A matter of dignity: Joseph Thompson

The modern Central Metro Station was to be located on the remains of the colonial Devonshire Street Cemetery, Sydney’s chief cemetery from 1820 to 1867. Despite a large-scale exhumation undertaken in the early 1900s, some remains stayed in situ – to be rediscovered by archaeologists during testing excavations. These discoveries included the only identifiable individual ever recovered from the Devonshire Street Cemetery, Mr Joseph Thompson (d.1858).


Sydney Metro appointed the Artefact team, who was already leading the archaeological program at Central Station, to manage the analysis, commemoration and re-burial of Mr Thompson according to the Sydney Metro Exhumation Management Plan. The legislative requirements and practicalities of historical human remains are complex, with Department of Health regulations and heritage requirements in place to ensure remains are treated with dignity and respect. The voices of Mr Thompson’s descendants, many of whom had contacted Sydney Metro, also needed to be heard.  


The Artefact team consulted with the descendants, forensic anthropologists, the Pitt Street Uniting Church and Sydney Metro to ensure that Mr Thompson’s remains were appropriately managed and arranged a reburial close to the historical burial site of his wife and brother at the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park.

The project culminated in a touching memorial for Mr Thompson at the Pitt Street church he served with in the 1850s, with a large number of relatives paying their respects to an ancestor they never expected to meet.


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