On the other side of Druitt street, where the Town Hall now stands, was one of the early Sydney cemeteries. The first was in George Street North, in the vicinity of an eye-sore to the city; during the day boys played between the tombstones and at night it was the haunt of bad characters. There yet probably remain a number of coffins in the Town Hall grounds, while others may have the Globe street; the second was near the corner of Clarence and Margaret Streets, and the third was on the Town Hall site, and was in use as early as 1793, and closed as a cemetery in 1820.
For some 50 years, it remained as woodblocks of George Street as their covering. One, I know, is under the footpath just on the south side of the southern gateway entrance to the Town Hall.
In 1904, when the electric light cables were being laid along this footpath, a corner of the coffin was disclosed. It was not disturbed, but a bottle containing an inscription and newspaper of the day was placed inside, and the coffin cemented over. Little did the relatives of that man dream when they lowered the body into its grave that it would have one day for its tombstone a magnificent building, that over it would pass daily the tread of a thousand feet, and that within a foot of its resting place would pass a mysterious current with powers so incredible that it would transcend their wildest dreams.
When the City Council was looking for a site for a Town Hall in 1843 it asked the Government to vest in it the old burial ground for this purpose. The Governor agreed and introduced a bill in 1845, but a select committee reported against the proposal, and the measure was dropped. I do not know if the letter of an irate objector to the proposal which appeared in one of the papers in September 1845, had anything to do with the rejection of the proposal. So that you may judge I quote the first paragraph :—
“Gracious Heavens! Is it possible that, in the nineteenth century, when the universal diffusion of human intelligence and knowledge is declared to be the Ultima Thule of sublunary blessedness, in the promotion of which her most Christian Majesty Queen Victoria, of all the lords, temporal and spiritual, of her Imperial Parliament profess to combine, that her Majesty’s representative in Botany Bay should be so abandoned to all sense of decency, allegiance, and duty to her most gracious Majesty, and her most loved subjects in this remote territory, as to propose a project so monstrous, so inhuman and unchristian as the sacrilegious spoliation of the sacred repositories of the silent dead.”‘
When the members of the Legislative Council came to the surface again after reading this, they also probably ejaculated “Gracious Heavens!” The Council was more successful in a later application, and on March 3, 1869, an Act was passed vesting the site in the Council.