A cemetery at the top of the hill

Areas for each denomination

Different denominations (churches within the same religion) have varying approaches to how they are organised and how their people worship.

Five separate cemeteries were laid out here, for different religious communities’ burials.

There were Anglican, Catholic, Jewish, Presbyterian, and General (which included Wesleyans and other faiths) sections.

The open space in front of the Presbyterian and Jewish cemeteries is unofficially known as Pigeon Park, and was part of the area allocated for Jewish burials, but this area was never used as a cemetery.

Nineteenth century society in New Zealand was structured along denominational lines. What church you belonged to had a major influence on your status, your connections, your opportunities. That’s why this cemetery was so clearly divided into denominational areas. They reflected the ratio of people of different churches in Auckland at the time. Influence meant the Anglicans got the biggest site. Presbyterians were initially dissatisfied with their allotment, saying it had the poorest views (reported the Daily Southern Cross newspaper, 4 June 1844).

A varied prospect

“It is a most beautiful situation, about one mile distant from Govt. House, on the road to the Manukau harbor. There is a most varied and beautiful prospect over the Waitemata and the ground itself is on one side of the glen, above which Mt Ligar’s house is situated. His side of the glen is beautifully wooded, and in the wood, many of the settlers living there have very nice gardens…”

Wrote Rev William Charles Cotton, after his first visit to the Anglican cemetery for the funeral of Eliza Young, 22 April 1845.

From book The Lively City, Una Platts 1980. P 51

  • <p>Panoramic view looking along Grafton Gully from Symonds St Cemetery c.1869. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-319.</p>
  • <p>View of Grafton Gully with Symonds Street Cemetery left, c.1840s. <em>John Mitford, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, Ref: E-216-f-041. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23251184</em></p>