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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.