Our History

Opening in 1925, Rookwood Memorial Gardens and Crematorium is the oldest and longest-serving crematorium in Australia.

Building the Crematorium

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.

Doorway into a chapel at Rookwood Memorial Park

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. Space within the Rookwood Necropolis was made available to the Cremation Society for the building of Australia's first such facility. The completed facility was complemented with beautiful art deco statues, classical iron work and other period features.

Since the first cremation in 1925, Rookwood Memorial Gardens has served thousands of families and its social and architectural heritage value has been officially recognised. Rookwood Memorial Gardens' spectacular landscaping and grounds have been developing since the beginning and we regularly receive positive feedback on our established gardens from families and visitors.

Architect Frank Bloomfield

Rookwood Memorial Gardens and Crematorium 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.

Exterior of chapel at Rookwood Memorial Park

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 its sister site, 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."

Frank passed away on October 4th, 1949 and was cremated at Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens. 

Garden with flowers at Rookwood Memorial Park