Thanatourism: Rookwood

    Rookwood is the largest cemetery in the Southern Hemisphere.  It has a rather interesting history and is a wonderful cross-section of Sydney population over time.  Originally it was intended and designed for leisure, as a place for people to enjoy.  Because it was quite a trip out of Sydney they deliberately designed it for people to spend the whole day there.  When one went to visit a grave they would also enjoy the place.

Hidden exhibition.
    Unfortunately this has vanished, as people distanced themselves from funerals after WWI.  So Rookwood was confined to state of avoidance.  People now only go here for a funeral or to visit a specific grave.  Almost nobody visits Rookwood just to explore.  A state which would make the original planners quite sad.

    In this post I explain how to visit Rookwood.  Some things to see, which ways to go and so on.  In the hopes of getting some to use it as intended.  It genuinely is an amazing place to have a picnic, equal to Waverley Cemetery or Hyde Park.

Art display during the 2012 Hidden exhibition.
    For more information about Rookwood itself (such as history, parking, the different groups operating here and so on) you can read my inside look of Rookwood.

    You can view all of the photos shown here and more at this Postimage gallery.  All photos were taken by me, and as such I encourage others to use them where and how they like.

    Rookwood is located near Lidcombe, due to the large size Rookwood is essentially it's own suburb.

    Bus and train timetable and instructions.

    East Gate -- On Weeroona Rd, just off Centenary Drv.

    West Gate -- On East St and Victoria St East.

Things to remember:

The Purpose of Rookwood:
    While many graves are not as creative or artistic as those at Waverley, there is obvious care and feeling put into many of them.  But it is Rookwood itself that is special as originally Rookwood was designed to enjoy

    If you go here without the mentality of death, taboo, superstition or so on, then you will quickly appreciate Rookwood for what it is.  It is a nice place, with a lot of diversity and a lot of dedication and passion.

    Rookwood is a little infamous for its mud.  Like many cemeteries Rookwood was not chosen for good soil, there is a lot of clay here.  So in the rain the ground at Rookwood becomes slippery, and the mud becomes sticky.

    The mud is not too much of an issue if dealt with appropriately.  Wear shoes you do not mind getting dirty, they will get mud on them if it is a damp day.  Also, do not fuss about getting it off your shoes before getting in the car.  When wet clay is sticky, but when dry it will crumble away.  So get the large lumps off (preferably with the edge of a gutter, not a tissue) and then remove the rest when it dries.

Getting about:
    Rookwood is rather big to say the least, so it is too big to drive.

but the most difficult thing is how deceptive it is.  Roads that appear fairly straight might actually be circular.  Take for example the big roundabout by the West gate.  On the map this is clearly a roundabout, no question.  But in person it is less obvious, looking more like a bendy road than roundabout.

    Navigating Rookwood can be tricky, but a map will fix this.  Bring a map which has landmarks and key buildings on it.  Such as the one provided below:
Click to enlarge.

    There is a reason I recommend a map with landmarks rather than street names.  Street names are useful, but the landmarks are easier to navigate by, especially for new comers.  A few streets have no signs, or many maps do not label key streets.

    Also, the GPS is not reliable in any cemetery, even Rookwood.  While it might know many or most main roads it might also make key mistakes or take an inappropriate path.  I have found no errors with the Google Map of Rookwood.  So far the Google Map has been accurate and useful, but I would still have a map like the one above if unsure.

Art display during the 2012 Hidden exhibition.

    My tour starts here at East gate, on Necropolis Drive.  The reason I start here is because it is easy to find and a good meeting point.  There is a decent cafe right there and it is a main entry point.


Marker A - This is the starting point, there is not too much to see or do here.

Marker B - Where the tour will end.

Marker C - This is Reflections Cafe, a decent little cafe by the main entrance.  It will have everything most people need, from toilets to seats and food.  It also has plenty of places to park and is not far from a bus stop.  So this is a great meeting point.

Marker D - There are some nice gardens to the left of the road.  I have never spent much time here, but others have recommended it to me.

Rookwood Gardens Crematorium:

Marker E - To the right is the Rookwood Gardens Crematorium.  Owned by InvoCare it is absolutely beautiful, the building and gardens.  InvoCare has put a lot into maintaining the looks and atmosphere of this place.  This place is so nice I am giving its own separate map and directions:

Rookwood Gardens on a cloudy day.

    Marker A - This is the best entry point.

    Marker B - This is basically the car park, but north of the marker is the South Chapel.  Here is a good spot for some shots of the crematorium.

The South Chapel & office.
    Marker C - To the right (East) of the marker is a nice paved spot with a pond, again a good spot for photos.  Although it can get shady here.

    Marker D - Here is the West Chapel and again another nice spot for photos, although like Marker C it can be a bit shady.

The West Chapel.
    Marker E - This is the back of the crematorium, and the best part.  The gardens here are something special, with a lovely atmosphere and a lot of care put into them.  Here is where you can find the horse fountain, the lovely pathways and so much to beauty.

The back & service entrance.
A beautiful horse fountain.

    Marker F - The East Chapel is just here, and it is a good spot for photos.  Rarely shady and with some interesting architecture and gardens.

The East Chapel.
    Marker G - There are more gardens around here, again they are worth seeing but not as good as the ones at Marker E.

    Back to the main tour.

Marker F - The Catholic mausoleum is just here, it is an interesting and large building, worth a quick explore.  You are allowed inside, even on weekends.  So take the opportunity and see it for yourself.  The large marble and glass work well together, and the atmosphere once inside is quite special.

Main entrance to the mausoleum.
    This is a perfect stop on a hot day as it is always cool and pleasant inside.

Marker G - Here is the Catholic office and crematorium.  Unfortunately the road to the crematorium is often chained, so you cannot drive down, but you can walk.  The Catholic Crematorium is quite spectacular, especially when it is open for a funeral.  But even on weekends it is a sight worth seeing.

    There are also toilets and other useful things nearby if needed, so it is a good point to keep in mind.

Marker H - Around here are a few interesting graves and things to see.  There's not too much to say about this spot, but it is a fun little place to explore.

A rather unique gravestone.

Marker I - Along the road are rows of crypts/vaults.  Most are not particularly interesting, but combined they are a sight.

Marker J - There are two things of note here.  To the right of this marker are rows of monumental graves.  They stretch for quite a distance and are rather colourful.  You can get some great photos and see some unique graves here.

    It is also a good spot for a picnic here as there is a large grass patch behind the graves.  The grass is soft and relatively flat, I have found no rocks or holes so far.

    To the left of the marker are some of the older graves at Rookwood.  The gravestones are large, and made out of a reddish sandstone making for an impressive sight.  Many are also falling over and have been propt up with boards.  The graves and the history here are unlike many others in Sydney.

Marker K - This is another mausoleum  which I have yet to explore.  But I have been recommended it and it is on the route.

Marker L - Here is one of my favourite spots in Rookwood.  There is such a lovely atmosphere and history to this area.  I park where the marker is and walk through the field to the gazebo.  Throughout this field of short grass there are many little and large gravestones.  Most have fallen over and can only be seen by going up to them.

    There are a mix of Chinese and Australian gravestones, mostly of a similar design.  The gazebo to the middle is also quite fun.  Standing on it will give great views of the area.

    Check out Marker L, take photos and take it in.  This is a remarkable spot, especially if you look out over the field and realise how this would have been an ornate and full cemetery lawn, covered in grave.  How this site has changed over time, in use and perception.

Marker M - Right here is where the round about begins, this large round about is a sight in itself and a big part of shaping Rookwood's identity.

Marker N - There is a nice little church here.  You can drive closer, but park near this marker and it will be easier to turn around to get back to the round about.  The church is quite nice, nothing too special, but a nice little church all the same.  However, to the back of the church are some more old and cool gravestones.  The large red ones.  Walking around here will get some great photos.

Marker O - Hidden just off the road is a creek.  Paved and surrounded by gardens and statues this is a lovely walk.  The creek goes quite a long distance, all the way to Railway St where it abruptly stops and goes into a drain.

    It makes for a rather sudden and stark contrast, to walk along a quiet and pretty creek and suddenly come to a busy main road.

    This creek is also a good place to have a picnic or stop and relax.  Anywhere along the path would be suitable as it is all shady and has places to sit here and there.

An odd start.

Things have been damaged over time, with little attention it is
primarily up to volunteer groups to maintain these areas.

It looks like once there would have been bridges to the middle.
The sudden end at Railway St.
The silent cemetery colides with the busy road.
Marker P - There isn't anything particularly note worthy here, but it is a nice spot to stope and look around.

Marker Q - To the left is a nice church, not particularly beautiful or unique, but there is something nice about it.  To the right is an open field and car park.  This is probably the best spot in all Rookwood for a picnic or to stop and rest.  There is also a bus stop and florist nearby, plus the Anglican office is just a bit further up the road.  The office has toilets and can provide assistance if needed.

The field during the 2012 Rookwood Open Day.
Marker R - This is a good spot to turn around to head back to the main round about.  But more importantly just off the road are some really unique landmarks.

    To the left (West) of the marker is a very interesting and odd building.  Simply go down the road, then take the second right (the street between the roundabouts).  Continue straight and you will see the building, you can drive but walking is better.

Artwork inside the gazebo during the 2012 Hidden exhibition.

    A little story I have heard about this building is that if two people write their names on the wall they will stay together for ever.  Such a strange and rare story, but there are a few names written together inside the building.

    The little roads around here have some interesting graves.  Many have become overgrown with vegetation and are perfect examples of how a cemetery can be a green and environmental space.  That cemeteries are not just for the dead, they are crawling with native animals and plants.  Providing a true natural space in the middle of a city.

    To the right (East) of the marker is another fun little section.  Some of the graves here are quite nice and it makes for a very pleasing walk.

Marker S - Here is an unusual building, used for Asian funerals (which I know unfortunately little about).  It is a large building with lots of benches inside, obviously used for communal activities, maybe even banquets.  There is what looks like a cooking area right next to the building.  You can also find remains of incense sticks about as well.

    It is an interesting place, at least to me, as it demonstrates a lot about what people want and do at Rookwood.

Marker T - Finally we come to the end of the tour.  I decided to end hear as it is easy to find the way back to the start and it is pretty

    For more information about Rookwood itself (such as history, parking, the different groups operating here and so on) you can read my inside look of Rookwood.

    You can view all of the photos shown here and more at this Postimage gallery.  All photos were taken by me, and as such I encourage others to use them where and how they like.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Never hesitate to ask a question or comment on something, this is an open minded and free space.

If you want to contact me privately do so at: theothersideoffunerals@gmail.com