STONE masons have restored a gravestone dating back to the gold rush after a gardener discovered it under the lawn she was mowing.
Castlemaine Cemetery Trust chair Debra Tranter was mowing a lawn when she noticed a rock sticking out of the ground.
She climbed off her ride-on and tried to move the stone out of the way.
It would not budge.
"After about an hour of digging I had realised I'd uncovered a gravestone," Ms Tranter said.
In fact, the gravestone was a rare, fully-intact one that once stood in one of the cemetery's oldest sections.
"Usually when you find old headstones, you are only finding a piece of it," Ms Tranter said.
"You don't get to find something that is in such good condition."
The large tombstone originally marked the burial place of children who died in the 1850s, around the time of the gold rushes that brought thousands of people to the region seeking a better life.
"Eventually the children's mothers were buried there, and one of those women's husbands," Ms Tranter said.
Ms Tranter is still researching the stories of everyone who was buried in the family plot but has so far established that it contains Frederick Beard.
He made a name for himself as a publican at the Balmoral Hotel and then Criterion Hotel and who served as a Guilford council representative in 1868.
Ms Tranter is happy she took the time to dig out the gravestone.
If she had not, she would never have come across such a rare and beautiful part of Castlemaine's history.
Many of the gravestones that once surrounded the Beards' family plot have been lost forever, Ms Tranter said.
Like the broken bodies they once stood above, their fragmented remains lie just below the cemetery's surface.
They were knocked over in the 1960s to free up space and covered in a shallow layer of topsoil.
"We have found a few in the bushland surrounding the cemetery but they are usually broken and in pieces," Ms Tranter said.
"This is the first one we've found that was still over its original grave."
The Beards' gravestone survived.
Perhaps it had already fallen over by the time workers cleared the cemetery section in the 1960s.
Or maybe someone realised how beautiful it was and decided to carefully lay it down, just in case someone like Ms Tranter ever did come along and decide to dig it back up.
Whatever the case, it survived and caught the attention of Bendigo-based stonemasons at JS Wilson Memorials.
The business heard about Ms Tranter's discovery while staff were working at the Castlemaine Cemetery and decided to restore it free of charge.
Business co-partner Paul Blakely said he had to be careful to avoid breaking it or destroying the lettering its creator had carved out by hand.
"It's been buried underground for so long that the headstone had dried out a lot," he said.
"The headstone was made of a very porous marble and there was only so far we could clean it without doing damage to it."
Being buried did bring a few small mercies, though.
The weather has not been able to wipe away as much of the headstone's detailing and the lettering on its face is still largely intact.
"That's why, when we did clean it, we steered clear of the acids that would have eaten away at that old white marble," Mr Blakely said.
The headstone is now standing proudly again in the Castlemaine Cemetery's grounds.
"Who knows? There might be even more gravestones buried under there," Mr Blakely said.
This story is the latest in the Bendigo Weekly's regular history series WHAT HAPPENED?
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