Our assemblage of our Part B presentation.

We decided to set our assemblage as if they were belongings of those who had passed, and were buried in the cemetery. We walked through all the sections of the cemetery and chose a gravestone from each section to collect items for. The items that we have collected have either been from our homes, from the Karangahape road opshops, or made by our group members.

Presbyterian Section

Jewish Section

Anglican Section

General/Wesleyan Section

Catholic Section


A comparison of the cemetery from the past to present day (21st century).

Note: All photographs, except for those personally taken, have been reproduced with permission of the Auckland City Library, to compare the cemetery before and after the 21st century.

Anglican Section

ID: 580-3815 Showing the Anglican section of Grafton Cemetery with Grafton Bridge in the background. (1959)

Left photo retrieved from

Right Photo taken by Debbie C (August 26th, 2019)

ID: 1370-199-4 Showing Captain Hobson’s grave in Symonds Street Cemetery. (December 1939)

Left Photo retrieved from

Right Photo taken by Debbie C (August 26th, 2019)

Jewish Section

ID: 4-2362 Looking west from corner of Grafton Bridge and Symonds Street, showing Jewish Cemetery, right. (February 19th, 1928)

Left Photo retrieved from

Right Photo retrieved from Google Maps (November 2017)

ID: 7-A17735 Looking east from vicinity of Liverpool Street, showing Jewish Cemetery on right. (1956)

Left Photo retrieved from

Right Photo taken by Debbie C (August 26th, 2019)

ID: 7-A4267 Looking east along Karangahape Road from the vicinity of Liverpool Street towards Grafton Bridge, showing the premises of Manchester Unity Building, Health Food Centre, Maple Furnishings Company (NZ) Limited, Caledonia Hotel (left), Mercers Household Linen, Regal Gowns, Jewish Cemetery, beside Pigeon Park. (March 14th, 1969)

Left Photo retrieved from

Right Photo taken by Debbie C (August 26th, 2019)

Catholic Section

ID: 589-164 Showing St Benedict’s church from the Catholic cemetery. (1880-1889)

Left Photo retrieved from

Right Photo taken by Debbie C (August 26th, 2019)

ID:580-3808 From the southwesterly edge of the Catholic section of the Symonds Street cemetery looking north showing the Jewish mortuary on the far left and Karangahape Road buildings in the distance. (August 5th, 1959)

Retrieved from

Presbyterian Section

Photo taken by Debbie C (August 26th, 2019)

Wesleyan/General Section

ID: 580-3816 Looking south from St Martins Lane towards Grafton Bridge showing graves in the Wesleyan section of Grafton Cemetery. (1959)

Left Photo retrieved from

Right Photo taken by Debbie C (August 26th, 2019)


Since the late 20th century, there have been multiple plans for the cemetery, with the same goal: to conserve the heritage of the cemetery, maintaining the cemetery and its gravestones, and recognising its importance to the public by making it a approachable site.

Symonds Street Cemetery Conservation Plan 1996

The plan recognises the cemetery to have ‘great significance’ as a social artifact of 19th century Auckland, providing social records, evidence of the burial attitudes of the period, examples of local craft skills, evidence of British and Italian commercial sculpture and the pervasiveness of the aesthetic of the garden cemetery. The objective of the plan was to preserve the history, protect the flora and fauna, bring awareness to the site, and to make the cemetery more approachable to the public. However, the plan did not follow through successfully, leading to the creation of future plans.

Symonds Street Development Plan 2012

Document retrieved from

Friends of Symonds St Cemetery 2013

The “Friends of Symonds St Cemetery” is an organisation that originated in 2012. The organisation aims to restore, conserve, and maintain the cemetery by recruiting volunteers. They are also partnered with the Auckland Council in the Karangahape Road Plan.

Karangahape Road Plan 2014-2044

Led by the Waitematā Local Board, the board aims to improve Karangahape Road by implementing changes for those who live, work, visit, and invest in the area, while also protecting the historical and cultural heritage Karangahape Road holds.

  • Key Move #2: Protect, enhance and celebrate Karangahape Road’s historic and cultural heritage, biodiversity and vibrancy
  • Key move #3: Provide safe and convenient connections in and through the Karangahape Road area
  • Key move #4: Improve and develop an integrated network of civic and public open spaces in the Karangahape Road area
Document retrieved from


Crimes Committed

Photo taken by Jess

The cemetery is divided into sections for different religious denominations. The bodies of murderers are buried in the General (including Wesleyan and Methodist) section.

When a new market was to be built at the bottom of Queen Street, on the site of the old city jail, the bodies of five murders were exhumed and brought to Symonds Street Cemetery. They are buried in the general section, because of their criminal records.

On the 19th of November, 1866, The New Zealand Herald, details the story of the five murderers who have been executed and buried in the old Auckland jail yard, and who were later exhumed and reinterred in Symonds Street Cemetery.

The murderers were Joesph Burns, William Bowden, Charles Marsden, John White and John Kelly.


On the 27th of May, 1848, The Daily Southern Cross reported that Joseph Burns was executed for the murder of Snow family. He was also the first in New Zealand to be executed for a capital crime.

On 27th February 1852, the newspaper told how William Bowden murdered William Dixon of the 58th Regiment.

Then on 15th Febrary 1856, Charles Marsden was executed for the murder of Kerara just a few days earlier.

Later that year, on 11th of July, The Daily Southern Cross reported on how John White of the 58th Regiment, of Monagham, Ireland, was executed for murder of Ann Fay, on 8th of July

On Christmas Day, 1857, John Kelly murdered John Butler at Whangarei.


Designs of Monuments

Shape, form, material and designs of monuments and grave marking has changed significantly over time. In the earlier days it was not always an option to use permanent materials such as stone, instead graves were marked by wooden crosses or tablets were carved to appear as stone.

Often within a family, each member would have their name added to a shared monument as they died and were buried in the same family plot.

There are many corpses recorded to have died through epidemics, especially younger children during the 1800s. In 1875, Typhoid widespread in towns and cities caused 323 deaths and Tuberculosis caused in 339 deaths across New Zealand, it was recorded as one of the worst years for death rates resulted from epidemics.*

Reference: Photographed by Sarndra Lees, Jock Phillips, Melanie Lovell-Smith and Kerryn Pollock*

Mid-19th Century

Many monuments dating from the mid-19th century are very simplistic in design and have little representation of symbolic ornamentations. These headstones are constructed from sandstone, limestone or slate, with a rounded or square shaped top. From this period the headstones are set into the ground without a surround to mark the plot.

Timber was also commonly used for constructing the headstones due to the accessibility of the material at the time. However, it would be rare and significant to find their survival to this day.

Mid-Victorian Era (1870s)

During this era, there was greater variation in design, form and material used such as pedestals, structures of symbolic significance, tombs, and other decorative forms.

The headstones were commonly constructed from marble and lead was used to fill in the carved lettering of each one. Brickwork and iron were also commonly used. Cast iron markers, iron railings or bars to surround larger monuments.

Late-Victorian Era

The variation in design, form and material was at its peak and more elaborate. Timber was replaced with concrete curbs and wrought iron posts, rails and panels. The burial plots were more permanent and often finalised with a concrete or rendered slab, finishing with a coverage in tiles, loose shells or crushed marble.

A variety of granite, stone, marble and basalt materials were used. Many of the designs were collected from Gothic/Classical forms and Victorian styles, with various monuments in the form of a pointed Gothic arch. 

*Cast iron – melted and poured into a mould and wrought iron – heated and shaped

Cast and wrought iron were utilised to mark a plot surround. Decorative iron work was common during this period due to cheap manufacturing and sourcing. 

Often a family’s wealth and status was represented through elaborately decorated stone structures with sealed coffins and gates to mark a plot surrounds.

Types of Monuments

Description: Upright slab located at head of grave, often engraved with lettering. Set in ground or sits on top of concrete base
Materials: Timber, Limestone, Sandstone, Marble, Granite, Slate, Cast and other formed metal

Tombs (Altar or Chest, Table or Box Tomb)
Description: Four-sided monument, flat top and panelling on sides
Materials: Limestone and Sandstone

Pedestals (Plinth)
Description: Mount for a sculpture or a base for columns, can also stand alone
Materials: Limestone, Sandstone, Marble, Granite

Description: Angled headstone ie. Tablet, Book, Scroll
Materials: Marble, Granite, Cast Bronze, Concrete, Plastered brick

Description: All set on a base, plinth or pedestal ie. Crosses, Obelisks, Angels, Urns
Materials: Limestone, Sandstone, Marble, Granite


Description: Shows extent of single or several plots, some kerbs represent monuments themselves
Materials: Marble, Granite, Basalt, Plastered brick

Description: Fencing around a plot
Materials: Timber (posts, rails, pickets), Cast and Wrought Iron (posts, panels and chains)

Edging to Enclosures and Surrounds
Description: Defining enclosures with lower walls and kerbs
Materials: Limestone, Sandstone, Marble, Granite, Basalt, Plaster brick, Concrete



The Symonds Street Cemetery is one of Auckland’s most historic and special public reserves. It it’s Auckland City’s oldest cemetery and one of New Zealand’s oldest urban cemeteries, established in 1841. It is approx. 5.8 hectares and is L-shaped in plan. Situated on the Symonds Street ridge and part of the Grafton Gully, it is prominently positioned at the junction of four major arterial roads: Symonds Street, Grafton Bridge, the Southern Motorway and Karangahape Road. Both Symonds Street and Grafton Bridge bisect the cemetery grounds, as does an on-ramp for the Southern Motorway.

The site encompasses slightly undulating ground to the west of Symonds Street at its intersection with Karangahape Road, and steeper ground to the east of Symonds Street at its junction with St Martins Lane. The cemetery constitutes a notable landmark as viewed from the Southern Motorway, Symonds Street and elsewhere encompassing heavily wooded and green spaces within an otherwise built-up area.

The site is closely associated with many nearby places of heritage significance. Part of the cemetery’s eastern portion is spanned by Grafton Bridge and is also adjoined by a Bus Shelter and Toilets building. The motorway system itself is considered by the Institute of Professional Engineers of New Zealand to be a place of engineering heritage value. Immediately to the south of the motorway is the Upper Symonds Street historic area, while Karangahape Road Precinct lies to the west of the cemetery.

Spatial layout and Components:

The present layout of the cemetery is physically divided into two portions (western and eastern) by Symonds Street.

The eastern division encompasses roughly a rectangular area of approximately, 3.4 hectares, which has St Martins Lane, a motorway extension in Grafton Fully and the Southern Motorway and its other boundaries.

The western division encompasses a smaller rectangular area, approximately 2.4 hectares in size, which is bounded to its north, west and south by Karangahape Road, buildings fronting Upper Queen Street and the Southern Motorway. Between these two portions, Symonds Street forms a physical and historical connections to the cemetery site. Substantially, its carriageway is above ground level of the cemetery on either side, which effectively forming a raised embankment. Earlier road levels may have been preserved beneath the current carriageway.

Both portions on either side of Symonds Street incorporate remnants of the cemetery as laid out in the 1840s and 1850s. These can be described according to their main denominational use from approximately 1852, when the cemetery reached its full size.

Early Māori use of the area:

In an area that was at that time removed from the town, the cemetery was enlarged in 1842 and divided into sections for different religious denominations.

The Symonds street is location in an area of intense Māori occupation and use. Seasonal fishing villages at the base of Queen Street and Grafton Gully allowed Ngāti Whatua, Maratuhu and Hauraki tribes to take over the produce markets of early Auckland.

Fig.1 The city of Auckland, 1840s. Joseph Merrett watercolour, National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an2948108.
Fig.2: Early Auckland, Symonds Street Cemetery
Fig.3: Symonds Street in 1863 with Maungawhau/Mount Eden in the background


Tram shelter – corner of Symonds St and Grafton Bridge
1902: Electric trams replaced horse-drawn trams 
1910: Queen Anne style tram shelter built by Auckland City Council, more detail into construction as it was adjacent to Grafton Bridge

Grafton Bridge – First Grafton Bridge
1884: Designed by William Anderson (Auckland City Council Engineer) and built
360 foot long wooden bridge, provided route between Auckland Hospital, Auckland Domain and Auckland CBD
1904: Second wooden bridge built for pedestrians due to doubts of its structure’s durability
1910: Current concrete structure of Grafton Bridge was built

Cemetery Entrance Arch
1910: Gothic style structure designed by Miss Mary Pulling (Head Mistress of Diocesan School for Girls) and constructed by Auckland City Council. Earliest work of architecture by a women in NZ
1968: Stone structure was demolished

Jewish Centennial Memorial Hall
1953: Designed by A.N. Goldwater (International Modernist style)
– Commemorates first Jewish burial ceremony in NZ in 1853
– Replaced a timber structure from the 19th century previously known as the Tahara House
– After the official closing of the cemetery, the hall was used for Jewish pre-funeral rituals before burials



The cemetery is the first official cemetery in Auckland, which is was originally divided into four sections, later adding a fifth section for Wesleyans/General public. The size of the sections was dependent on the influence of the religions, and the ratio of Aucklanders in different churches (hence the Anglicans had the largest section). In 19th century New Zealand, your religion had a major influence on your social status, and your opportunities.


1841 September 13th: The first recorded burial was 9-year-old William Mason, son of William and Sarah Mason. However it is likely there are others who were buried and lost due to the flora of the gully. The headstones were also initially made out of timber, which decayed over time.

1842: The cemetery grounds were established, at the intersection of Karangahape Road and Symonds Street. The cemetery and street were named after Captain William Cornwallis Symonds by William Hobson (the first Governor of New Zealand, and co-author of the Treaty of Waitangi).

1842 July 20th: Hobson granted eight-acre plots to the east section on Symonds Street to the Anglican Church, making it the first religion established in the cemetery.

1842 August 24th: First burial after the establishment of the cemetery was 29-year-old James Norry, who was one of the first British troops to arrive in New Zealand.

1843 November 24th: One-acre of the west of Symonds Street was granted to the Jewish Community.

1852 August 16th: Five-acres were granted by Bishop Pompallier for the Roman Catholic Church.

1869 April 8th: Three-acres granted to the Presbyterian Church on the west of Symonds Street, between the Jewish and Catholic section. This section was also shared with the Wesleyan Church, and for the General.

1871 November: The “Act to Regulate Burials Near the City of Auckland 1871” passes, promoting Public Health. There was an issue with the graves contaminating the well waters in Newton, the working class suburb, which could have affected the Waiparuru Stream, which runs along the Anglican and Wesleyan sectors.

1872 May 11th: The Wesleyan Church and General section split from the Presbyterian Church and established its own section just north of the Anglican Church.

1874:Act to Provide for Closing Burial Grounds 1874” is passed by Parliament, meaning the cemetery was no longer open for further burials, exempt to those who had blood relatives already buried at the site.

1876: The Wesleyan/General section was declared as the “Auckland Public Cemetery.”

1882: The first St Benedicts Church opens. It was debatably the largest wooden church in New Zealand during this time period, seating 1200 people.

1884-1885 March 9th: The first Grafton Bridge was built over the cemetery gully. It was opened in 1885, for pedestrians walking from Grafton to Karangahape Road.

1886 March: Waikumete Cemetery was opened by Auckland City Council as a replacement for the Symonds Street cemetery. It is located in Glen Eden.

1886 December 13th: St Benedict’s Church was destroyed by fire.

1887 April 22nd: A replacement of the St Benedict’s Church opens, this time built with brick.

1904 October: The Grafton Bridge closed for public use due to unsteadiness and lack of structure. A second temporary bridge was built in its place.

1906 September 16th: The Grafton Bridge is demolished.

1908 September 25th: The cemeteries were formally closed and handed to the Auckland City Council as a Public Reserve with the “Auckland (Symonds Street) Cemetries Act 1908.”

1908-1910 April 28th: The third Grafton bridge was built and opened in 1910. It was designed by an Australian Firm.

1919: Thomas Pearson reorganises and designs the corner of Symonds Street and Karangahape Road as a park, adding basalt walls, rockeries, lawns, and seating.

1945: The basalt rocks were removed from the park due to lack of man power and budgeting during the War period. This was replaced by plain lawns and shrubberies.

1954: The Jewish Centennial Memorial Hall opens, designed by Albert and John Goldwater.

1958: 1,479 inscriptions were recorded out of 1,874 graves by Irene Broun and Zara Mettam. This data was collected by the Auckland Public Library and published by the NZ society of Genealogists.

1963:Reserves and Other Lands Disposal Act 1963” was passed, which allows removing monuments and bodies for the motorway construction.

1964: Motorway development commences, resulting in moving 4,100 bodies out of the cemetery. The development of the motorway also severed the connection between the Catholic section and St Benedict Church, which permanently separated the two sites.

1968: Two memorials were constructed in the Anglican and Catholic section. This was a replacement for the bodies that were moved for the motorway development. The names of those identifiable were listed displayed on these memorials.

1996 March:The Symonds Street Conservation Plan” is passed, which aims to restore and conserve the cemeteries.