Brighton Sept 20th 1855
The Honorable [sic]
the Colonial Secretary
The Trustees of the Brighton
General Cemetery have directed me to inform you that nearly the whole of the
four hundred Pounds £400:0:0 granted to the them [sic] for the purposes of
the Cemetery is expended in fencing in the ground etc [?] and that no funds
are left for carrying out a few things requiring to be done immediately Such
as making a culvert over a water course leading to Entrance Gates, Felling
Trees in the Roads & walks also clearing the different portions of the
ground for interments, Building office [?] for the Sexton etc etc.
I have therefore to make
application for a further sum of three hundred Pounds £300:0:0 or any other
sum that could be conveniently advanced as a further loan until the
Estimates are before the Legislative Council.
I have the honor [sic] to be
Your Most Obedient Servant
later after seeking advice from the Treasury,
the Assistant Colonial Secretary (J. Moore) replied “that the public
demands on the Treasury and the State of the Revenue generally, prevent his
Excellency from at present acceding to the application of the Trustees”.
The Trustees then decided to leave the matter in abeyance until after the
Legislative Council had assembled when they would seek political lobbying.
meantime, costs had to be cut. As Secretary, Simmonds’ salary was safe.
But the Sexton wasn’t so fortunate, and with £20 in the bank, McMillan was
given one months’ notice on 29 October.
However, he was re-employed but only for digging graves and a more
equitable remuneration was negotiated - 7s for every adult and 3s
6d for a child’s grave. McMillan was eventually dismissed on 7 February
1856 not for the lack of funds, but for refusing to dig any more graves at
He was replaced that day by Benjamin Whitcomb (c1820-84)
on the same rate.
December, with renewed determination and persistence, the Trustees stepped
up their efforts. But this time, the government was given what can
only be construed as an ultimatum -
provide additional funds or they would resign their Trust. The exchange of
letters between Simmonds and the Colonial Secretary between December 1855
and April 1856 makes for compelling reading. Both forceful and desperate,
Simmonds proved a worthy foe in challenging the government’s doctrine on
cemetery funding. The stakes were simply too high to do nothing.
December, Simmonds wrote to the Colonial Office this time trying a different
argument. He explained that in consequence of the Trust seeking the loan of
£2,500 after the Legislative Council had voted the sum of £2,000 for
cemetery purposes, they had only received £400 and requested that the
Colonial Secretary consider their position before laying before the
Legislative Council the estimates for 1856.
Four days later Simmonds received a curt reply that the letter had been “erroneously
addressed to this office” and the matter was transferred to the Colonial
Having received the letter from the Colonial Office, on 11 December the
Trust was asked by Treasury “to state what manner the Trustees propose to
appropriate so large a sum”. The Treasury Office presumed the Trust was
after £2,100 being the difference between the amount originally sought and
the amount received.
Cemetery Office Brighton Decr
The Honorable [sic]
The Colonial Secretary
In reply to your of the 11th
inst I beg to inform you that at the time the application was made (the 12th
April 1855) for the grant of 2500£ The Trustees had procured [?] Plans &
Specifications of the Trustees & Sextons offices etc and for the fencing in
the ground (20 acres) similar to the Melbourne Cemetery and obtained
Estimates from several parties for the execution of the same. The Result
was that for:
The fence the lowest Tender
For the Offices
For Clearing the ground
making walks etc
Preliminary expenses in
Furniture for the Trustees Office, incidental expenses in Stationery
Printing Rent etc
The Sextons [sic] & Keepers
[sic] Salary were fixed at £100 per year each
The Secretarys [sic] at 200£
per annum and 2x½ [?] per Cent on the outlay as Surveyor
These several items amount to
be 2600£ but the Trustees only applied for 2500£ In consequence of the
putting up an inferior fence at half the cost of the Estimates for. They
now venture to ask for only 1500£ this year which will enable them to
pay off what they are in debt and carry out the objects contemplated at this
I have the honor [sic] to remain
Your Mt [Most] Obt
from the Treasury Office on 31 January 1856 was simple and to the point -
money was only advanced by the Government for the purposes of fencing. Such
a statement had already been elucidated to the Trustees, and had never been
questioned. Simmonds probably half expected such a response, but the
following comment must have been galling to read;
And as it appears the Trustees
have received a sum of four hundred pounds (more than the fencing actually
cost) no further application can be entertained by the Government.
was about the reply, it led to one of the most strongly worded letters, that
for the first time indicated the Trustees were willing to resign their
Cemetery Office Brighton
Febr 7th 1856
The Trustees of the Brighton
Cemetery has requested me to write to you in answer to yours of the 31 Jan
last wherein you state that the “money can only be advanced to trustees of
Cemeteries for the purpose of fencing”.
To disabuse your mind on this
point I beg to refer you to the 4th 5th 6th & 13 clauses of an Act Entitled
“An Act for the Establishment and Management of Cemeterys [sic] in the
Colony of Victoria No 12 17 Vic Assented to March 23rd 1854”.
Under the provisions of this
Act The Trustees accepted their appointments. You will see that the objects
of their Trust embraces many other things besides the mere fencing in the
And can you suppose for a
moment these Gentlemen would so far have committed themselves as to ask the
Government for 2500£ when the Estimates they intended to take for the Red
Gum fence was 875£.
If you will refer to my
letter to the Chief Secretary on the 4th of Decr 1855 you will find a
request not to forget to place Brighton on the Estimates this year as our
application was too late last year. And in that I wrote to you of the 15
same month I gave a detailed account of what the sum was required for this
The Trustees had no idea of a
refusal from Government of the sum they required and they have only
considered it (lately) as a question of time upon the faith of which they
have continued to perform their duties as Trustees notwithstanding they have
had difficulties to contend with, such as not being able to pay their
Secretary, & to suspend the Sexton etc.
Unless the Government will
take this state of affairs into their favourable consideration and Grant a
further sum to defray the expenses the Trustees much against their
inclinations will have to resign their Trust into the hands of the
The Trustees expressed a wish
that I would communicate to you that they neither received nor wished to
receive with fee or emolument for the duties they performed that the style
of your reply to my letter of 15th of Decr was more intemperate that they
were prepared to receive.
I have the honor [sic] to remain
[Most] Obt [Obedient] Servant
threat to resign bluff or brinkmanship? Simmonds again turned to the
political influence of Miller and Chapman and met with both on 13 February.
Miller promised to raise the issue with the Colonial Secretary and this he
did on Tuesday 19 February.
Still, the reply from the Treasury Office was the same.
persisted, but this time lowered the amount previously sought. Miller was
again approached, if only to seek £400-£500 to enable the discharge of debts
and other essential works, such as a culvert at the entrance, Simmonds
noting that “no [horse] carriage can enter the Cemetery without
To maintain the pressure, a similar letter was sent to both Chapman and
(Sir) John O’Shanassy (Melbourne General Cemetery)
- then a leading politician in the 1850s as a member of the first
Legislative Council and a trustee of the Melbourne General Cemetery.
In reply to
Simmonds’ letter of 7 February, the first signs appeared that the Treasury
Office was relenting and gave the Trust some hope of receiving additional
funding. It also revealed that the government’s position was unrealistic by
suggesting the mere ability to charge fees would enable Cemetery Trusts to
defray costs. This may be the case once a cemetery was established,
but not during the difficult formative years when receipts would be
insufficient to cover expenses. It also ignores the difficulty for Trusts
to levy charges deemed excessive.
The Act empowers them
[Cemetery Trusts] to make
Regulations for the general management of the Cemetery and to impose certain
fees etc which ought to be sufficient for the maintenance of the ground. If
however the Trustees have rendered themselves liable to any expenditure
through a misconstruction of the Act, or from any idea that the Government
would do all that the Act empowers them to do which they have no means of
liquidating and they will furnish me with the particulars of such
expenditure the Circumstances of the case shall have my best consideration.
reply dated 25 February confirms that the Trustees may have made an error of
judgment by expecting that the government would provide the same level of
assistance as provided to the Melbourne General Cemetery:
In answering yours of the 22nd
Inst I beg to inform you that the Trustees of the Brighton Cemetery never
contemplated that the Government intended to confuse the advance of money
for fencing in the ground alone or they would not have undertaken the Trust
they were led to expect that money would be advanced for all the purposes
which the Act empowers them to do. And to be satisfied on this head
[correct] I procured An Abstract of the Money received and paid by the
Trustees of the Melbourne Cemetery - After (a Copy of which I herewith
enclose) seeing this they felt confident that any amount required by them
would meet with the same result particularly when they considered that the
Government fenced in the Melbourne Cemetery and observed that there was
advanced to the Melbourne Cemetery fifteen hundred Pounds when they had
seven hundred and forty four Pounds sixteen shilling & 5 pence in hand.
Abstract of Accounts for 1855 shows just how dire the financial position of
the Trust was in. Excluding the government advance of £400 and the cost of
fencing the area, there was a shortfall of £135:1:10, of which wages made up
75% of the cost. In forwarding the Abstract of Accounts, Simmonds paints a
dismal picture of the state of affairs:
Cemetery Office Brighton
Febr 27th 1856
The Honorable [sic]
The Colonial Treasurer
I herewith beg to send you An
Abstract of the accounts of Money received and expended by the Trustees of
the Brighton General Cemetery, as required to be done by the 13th clause of
the Cemeteries Act passed in 1854. In the same clause it is enacted that
the Trustees send “along with such account a statement of the Condition of
such Cemetery as regards repairs etc with an Estimate of the expense which
may probably be incurred in effecting the same”.
The Trustees beg to inform
the Government that the Brighton General Cemetery is in a very imperfect &
Very little is done towards completing the Roads, Walks, clearing the
ground for interments etc in the different Sections.
For the want of a Culvert at the Entrance no Carriage can
conveniently enter the Cemetery.
There is no place for the Sexton to live in in [sic] consequence of
which, the Gates have been forced open twice and Cattle have been
turned [?] into the Cemetery grounds.
The Clergyman has no place to put on his Gown or to sign the
necessary papers or the Sexton to lodge his tools.
The Trustees have no office to hold their meetings or for the
Secretary to transact his duties in.
They Estimate the probable cost to do these things and pay off what
is owing, they would required four or five hundred Pounds.
When they asked the
Government for the loan of fifteen hundred Pounds they contemplated Building
a Trustees and Secretarys [sic] Office and to furnish the same with nothing
more than was absolutely necessary, as they are now under obligations for
both, having as yet paid no Rent for the same.
I have the honor to remain
Your Mt [Most]
Obt [Obedient] Servant
quick succession, Simmonds received two contrasting letters. The first
letter, on 1 March was likely to have raised Simmonds’ hope by asking for
...for the purpose of
considering the whole subject that you will state what amount of fees in
connection therewith has been received by the Trustees.
letter received a few days later was in response to the Abstract of Accounts
forwarded for 1855.
Treasury March 1st 1856
In reply to yours of the 27th
Inst forwarding a Statement of monies received and expended by the trustees
of the Brighton Cemetery during the year 1855. I have the honor [sic] to
inform you that considering the very small amount of fees received during
the year it is considered the Trustees were not justified in incurring
[receiving?] an outlay which they appear to have done. And it is also
remarked that the Statement now sent rather weakens than otherwise the
claims of the Trustees to any further assistance from the Government.
I have the honor [sic] to be
Your Mt [Most] Obt
W H Hull
heard a favourable reply, Simmonds met with the Treasurer on 20 March 1856
and after what was described as a long conversation, both parties
compromised on a sum of £200 to pay off the amounts owed and to put in the
culvert at the main entrance. The Treasurer made a suggestion that the
Trustees consider paying the Secretary’s salary, but Simmonds pointed out
that he “…would rather make another sacrifice than forfeit my word, as I
think would be unreasonable for anyone to expect these Gentleman would
(merely for the honor [sic] of being a Trustee) pay moneys [sic] out of
their own pockets”.
All that was
now required was to formally expedite proceedings and on 2 April, Simmonds
received a letter requesting “…to specify item by item what is proposed
to be done with the money”.
Simmonds could only make a calculated guess on behalf of the Trustees:
pay the amount due to the Secretary to the 31 Decr 1855
pay the Rent of the Trustees and Secretarys [sic] office 15 months
£2:10:0 per month
put in a Culvert and make a Road to the Entrance Gates about
erect a Tool house for Sexton and to pay other incidental expenses
Trustees Salary due to the Secretary on the 31st March 1856
interesting that only £75 would go directly into making improvements to the
Cemetery; the rest paid directly to Simmonds.
had been received by 19 April which prompted one last final plea for the
matter to be resolved due to the urgency to attend to the culvert.
I have for some months past had
a temporary Bridge made for Coaches and other vehicles [?] to pass over
which has been washed away two or three times and I expect to see it gone
again this morning from the rain which fell yesterday. As I have been
expecting a favourable answer to my last I have not called a meeting of the
Trustees this last Quarter they having been disappointed so often in not
receiving the grant they required, they feel a reluctance to attend, knowing
they cannot discharge their liabilities which has been incurred in their
anxiety to fulfil the duties for which they were appointed. I must request
an early answer for sake of all parties, for my own part I will sacrifice
what is due to me rather than put them to any inconvenience it would be so
unreasonable to require it and I cannot but think from the Remarks you have
made when the Estimates were passing through the House that you were
desirous that justice should be done to all parties.
after, the matter was handed over to the Surveyor General’s Office and
Simmonds received notification on 28 April that £200 would be advanced.
This was concluded on 14 May 1856.
Two additional applications were made in August 1857 and February 1858 for a
further loan of £500, but curiously without the same level of determination
and came to nothing.
At the next
meeting held five days later, the Trustees lost no time in concluding the
outstanding items of business. The first was to pay Simmonds £80 in wages
for the year ending 1855; they also provided the Secretary with the option
of £100 certain or £150 “taking the chance of getting it”.
Simmonds wisely took the former and was duly paid an additional £25 for the
quarter ending 31 March thus agreeing to a reduction in salary of £50 per
annum. It was also agreed that both parties would provide three months’ notice
in the case of terminating his employment. The second was to construct what
was hoped to be a permanent solution to the culvert problem at the main
entrance. Simmonds was ordered to arrange for a culvert “…say 12 feet
long with a Stone bottom and side Walls of a proper thickness, and covered
with Gum Plank of sufficient thickness to support Carriages & other vehicles
[?] say 2 inches [?]”.
The stone for the culvert was likely to have been purchased from A. J. Walstab
However, much to the consternation of the Trustees, the culvert required
on-going repair work over the years, such as additional stone in August
following meeting, the Trustees approved the construction of a small room
feet square but appear to have changed their initial plans.
Instead of a tool shed for the Sexton, they erected a “small wooden
building” that appears to have been used mainly to conduct business, but
not as an office proper. Tenders were sent to five local Brighton builders
on 8 July of which specifications could be viewed at Simmonds’ office until
Three tenders were received and on 17 July, Robert Hayball won the contract
for £40 being well above the original £15 estimate provided to the Treasury
Completed in August, this building was likely to have been located near the
main entrance and was still standing in January 1879.
It was likely to have been demolished at the time of the construction of
‘The Lodge’ residence in 1892.
rest of 1850s, the Trustees could undertake no more than what was
absolutely necessary, hoping each year that the financial position would
improve. They simply accepted the situation, and left matters to fate.
Increasing the fees and charges was not discussed, nor reducing the salary
of the Secretary or the Sexton. In fact, on 14 February 1859 the Sexton
received an increase of 1s for each private grave dug having
personally requested 3s. In some cases, the Trustees assisted by
offering to arrange for work to be undertaken at no cost. Both McMillan in
July 1857, and Stone a year later were given approval to cut grass for their
own use saving the Trust additional expense.
essential work was carried out where funds were available. Clearing the
land was an ongoing expense and this was done largely by employing outside
labour in November 1856 (one man at 8s per day), August 1859 (£10), and June
1860 (2 men at 6s each per day). In addition, efforts were made to plant
shrubs and flower beds near the entrance gates in 1859;
also the purchase of some 50 fence palings in July 1860 to replace those
that were broken.
these efforts, for all the best endeavours of the Trustees in difficult
circumstances, the state of the cemetery was far from an appealing place to
be buried. In providing the Colonial Office with a statement on the
condition of the cemetery each year, Simmonds paints a dismal picture. For
the report of 1857, Simmonds noted;
…I cannot make a different
statement at this time to that which I sent last year. As we are still
unable to put up a Lodge for the Sexton to live in or to employ him
constantly The Trustees have no Office or boardroom The Cemetery is in a
disgraceful Condition The Roads & Walks are overgrown with weeds etc not one
ornamental shrub planted yet.
the same statement was submitted the following year.
Nor was there much improvement to report for 1859;
The Trustees think it very
necessary that during the next year the whole of the Walks and Roads should
be cleared; as those cleared last year are becoming already overgrown, and
those, (which for want of funds) were left, are almost impassable.
The Trustees would also like
to have a greater portion laid out for Ornamental Shrubs etc, but they feel
that unless a further Grant be obtained from Government they will be unable
(at present) to carry out the improvements which the Cemetery at this time
so greatly needs, presenting as it does so neglected an appearance.
had to also contend with the condition of the main thoroughfare leading to
the cemetery. Being located in such an isolated position on the border of
two separate municipal boundaries made it difficult for the Trust to urge
improvements to North Road. The Caulfield Roads Board was not established
until November 1857; and the Brighton Municipal Council until February
1859. Even then, both elected bodies would have had more pressing concerns
of assisting the living rather than improving the condition of a road for
Brighton Feby 29th 1860
and members of the “Brighton
I am requested by the
Trustees of the “Brighton General Cemetery” to call your attention to the
present unsafe condition of the Road, leading from the “Arthur Seat Road”
to the “Brighton
The Trustees have already
expended a sum on money in the formation of the said Road, prior to this
district being proclaimed a Municipality, and they therefore feel that they
are justified in soliciting your aid at this time.
They beg also to state that
they think, that if the portion referred to should come under the district
taken in by the “Caulfield Road Board” the “Brighton Municipality Council”
would be conferring a benefit upon the Public by communicating with them,
believing that their application would receive greater attention than one
issuing from the Trustees themselves.
I have the honor [sic] to be,
Your most obedient
Trustees did spend money on the construction of North Road, no mention is
made in the Trustee Minutes. In all likelihood, they were grandstanding.
The only references made were to improving the road leading from
North Road to the main entrance gates, and not North Road itself. In
November 1856 efforts were made to hire a horse and cart for 3 or 4 days to
“take Metal from J. B. Were Esq, Quarry to cover about 200 Yards of Road
from the Cemetery Gates”, but this does not appear to have proceeded due
to the cost sought by Were’s agent, A. J. Walstab.
If the Trustees did improve the condition of the road, it certainly wasn’t
appreciated by Were who in March 1858 threatened the Trust with legal action
for removing gravel from land bordering along North Road and depositing it
on the road leading to the main entrance gates.
By the close
of 1860, the Trust had a debit balance of £27:6:9 which included the sum of
£51:18:0 not previously accounted for in 1857. This compared favourably
with £4:4:0 cash in hand at the end of 1855.
However, interments were in decline after an unusual high number of 102 in
1858 and this was reflected in the receipts which dropped £43 in 1860 on the
Not that the
state of affairs appear to have affected the resolve of the Trustees over
such a difficult period. But resolve isn’t an inexhaustible resource and it
would be only a matter of time before individual Trustees resigned. John
Brewer was the first to go in early 1857 with an attendance record of 52%
having missed the last eight meetings. Shortly after, John Blanche had to
resign his Trust after moving to Gore Street Collingwood, albeit with a far
better attendance record of 76%. He was replaced by David Black. Blanche’s
resignation did not pass without comment from the Trustees who instructed
the Secretary to convey to him “…their respect that circumstances should
make it unavoidable for you to meet them again, feeling confident that no
one who may be selected from the Church you represented, will perform its
duties with greater Efficiency or in a manner more agreeable to those with
whom you have acted from its commencement and permit me to add that no one
will feel the loss of your services more than myself”.