Devonshire Street Cemetery, Sydney, New South Wales.

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The Fosters

Josephine Ethel Foster (1870-1955) and her husband, Arthur George Foster (1861-1924), did a great service to the community in photographing many tombstones and headstones in the Devonshire Street cemetery and then writing up the epitaphs carved on those tombstones and headstones.

In his Introduction to A G Foster's Epitaph Book, C H Bertie outlined their work:

The inscriptions contained in this book were copied by Mr. and Mrs. A. G. Foster in the years 1900-1, from the tombs and stones in the Church of England Cemetery, Devonshire Street. The work started before the ground was resumed for railway purposes, and done on Saturday afternoons, Sundays and Holidays, and occupied all their spare time for many months.

The photographs accompanying this volume were taken by Mrs. Foster, and some conception of the labour expended on the work may be formed when it is understeod that every letter in an inscription was inked-in before a stone was photographed.

Mr. Foster, who died on the 26th. October, 1924, was a keen student of history, had a passion for accuracy, and the Epitaph book is a monument to his neatness and industry. Not satisfied with merely copying the inscriptions, Mr. Foster has set them out in this book, line upon line as the words appeared on the tombstones.

I have been asked to write these lines for inclusion in the book so that future generations may know that this book, completed in such circumstances, is as accurate as human endeavour can make it.

On the 29th. October, 1918, Mr. Foster read a paper on the Devonshire Street (or Sandhills) Cemetery before the Royal Australian Historical Society, and this is published in Volume V, [Part 4], pages 153-195 of the Proceedings of the Society. Mr. Foster there deals with the history of the Cemetery and gives the story of some of the men and women buried in this Cemetery*.

C. H. Bertie (Signed)
City Librarian, Sydney
25th. June, 1925
Past President and Fellow
Royal Australian Historical Society

* The paper, read in 1918 by Mr Foster to the Royal Australian Historical Society, entitled The Sandhills: An Historic Cemetery, is now online at Project Gutenberg Australia.

A G Foster preparing a headstone for photographing by his wife.

We are fortunate that the photographs and the Epitaph Book made by the Fosters in 1900-1901 still exist and, as a result of recent changes to Australian copyright law, all of the photos taken by Mrs Foster, and the epitaph book prepared by Mr Foster, are now out of copyright in Australia and may be freely used. Therefore we are now able to provide them here.

For now, where an epitaph exists for a person shown on the burial list, we have included a copy of Foster's page which contains that epitaph, in the information provided about the person. Click on the person's "PN" number to access the information.

We also have an alphabetic INDEX of the people whose epitaphs appear in the Epitaph Book. Make a note of the "PN" number or name of any person for whom you wish to view the epitaph page and then select the relevant record from the burial list.

Many of the photos taken by the Fosters are linked to the relevant records in the list of burials. A a sample of the work of the Fosters is provided below.


Project Gutenberg Australia