About the Symonds Street Cemetery

From early pakeha settlement in Auckland until the end of 1909, Symonds Street cemetery was administered as five separate cemeteries - Wesleyan, Anglican, Jewish, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic - with five separate boards of trustees. Now it is under the unitary control of Auckland City Council.

The Wesleyan cemetery

The Wesleyan cemetery was first used in September 1852, when James Martin Buller, the sixteen year old son of the Reverend James Buller, died and was buried in what became known as the General Cemetery. Earlier in the year the five cemeteries had been described as the Church of England cemeteries, generally used by Presbyterians, Wesleyans, Roman Catholic and Jews, and a section adjoining the Church of England cemetery reserved to be given as a general burying ground.

The Anglican cemetery

The Anglican, or Episcopalian, or Church of England, cemetery was formed from Crown Grants to Bishop Selwyn dated 12 July 1841 and 4 November 1843. Bishop Selwyn confirmed "the Governor, on my application has vested in me as trustee two pieces of ground of eight acres each, for the burial of the dead according to the usage of the Church of England, allotting at the same time, two similar plots to be divided among the other denominations of Christians. Our burial grounds are about half a mile from the centre of the town, on the sides of two of the ridges which slope down gradually to the harbour". It was formally consecrated on Sunday 24 July 1842. Of the 1,900 people living in Auckland in 1842, no less than 1,100 classified themselves as Anglicans.

The Jewish, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic cemeteries

The one-acre Jewish, or Hebrew, cemetery was formed from a Crown Grant dated 24 November 1843, while the five acres Catholic cemetery passed to Bishop Pompallier on 16 September 1852. A contemporary account of the cemeteries confirms "the present Episcopalian burying ground was at one time common, and intended for all the inhabitants, and used by all the inhabitants as a burying ground; that after being so used, it was during the time of the late Governor Hobson, made over to the Church of England and consecrated by the Bishop. The ground on the opposite side of the road was allotted to the Roman Catholics; some of the Presbyterians were displeased with the ground allotted to them, perhaps they did not like the situation ... they had a quarrel with the Surveyor General; the Presbyterians were in consequence for a time without any place to bury their dead". The three-acre Presbyterian cemetery was formally confirmed by a Crown Grant dated 8 April 1869, while the three-acre Wesleyan cemetery was not vested until 11 May 1872.

Despite the above official dates, the different denominations were using their respective areas from at least 1848. Auckland internments were described as "[although] liberal in their religious ideas, we find the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, the Wesleyans, the Jews and the Roman Catholics, have each their separate cemeteries... the Church of England has the largest graveyard, picturesquely situated in a ravine. On the opposite side of the public road, unenclosed with about twenty wooden tombstones, if I may use the term, stand the cemetery of the Scotch and the Wesleyans, close to the last, but carefully enclosed, is that of the Jews; a short distance apart from all, is the resting place of the Roman Catholics, distinguished from the other by a large wooden cross".

Read more information in the History of the Symonds Street Cemetery in Auckland ( PDF - 56kb).