Vault by the bay.

Vault of William Carss

Carwar Avenue, Carss Park, Blakehurst

The vault of William Carss is a rarity in Sydney. It is one of the few vaults built on a family estate that survives intact. Despite its pretty location and its rarity, it didn’t make the final cut of my field guide. Why? Well, technically, this is not a cemetery – it’s a family vault. But it is definitely worth a visit.

William Carss (1800-1878) was a cabinetmaker, publican and land speculator. He and his wife Helen had emigrated to Australian in 1831. Carss bought 119 acres land at Kogarah Bay in 1863 and promptly built a sandstone cottage on the point, now known as Carss Point, overlooking the bay.

William Carss died 26 May 1878 and was buried on his property. A grey granite vault on a sandstone base, enclosed by an iron palisade fence, was subsequently built over his grave. Carss first wife, Helen, is also commemorated on the vault, along with two children. Helen died in 1853 and was buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery at Devonshire Street.

The property remained in the family until the death of Mary Carss, William’s daughter, in 1916. It was bequeathed to the Sydney Sailor’s Home, who later sold it to Kogarah Council on the proviso that they continued to keep the Carss family vault and ground in repair. Kogarah Council retained the bay precinct for a park and recreation grounds and subdivided surrounding land, creating Carss Park and suburb in 1924.

The vault continues to be looked after by Kogarah Council, although the quiet solitude of the vault is shattered. Park facilities encroach on all sides. The vault is located immediately to the left of the Carss Park Café and Kiosk. A toilet block has been built up the slope behind it and the shouts and squeals of the children’s playground near the vault penetrates any solemn contemplation one might have had at the grave. Nevertheless, there is still a visual relationship between the original cottage and the vault. Carss Cottage is now the museum of the Kogarah Historical Society.

Tip: Carss Park is a relaxed park on the bay. Pack a picnic and go for a swim in the tidal baths while you’re there.

More information:
Kogarah City Council, ‘William Carss (1800-1878)’, http://www.kogarah.nsw.gov.au/council/about-kogarah/prominent-personalities/william-carss-c1800-1878

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