Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Early Wellington

Cemetery (Sydney St.)

Cemetery (Sydney St.).

The Gov. Gazette, dated 26th Oct., 1841, announces the setting apart of Reserves L and M for cemeteries (18 acres) and a church site lac. 4p. (opposite).

These are recorded on a plan of the City of Wellington signed by Felton Mathew, Surveyor-General.

Bishop Selwyn, viewing this plan, looked at Res. M and considered it inconvenient for a church site; it was appropriated to the Parsonage, and a site for the Episcopal Church was selected in the cemetery and approved by the Bishop.

In 1842, Governor Hobson adopted the plan of giving to each religious body a burial ground from the public land, proportioned to the number of its adherents as determined by the Government census.

On Tuesday, 26th Nov., 1844, a public meeting was held at Barrett's Hotel (Hotel Cecil site), to discuss the action of Governor Fitzroy in determining to appropriate a part of the ground originally destined to the burial of the dead and other purposes.

Mr. J. Woodward proposed and Dr. Knox seconded “that the cemetery situated between Bolton and Sydney Streets can not be diverted from the original purpose without doing violence to the rights of proprietors, and wounding the feelings of persons who have interred relatives or friends in that place.” The resolution was carried, and the page 372
Fig. 221.—Jonas Woodward, Esq.

Fig. 221.—Jonas Woodward, Esq.

following members of the House of Commons (England) were written to and asked to support it:—Sir C. E. Smith, Messrs. J. A. Roebuck, B. Hawes, J. Hume, J. T. Leader and T. S. Duncombe.

Other speakers at the meeting in Wellington were the Revds. S. Ironside, J. Watkin, Messrs. R. Hart, Waters, J. Wade, Jas. Smith, Jas. Wallace, W. Lyon, R. D. Hanson, and F. J. Knox. In Bishop Selwyn's diary, parts of which were published in the “New Zealand Journal” dated 21st April, 1849, mention is made of the church and cemetery.

Reference is also made by Bishop Selwyn to sentiments expressed by nonconformists:—

“With the exception of a piece of land at Tearo (Te Aro), South end of Wellington, we are still without a site for a church, in a town half as large as Constantinople. The piece originally marked out (in the Government Reserve, opposite the Bowen Street Hospital) is a mere water course, scarcely available even for the small parsonage which stands perched upon the only flat part of the ground, with a most uncomfortable exposure to wind and rain.

“Of course I declined to accept such a site for the main church of the Southern Division. It was next proposed to build the church upon the burial ground allotted to the Church of England in 1842. The foundation was no sooner laid than the Dissenters protested against any appropriation of a burial ground to the Church. One half of the burial ground was allotted to the Church in October 1842, and enclosed at our expense, but we never refused the key of the ground to any who applied for it.

“The Dissenters availed themselves of the use of the fence, for which they had not paid, leaving their own ground unoccupied. When they had buried their dead for some time, by our permission, they then claimed the joint use of the ground, and have agitated the same question, to our great annoyance, up to the present time. The Church of Rome has kept possession, without opposition, of the burial ground marked out for its members in 1842, by the same authority, whose acts have been disputed in our case. If you hear of my intolerance and bigotry, I beg you to accept my assurance that I have never done an unkind act, or written an unfriendly word against any member of any other religious body.”

Referring to the conservation of tombs, and desecration of the cemetery, “The Independent,” of the 24th May, 1848, gives an article on the consecration of the cemetery.

The Hon. Robert Stokes, in the Legislative Council on the night of the 16th September, 1873, uttered these almost prophetic words:

“What guarantee had the relatives and friends for the conservation of the tombs and graves that they would not be desecrated? Was the care which the provincial and local authorities had shown in their management of the town of Wel- page 373 lington such as to inspire increased confidence in their management.

“The Hon. Gentleman, in the course of his denunciation of those legislators of his day who, by means of the Wellington Burial Bill, sought to close the town's original cemetery, and, under the Public Reserves Act, wished to remove from office the existing trustees who had fenced it in, planted it with trees, and otherwise beautified it with walks.

“Bishop Selwyn consecrated the Anglican portion. Trustees were appointed, and a lodge for the Sexton was built” (on the hill near the Jewish portion). “The chapel, so much desecrated to-day, was removed to the cemetery. This mortuary chapel was Wellington's first Anglican Church, in which Bishop Selwyn and other notable early divines preached.”

The “Herald” continues: “Time and time again attention has been publicly drawn to the imminent danger of unsightly pinus insignis trees causing further destruction to grave plots and memorial stones in the cemetery. One originally beautiful memorial, consisting of twin Ionic columns, now almost in ruins, is worth recalling. In its issue of 27th April, 1874, the Wellington “Independent” wrote: ‘Saturday, 25th April, witnessed an event which has long been looked forward to by a portion of the community; the unveiling, with Masonic honours, of a monument, which has been erected by Captain Stafford, of the barque ‘Camille,’ over the last resting place of his late friend and sailing master, Captain Tucker, who was born 21st December, 1832, and died April 2nd, 1873.’”

The “Herald” further continues: “Captain Edwin Stafford, born 1822, died at Wellington, 19th July, 1885. Both share the same grave. Even the fine feelings, and the rare sentiment which, in Captain Stafford's case, denoted his own perception of how the dead should be venerated by the living, is turned to poorest example by no attempt whatever being made to restore one of the most beautiful memorials in Wellington's most picturesque old burial ground, to even somewhat orderly shape.”

Entering the cemetery by the Sydney Street gate, and proceeding up the main carriage way, one may read the inscriptions on the tombstones (excepting those that are weather-worn and others that serve as props to support the tenacious ivy which embraces them and obliterates the names) which are erected to the memories of some of the earliest settlers and persons mentioned in the preceding chapters in this book.

The old Chief of Pipitea, Te Ropiha Moturoa, who died in the year 1874, Mohi and Hirea Naponga, Miriama Teira, and Hori Tamati Pipi (1877) are buried at the north-eastern corner, near Peter Laing (1884), and W. Sears Crowell, captain of the barque “Wakefield.” The Tolley plot is opposite.

Further to the right is a well preserved memorial with the following inscription: “Sacred to the memory of Susan Collins, wife of Robert R. Strang, who died 30th November, 1851, aged 51 years; Susan, their daughter, wife of Donald (after wards Sir Donald) McLean, who died 7th November, 1852, aged 23 years; also Robert Roger Strang, died 27th September, 1874; aged 79 years.”

The latter was the first lay representative of the Church of Scotland.

Immediately above this plot is the grave of Marion, only daughter of Robert and Marion Hart, and wife of the late Robert Park, of Wellington and Canterbury.

Beyond the Harts' plot may be seen the names of old identities—the Luxfords, page 374 Thomas Wilmor McKenzie, Edward Too-math, and the Holdsworths.

Proceeding further, one may see the names of other Wellingtonians—Edward Grigg, one time barrack master, and the Claphams, of Thorndon.

On the other side are the memorials to the Wallaces, and adjoining these are two recumbent stones bearing the names of Captain James Smith, 65th Regiment (1849) and Stephen Carkeek. At the back of these (to the east) may be found the Wakefield plot, with an upright slab and four recumbent stones, encircled by iron railings.

The upright slab, which has been “rent asunder” on some previous occasion, and indifferently repaired, bears the name of the gallant Colonel William Wakefield, principal agent to the New Zealand Company, also a record of valuable services in foreign lands and in New Zealand. Four recumbent slabs mark the resting places of Edward Gibbon, Daniel, Selina, and Edward Wakefield. The names on these are becoming indecipherable.

George Hunter, the first Mayor of Wellington, who died in 1843, and some of his family, occupy the adjoining plot. Quartermaster Paul, a near relative, lies nearby. Dr. Featherston's plot is also in the vicinity, as are also those associated with the names of Major Marshall, A. de Bathe Brandon, Robert Stokes, J. Earle, the Pharazyns, Monteith, and the Bannisters.

Near the bend—proceeding to the chapel—are the graves of George Tabor, James and George Kearsley, Mrs. Banna-tyne, Major Baker, and an old Nelson friend of the writer, Charles Moore Igglesden, formerly District Grand Secretary for the North Island (under District Grand Masters Sir Donald Maclean and C. J. Toxward) for the Masonic Fraternity, and designer of the old Customhouse and Post Office, Wellington.

The pyramidal monuments erected to the memory of Henry Blundell and William Barnard Rhodes, face the newly renovated chapel. Nearby are the Fitzgeralds, Bethunes, Kebbells and the Richardsons.

The Early Settlers' Association, with Sir Douglas Maclean as President, and the relatives of many of these persons interred in this sacred spot, successfully opposed the City Council's proposal, in 1928, for making a tram route through the Sydney Street portion, affecting approximately 300 graves. A modified scheme has since been proposed, involving the removal of four graves at the north-western portion, near the Jewish burial ground.

Through the courtesy of the City Council the writer was enabled to inspect the plan showing the proposed deviation on the corner mentioned above.

The names (kindly supplied by Mr. E. H. Harlen) of the four persons interred in this vicinity are:—George Robert Purdy, Henry Smith, Thomas King (who were buried in the year 1884), and Ernest Barraclough, died 1890.

A memorial stone, erected by his numerous friends as an affectionate tribute to his memory, marks the last (?) resting place of George Robert Purdy, who died on the 21st May, 1884.

A typed list of names, in alphabetical order, of persons interred in the area involved in the Council's first proposal, has been carefully compiled by Mr. Harlen, the custodian at the Karori Cemetery.

This list, the result of many hours research and night work, must have been an important factor in determining the Council's decision to abandon the first scheme.