Corunna CemeteryThe original church. Image courtesy of Lee-Anne Eddie, Mystery Bay, and Colin and Marion Bate, Corunna.Corunna Cemetery is overseen by the Corunna Cemetery Committee, a sub-committee of the Parish Council. Its coordinator is Harry Bate and its members are made up of descendants of the families buried at the cemetery and concerned community people in the Tilba and Narooma region. The committee has a history of the site including what is written here, and prepared a long term strategy for the care and maintenance of the Corunna Cemetery including the site, headstones and subsurface remains. The intention is to bring together known information regarding the site and to help stakeholders develop a common approach to its conservation. More information about the work of the Committee is given further down on this web page.
The cemetery is located about mid-way between Tilba and Narooma on the Old Princes Highway. It is on the western shore of the upper reaches of Corunna Lake. The land slopes from the Old Princes Highway down to the shore of the Lake. The immediate area of the graves is on a ridge with a gentle slope. There is bushland beyond on three sides and a slope of increasing steepness towards the lake below to the east. It is surrounded by both eucalypt and pine trees which give it a pleasant ambience. Access is immediate from the Old Princes Highway. The cemetery is immediately behind the site of the old Corunna Wesleyan/Methodist Church.
Within months of arriving in the area, Corunna selectors obtained land for a Wesleyan church and parsonage in early 1878. It was reported in a 1934 edition of 'The Methodist' that the land was donated by William Jeffery of Moruya, but there is also belief that it was a Government grant. This remains unclear. The land was cleared by early May 1878 and Trustees were appointed in May 1880.
Timber was delivered on site in late October 1882. The church was built by volunteer labour in 1882/3 at a cost of £70. It was a small weatherboard church built on blocks two feet thick, ‘the floor joists... tree trunks like telegraph poles’, with a shingle roof. The volunteers who built the church included John Forster, Richard Henry Bate, John Negus, Alexander Kennedy, William Crapp, Edward Harper, William Willcocks, George Olsen, William Jeffrey and R Fookes. It was officially dedicated in January 1883. No parsonage was ever built.
The first Minister was the Rev Frederick Colwell. At one time it was reported to be the only Methodist church between Bega and Moruya.
A cemetery was established between the church and the lake. The earliest recorded burial is that of Mary Emma Bate in 1883. The cemetery continued to be used for burial of local parishioners through until 1956 as discussed more fully later.
From at least as early as 1904 money was being raised for a building fund to improve the church and surrounds. In 1914 the church was extensively renovated, including a new corrugated iron roof, new lining and painting inside and out. George Olsen was reported as ‘one of the most willing workers’ at these renovations, and the only remaining pioneer who assisted with the construction of the original building.
The church closed for a time in the late 1920s, but in late 1929 a working bee cleared around it, a contract was let to build a new fence, the church reopened and regular services re-established. General consensus in the Corunna area seems to be that the church was last used in the mid to late 1950s. In the 1960's it was deteriorating and was dismantled and components used elsewhere by local parishioners.
Corunna Cemetery itself has high level local historic significance as the burial place for local area Wesleyan/Methodists and as the site of their original Church. Aesthetically the headstone of Hannah Jane Poole displays a level of stonemasonry skill not evidenced elsewhere locally. For this reason the Cemetery has local aesthetic significance. Socially the Cemetery has local significance as the burial place of members of Corunna's original village settlement. Scientifically the Cemetery is an important local reference site as it has the potential to reveal information about the social composition of the local area in the later decades of the 19th century, as well as about local burial techniques and procedures in this far southern reach of NSW at that time.
Only 16 of the possible 50 or more grave plots remain extant. It is possible that many of the early grave markers were timber and burned or decayed over the intervening years and hence the precise location of those graves is no longer evident. There is, therefore, a considerable amount regarding this cemetery that remains unknown.
The Corunna Cemetery Committee was established as an unincorporated group in August 2015, and later became a sub-committee of the Parish Council as stated above. It comprised:
descendants of those buried at the site,
interested community individuals.
The Committee agreed at its inaugural meeting on13 August 2015 on the following broad goals:
Conservation/restoration of monuments/headstones at the cemetery
Erect a sign near the Old Highway identifying the site.
Erect a stainless steel, aluminium or similar information sign (or signs) at the cemetery informing about the history of the site, including one or more photos of the church, and possibly some of those buried there, and other relevant details. This has all been achieved.
All of the above required funding, and was obtained from a grant by the NSW Government under its Heritage Near Me program and by local community donations. Committee members have contributed information, time and resources towards the objectives.
The above information has been compiled by various members of the Committee from a combination of old newspaper articles, anecdotal reports and private photo collections.
Photo courtesy of Harry Bate, Tilba Tilba
The church after 1914 renovations. Photo courtesy of Geoff and Elizabeth Hopkins, Corunna.
Church from Highway. Photo courtesy of Leslie and Richard Bate, Tilba Tilba.