Symonds Street Cemetery

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Symonds Street Cemetery
Symonds Street Cemetery Auckland.jpg
Established 1842
Location Auckland
Country New Zealand
Coordinates 36°51′34″S 174°45′51″E / 36.8595°S 174.7642°E / -36.8595; 174.7642Coordinates: 36°51′34″S 174°45′51″E / 36.8595°S 174.7642°E / -36.8595; 174.7642
Type Historic
No. of graves 1200 known[1]
No. of interments 10,000 or more (estimated)[2]
Official name Symonds Street Cemetery
Designated 27 June 2008
Reference no. 7753

Symonds Street Cemetery is a historic cemetery and park in central Auckland, New Zealand. It is in 5.8 hectares of deciduous forest on the western slope of Grafton Gully,[3] by the corner of Symonds Street and Karangahape Road, and is crossed by the Grafton Bridge. The street (and by extension the cemetery) are named for William Cornwallis Symonds, a British Army officer prominent in the early colonisation of New Zealand.[4] It has a Historic Place - Category I listing with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.[2] Maintenance and administration of the cemetery is provided by the Auckland Council.


Symonds Street Cemetery in 1863, with Maungawhau / Mount Eden in the background

Symonds Street Cemetery was the first official cemetery in Auckland, in use from 1842.[5] Originally it was divided into four sections for Anglicans, Catholics, Jews, and a shared Presbyterian, Wesleyan, and general section. By 1852, the shared section became Presbyterian, and an additional Wesleyan and general section was added.[2]

After the establishment of a new municipal cemetery in West Auckland at Waikumete, the Symonds Street Cemetery was closed for burials in 1886, other than to existing family plots.[5] No new plots were sold. In 1909 the Auckland City Council took over management of the cemetery.[6]

Due to development of the Auckland Southern Motorway during the mid-1960s, more than 4,100 bodies were moved and re-interred into two memorial sites at the cemetery, and the land area was reduced by about a quarter.[2] During the relocation, 2000 graves were found under 1200 headstones in the Anglican section, and 2100 graves under 400 headstones were found in the Catholic section.[1] Many of Auckland's early colonists are buried here, including William Hobson, the first Governor of New Zealand and co-author of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The New Zealand Herald columnist Brian Rudman has repeatedly criticised the state of disrepair, vandalism, and the presence of vagrants at the cemetery, and called for the city council to improve the maintenance.[1][6][7][8] Although the Auckland City Council commissioned the Symonds St Cemetery Conservation Plan in 1996, only some of its recommendations have been carried out. The Council does employ a specialist stonemason to undertake gravestone restoration with a specialist stonemason,[9] but as many of the restored gravestones have been subsequently vandalised the Waitamata Local Board admits the situation is much like "treading water". Security guards do patrol the cemetery at irregular intervals,[10] but have proved largely ineffective in stopping further damage, in particular their inability to distinguish between vagrants and other members of the public have led to embarrassing situations, including the ejection of a heritage tour party on 25 September 2008. This tour was part of the Auckland Heritage Festival organised by Auckland City Council itself.[citation needed]

In October 2012 more than 20 of the headstones were sprayed with antisemitic graffiti and swastikas.[11] The vandalism occurred the night before a white nationalist celebration called "Flag Day". Three people were arrested, but in November the charges against one was dropped due to a lack of evidence.[12]

Notable burials[edit]

  • Archibald Clark (1805–1875), 1st Mayor of Auckland Borough Council in 1851
  • Edward Costley (1794–1883), land owner and philanthropist
  • Thomas Henderson (1810–1886), significant entrepreneur who gave his name to the suburb of Henderson
  • William Hobson (1792–1842), first Governor of New Zealand and co-author of the Treaty of Waitangi
  • William Hulme (1788–1855), officer in the British Army
  • Henry Keesing (1791–1879), early pioneer, entrepreneur, financier and community leader
  • Frederick Edward Maning (1812–1883), writer and judge of the Native Land Court
  • Frederick Merriman (1818–1865), MP in the first two Parliaments
  • David Nathan (1816–1886), merchant and Jewish community leader
  • Thomas Peacock (1837–1922), optician, Mayor of Auckland, MP
  • Philip Philips (1831–1913), 1st Mayor of Auckland City (1871–1874)
  • George Dean Pitt (1772–1851), Lieutenant-Governor of New Ulster Province
  • Annie Jane Schnackenberg (1835–1905), missionary, temperance and suffrage activist.
  • John Sheehan (1844–1885), MP from 1872 to 1885
  • Charles Southwell (1814–1860), radical English journalist and freethinker
  • Charles de Thierry (1793–1864), adventurer who attempted to establish his own sovereign state in New Zealand before British annexation
  • Henry Tucker (1793–1850), Royal Navy officer and first colonial storekeeper


  1. ^ a b c Rudman, Brian (2 July 2003). "Auckland's founding fathers rest in badly neglected surroundings". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 24 September 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Symonds Street Cemetery". Register of Historic Places. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 24 September 2011. 
  3. ^ "Walk details - Symonds Street Cemetery". Wonder Walkers. Retrieved 24 September 2011. 
  4. ^ Roughan, John (25 August 2010). "Auckland: Gentleman settler". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Ruth McManus and Rosemary Du Plessis. "Death and dying - Symonds Street Cemetery". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 24 September 2011. .
  6. ^ a b Rudman, Brian (1 February 2010). "City's pioneers lie neglected in a wasteland of shattered gravestones". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 24 September 2011. 
  7. ^ Rudman, Brian (29 September 2000). "Rudman's City: Let old graves decay in peace". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 24 September 2011. 
  8. ^ Rudman, Brian (28 January 2011). "City pioneers would turn in their graves at state of cemetery". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 24 September 2011. 
  9. ^ Falconer, Phoebe (5 July 2011). "Ask Phoebe: Old headstones need a bit of work". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 24 September 2011. 
  10. ^ Spyksma, Hannah (16 September 2011). "Grave neglect". Retrieved 30 September 2011. 
  11. ^ Hollingworth, Adam (19 October 2012). "20 graves desecrated at Jewish cemetery in Auckland". 3 News NZ. 
  12. ^ "Charges to be withdrawn over Jewish grave attack". 3 News NZ. 5 November 2012. 

External links[edit]