Opening on October 28 1933, Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens and Crematorium is the second oldest such facility in New South Wales, and we hold pride of place as the most historic and most beautiful crematorium on Sydney's North Shore.
The Cremation Society of New South Wales was formed in 1908 to promote cremations and to assist in the development of crematoria across the state. In 1916, the New South Wales Cremation Company Ltd was created. This was a commercial body designed to independently raise the funds to plan and build crematoria, freeing such developments from being dependent on State government funding.
The outbreak of World War I put on hold the plans of both the Cremation Society of New South Wales and the New South Wales Cremation Company Ltd. However, activity to promote cremations and to build crematoria recommenced shortly after the conclusion of the War. By 1922, the Company had selected an architect and by 1923, a private company, Cremation Society of Australia Ltd, had formed to promote cremations across the nation, and to raise funds for their development.
In December of 1931, the NSW State government made the Delhi Road site at North Ryde available for development into a crematorium. Work began in February of 1933 and the facility was officially opened on 28 October 1933. The completed facility was complemented with beautiful art deco statues, Royal Doulton tiles, classic iron work and other period features. Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens is a heritage listed site and often features in historical tours of Sydney and the North Shore. The first cremation took place on 30 October 1933.
Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens' spectacular landscaping and grounds have been developing ever since our opening. Their breathtaking beauty and peaceful ambience have won many awards and accolades and are regularly visited by horticulture and landscaping students and groups. We regularly receive positive feedback on our established gardens from families and visitors to the grounds.
Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens and Crematoria was designed by Frank l'Anson Bloomfield. Frank was born on 15 July 1879, the fourth child and eldest son of Clement Bloomfield and Amelia l'Anson.
Frank began military service in 1901, enlisting for the Boer War. He returned to Australia in 1903, where he worked as a clerk until 1908, which was when he began work as a probationary draftsman for the NSW Department of Public Works. By 1916 Frank had qualified as an architect, having been employed for private architectural firms as well as the State Housing Board and the NSW Railways.
Frank rejoined the armed services for World War I, serving in the 1st Pioneer Battalion which performed repairs to bridges, erected new ones and performed other construction tasks. By the end of the War Frank had risen to the rank of Lieutenant. Upon his return to Australia in 1920, Frank became Chief Architect of the NSW Branch of the War Services Homes Commission and by 1922, he had also established a busy private practice specialising in commercial premises, medium to large residences and small blocks of flats. Craigend in Sydney's Darling Point, built for Captain James Patrick of Patrick Stevedoring, is a notable example of Frank's residential designs. Frank's private practice continued until his passing.
In 1924 the New South Wales Cremation Company Ltd sent Frank on a study tour of England and Europe to inspect existing crematoria. This led Frank to create crematoria with an authentic European or 'florentine' feel which can be seen in his designs for both Rookwood Memorial Gardens, the first crematoria opened in NSW, and Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens. Frank created other crematoria designs, including a generic design based on a small Greek temple and an English-style chapel and columbarium, however these designs were never constructed.
Frank Bloomfield noted that:
"(the Northern Italian architecture) with its suggestion of bright sunshine and colour to be most suitable to the Australian climate and people, while in addition it embodies the principles of the (Cremation) Society, which are to abolish the gloomy surroundings of the vault and graveyard and suggest rather virtue and new life."
Archival footage of Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens and Crematorium, taken by Harold Cazneaux. Image courtesy of Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW [PXD 806/40-132].