settlers and others resident in [the] townships shall... inter [their dead] in the consecrated grounds ... and the constable ... is hereby directed to communicate the same with the least possible delay to the nearest resident chaplain, in order that he may attend and perform the funeral service".
Over the next six years almost 100 burials had taken place in the old cemetery at St Matthews Anglican grounds, and still the church to be in its centre was not begun. Because of the buildings uncertain size, most of the early burials were placed in the bottom lower corners of the church land.
A few are high alter monuments, whilst most are anthropomorphic head stones belonging to early farming settlers and their families. These poor folk found the cost of burials difficult having to pay the Clergyman £0.3.0, the Clerk £0.1.0, the Gravedigger £0.2.6, so families like those of Elizabeth and William Freeman could afford only minimal markers.
Recently one of these markers was the subject of vandalism.The small unassuming headstone, with only the initials WF and EF is now in pieces. Research conducted by Jan Barkley-Jack and Michelle Nichols has revealed the history of William and Elizabeth Freeman. Both arrived as convicts. The pair were poor and struggled to bring up their seven children so when Elizabeth died in 1816 the costs above for the burial would have been difficult to meet.
When William died in 1820, not only were there more funeral costs, but the family had to be broken up and the youngest three sent to Parramatta Orphan School.
Hawkesbury Historical Society is raising funds for the restoration and repairs to the headstone and are asking for donations. You can donate via the button "I want to help" on the Hawkesbury Historical Society website or alternatively you can donate directly to the Hawkesbury Historical Society as follows: Bank: ANZ Richmond, BSB: 012 874, Acct No: 227709583, Identification: Grave (your surname).
Many stories about early Hawkesbury settlers can be found in among the wonderful historical books in the bookshop which Hawkesbury Historical Society runs within the Hawkesbury Museum, 8 Baker Street, Windsor.
This Saturday and Sunday, April 3 and 4, the Society will host a Monster Book Sale there at the museum.
The Society stocks a wide array of historical books on Aboriginal history, Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains history, early colonial history and historical novels. Entry to the Hawkesbury Museum is free.