Makeover for Cathedral's historic headstones  

NEARLY 165 years after his death, Corporal John M.McGill will take his place among some of the most prominent citizens of colonial Newcastle.

Corporal McGill, a British-born soldier with the 99th (Lanarkshire) Regiment of Foot, had his refurbished headstone returned to its burial plot in Cathedral Park yesterday.

Also returning to the park yesterday was the headstone of Frances Wood, who died in 1867.

The work is part of a masterplan to recreate Newcastle’s oldest European cemetery and to breathe some new life into the historic public space behind Christ Church Cathedral.

Newcastle City Council future city director Judy Jaeger said the project was also a key part of the city’s revitalisation.

‘‘This is the first stage of an 18-month project for reinventing Cathedral Park as a beautiful, contemporary and engaging public space, which integrates parkland and heritage interpretation,’’ Ms Jaeger said.

Cathedral Park was the city’s first cemetery and everyone from convicts to members of parliament were buried there between 1817 and 1880.

Remains of 60 people who died in 1866 when the steamship Cawarra wrecked off Stockton also rest in the park.

The cemetery closed in 1884 and was donated to Newcastle City Council in 1972 for parkland.

Work is still in progress to restore some of the 84 headstones that were moved by workers at that time.

So far, seven headstones have been refurbished and returned to the park.

The most significant, the monument to James Hannell, the first mayor of Newcastle, is expected to be placed in Cathedral Park in February.

Mr Hannell was also the mayor of Wickham and a member of parliament.

Other notable personalities resting in the park are magistrate and entrepeneur John Bingle and police chief constable Samuel Holt.

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