Volunteers Robin Poole and Marlene Whitehead at work at Ipswich Cemetery.
Volunteers Robin Poole and Marlene Whitehead at work at Ipswich Cemetery. Sarah Harvey

Forgotten pioneer graves found

GRAVES and burial vaults that have been hidden for decades have been uncovered by a team of Ipswich volunteers.

A project, which started about two years ago, has seen volunteers painstakingly photograph, map and crosscheck burial records at a number of Ipswich cemeteries.

As the project nears completion, council's Health and Regulation Committee chair Andrew Antoniolli said the volunteers had made many interesting discoveries along the way.

Some of the finds include forgotten graves at the Ipswich General Cemetery, the second oldest cemetery in Queensland, with evidence of burials from the 1840s.

“Grave locations previously unknown to Council have now been found as volunteers using metal detectors located a number of metal grave pegs buried just below the surface,” Cr Antoniolli said.

“It would appear additional underground burial vaults may have been discovered in the pioneer area.”

So far about 30,000 images with associated data have been collected, covering two thirds of the Ipswich General Cemetery and all the headstones at the Tallegalla, Stone Quarry and Haigslea cemeteries.

One of the problems affecting records of Ipswich's early pioneer gravesites was the council's decision in the late 1970s to clear some of the oldest sections of the Ipswich General Cemetery.

Another problem is the trust that used to control the cemeteries did not keep records as thoroughly as council now does.

Alyn Hawkes, an Ipswich City Council Health, Parks and Recreation worker with extensive knowledge of Ipswich's cemeteries, said grave markers were important during Ipswich's early years because only the affluent could afford headstones.

Helping to find those old markers with a metal detector is volunteer Robin Poole, a North Booval resident who became involved with the project last year.

“It's interesting what you pick up. You feel good when you find a few pegs,” Mr Poole said.

Fellow volunteer Marlene Whitehead said any markers, gravestones and potential gravesites were photographed and crosschecked against existing records.

“It's great to be able to trace families and correlate them together. It is very satisfying,” the Dinmore resident said.

Cr Antoniolli said it was important for council to carefully preserve the city's rich history.

He said anomalies were found in some areas of the cemeteries, which would be further investigated by the team.

Once the project is completed, all the information collated throughout the project will be placed online through the Ipswich Library for the public to view.

Residents with old pictures of the cemeteries can send them to Picture Ipswich by calling 38107272.

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