I am reblogging this post by Janine, a fellow historian, about the Springthorpe Memorial which is found in a Melbourne Suburb – Kew. Springthorpe as I noted in my comments, was a leading medical practitioner in the Melbourne mental health field from the 1880s and among the ‘psychoanalytic pioneers’ identified by historian Joy Damousi in her 2005 book, Freud in the Antipodes. As Janine says, the memorial tells us much about the Victorian way of death and mourning – so sentimental to our twentyfirst century eyes and ears but perhaps this derogation of past attitudes is a product of current fantasies of invincibility, where science rules and death so often sooshed away.
On a beautiful 24-degree summer afternoon, where more perversely pleasant to visit than a cemetery? So off we went to Boroondara Cemetery in High Street Kew, primarily to see the Springthorpe Memorial which I’d seen many times in photographs but never actually visited.
Boroondara Cemetery was established in 1858 as a garden cemetery and, with imagination, you can just sense the Victorian conceptions of death and mourning that underpinned its design. The original plan, since abandoned, was for curved paths and winding roads, but it nevertheless maintains its rather forbidding red brick perimeter wall, caretaker’s lodge with slate roof and a clocktower, and rotunda. Its most famous monument is the Springthorpe Memorial, completed in 1907 after ten years’ construction and described in 1933 in The Age as “one of the most beautiful and most costly in the commonwealth”.
It was erected by Dr. John Springthorpe to commemorate his wife…
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