History of Waikumete Cemetery


Waikumete Cemetery was first opened in March 1886 and was known as Waikomiti.  It is New Zealand’s largest cemetery and occupies a site of 108 hectares.  Since 1908 Waikumete has served as the main cemetery of Auckland and it is currently the resting place for over 70,000 people.  The burial areas were planned out in a grid pattern (popular in the 19th Century) with the Anglican denomination closest to the railway line and then Wesleyan, Presbyterian, Non Conformist, Roman Catholic, Hebrew and Public. (in that order).  In the first year 559 burials were recorded.

Funeral trains to Waikomiti Station (now Glen Eden) often had box cars with a cross in which the coffins were placed. There was a special siding and platform for the unloading of caskets. Sometimes a horse drawn hearse took the remains to the grave site, but often, the remains of the poor were trundled in a wheelbarrow.

March 2010

The first crematorium at Waikumete Cemetery opened in 1923 and the first cremation took place on August 15th, 1923. The funeral was for John Bush Brown, who died on August 13th 1923, aged 52.

The first cremation took place in 1923 and was for Mr John Bush Brown. A religious service was held before the coffin was placed in the crematorium. A little earth was provided on a piece of paper and at the part of the service where the minister cites “Earth to Earth, Ashes to Ashes” the earth was placed on the coffin.  Photo courtesy of Papers Past, Auckland Star, August 4th 1923 with thanks to Lisa Truttman – Timespanner

In 1953 there was a new crematorium built at Waikumete which replaced the original building.

The Chapel of Faith in the Oaks was built in May 1886 first as a mortuary chapel and was used until the larger chapel was built in 1952. The first church service was held in the chapel on 19 December 1886. For many years urns, containing the ashes of the departed, were stored here in wooden cabinets.  The ashes are now interred in nearby vaults. The Chapel of Faith in the Oaks was fully refurbished in 1996 and then went through a renovation in later years to be re-opened in 2010.  It is used for funerals, marriage services and filming.  You can find photos of the restoration here on the Timespanner website.

2014-08-12 (1) chapel of the faith
The Chapel of Faith in the Oaks was originally the Mortuary Chapel for Waikumete Cemetery. It was built in 1886 and is double brick and plaster with a vaulted timber ceiling. It is in the shape of a Greek Cross and is aligned North, (magnetic North), to South and East to West. This photo shows the sunrise through the East-West arms of the cross. The chapel can be hired for weddings and funerals and other functions.

The historic Grave Diggers cottage has been moved a few times since it was first built.  It was originally located on Beach Road in Auckland City.  In 1916 it was moved to the junction of what is now known as Waikumete Road and Glenview Road. In 1979, in order to make way for the new fire station, this dwelling was moved northwards to the site it stands on today which is 6 Glenview Road (www.waitakere.govt.nz).

1916 : The original location of the Grave Diggers Cottage in Beach Road, Auckland – photo credit ‘Sir George Grey Special Collections Auckland Libraries 4-1308 ‘ 2014 : The current location 6 Glenview Road, Glen Eden – photo credit John and Ruth Snashall

A black granite memorial stone commemorates those who died in the 1918 Influenza Epidemic.  It was erected in 1988 and was donated by R. G. Thompson Limited & Trethewey Stone Industries. The influenza outbreak in NZ reached epidemic proportions in late October and peaked in November 1918.  More than a third of the people who succumbed to the deadly influenza outbreak are buried at Waikumete cemetery.

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The Influenza Monument in Anglican Division E, Row 6. It is to commemorate those that died in the 1918 influenza epidemic. However, this row was used up to 1915 for government graves. These were people that had died in hospitals and other government institutions. They either had no family or the family was too poor to pay for a grave. The flu monument has been placed in the front but there are flu victims buried in the next few rows and in family graves all over the cemetery. There are also flu victims among the returned soldiers that are in the soldiers section of the cemetery. Anglican Division E is on Eucalyptus Avenue near the back gate.

The graves of paupers in the last century lie in an area called Gum Tree Gully, adjacent to the 1918 Flu epidemic plots. The paupers grave area is located in the Anglican Divisions of M and N. Now marked by the “ghost gums” and the bush regeneration on Eucalyptus Avenue near the rear gate of Waikumete Cemetery.

2015-01-11 paupers graves
On July 30th 1890, Constable McLeod aged 44, became the first Police Officer in New Zealand to be killed in the line of duty. He was shot dead by a gumdigger name Henry Funcke, (also known as Robert Funcke), whilst on the steamer Minnie Casey, a few kilometres South of Dargaville.  Henry Funcke is buried in the paupers grave area of Waikumete Cemetery.

Magnolia Way has a nickname “Dally Alley” because of the large number of Dalmatian Croatians that have built mausoleums there. In most cases, they are built after the sale of a farm or business and on the verge of retirement. The Nobilo family built their mausoleum 30 years before their patriarch Nikola died. The catalyst for Gordon Nola may have been when his granddaughter Mikhaila walked to safety from the Twin Towers. The eagle on the roof was something he really liked and a crane was needed to position it. Only the Corban matriarch and patriarch are housed in their mausoleum, some of their family are buried behind. If your body is to lie in a mausoleum you are required to be embalmed. Stainless steel is now the preferred lining in a solid wood casket. If you wish to build a mausoleum, there is a large sign on the hill giving some building specifications. They are expensive, but long term can be a wise investment for the family.

2015-03-21 corban mausoleum
The first mausoleum was built for wine maker Assid Abraham Corban, who died on December 2nd 1941. It is in Anglican Division K, Row 9, Plot 1-3

Te Urupa O Waikumete was officially opened on the 16th of August 1996.

The Urupa and the 5 million gallon water reservoir. The Urupa was opened in 1996 . Photo courtesy of Waikumete Cemetery Management – drone footage

Waikumete Cemetery contains 107 Commonwealth graves from WWI. There is also a memorial for those who died in the war and have no known grave.

2016-04-23 cenotaph
The Waikumete cemetery cenotaph was unveiled on ANZAC Day 1921 by Major-General Sir Edward Chaytor. The monument was erected to fallen comrades at Waikumete cemetery by the Returned Soldiers

An aerial view of the Soldiers Area at Waikumete cemetery. In June of 1917 the City Engineer prepared a plan for the site. Up until 1918 military veterans were buried according to their denominations in the original area of the cemetery. This photo also shows the Cenotaph top centre.

2015 march newsletter aerial photo
An aerial view of the Soldiers Area at Waikumete Cemetery – the cenotaph is top centre.  The first burial in the “Soldiers Area” was that of William Eli Johnston in January 1918. That makes Waikumete the first Soldiers Cemetery – Karori Cemetery in Wellington had their first burial in July 1918.

This gun has been installed at Waikumete Cemetery in the Quartermasters Quadrant. The artillery piece was used during World War 2 and now stands as a lasting monument to all who served. It keeps watch over those who rest in Waikumete Cemetery and has been installed in the Quartermasters Quadrant.

2015-04-07 This gun has been installed at Waikumete Cemetery in the Quartermasters Quadrant
Text from Auckland Council Intranet :”The unveiling and blessing of the artillery piece marked a significant day in the history of the cemetery and we are honoured to have such a poignant monument that connects us in many ways with those who have served.”

The Lone Pine was planted 20th August 1961.  The original Lone Pine stood high on a ridge and witnessed some of the most bitter fighting of the Gallipoli campaign. This tree is a symbol for First World War troops and their sons who fought in the Second World War.

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The Mercantile Division is marked by the Gallipoli Pine


2016-11-28 erebus monument
The Erebus memorial : “Erected in memory of those lost in the Mount Erebus air disaster of 28 November 1978 who were either unidentified or not recovered. A service of burial was held on this site on 12 February 1980”

Waikumete Cemetery works with the community focused Friends of Waikumete to host regular events at the cemetery such as ANZAC day commemorations, Open Days, grave restorations and committee members give regular Cemetery Walks which are really popular with the public and a great way to connect and share the abundance of history that Waikumete holds.

2016.11.23 Boyd Plinths unveiling and blessing
23rd November 2016:  Committee members and cemetery staff at the unveiling and blessing of the Boyd Plinths





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