Closed by public health issues

Concerns raised

As early as 1852, there were health concerns about the cemetery being encased by the growing city. The New Zealander reported on 28 February 1852 that it would have been better “ had these cemeteries been placed at a greater distance from the town.” The newspaper said drainage from the graves “charged the swamp below with morbific matter.”

From the website:
Diseases such as cholera and typhoid were now definitely identified as being water-bourne and the recent death in 1861 of no less a personage as the Prince Consort from typhoid made the concern about disease extremely topical. Wells could be contaminated from ground water emanating from cess pits, rubbish dumps and cemeteries.

The fact that such infections were specifically able to be transferred by liquids seeping from the graves of people who had perished from those contagions and not just cess pits made the Symonds Street Cemetery the focus of much scrutiny from the 1860s onwards.

When it had been laid out in the 1840s the Cemetery was well outside the Town of Auckland, but by the 1880s the urban area had greatly increased and Cemetery was largely surrounded by housing. As early as the mid-1850s the issue was raised about foul smelling water emenating from the cemetery.

By the 1870s it was alarmingly obvious that ground water from the cemetery could, indeed undoubtedly was, contaminating the well water of the adjacent working class suburb of Newton. Complaints about foul smelling and tasting well water needed to be seriously addressed.

The area to the North of the Cemetery down Grafton Gully might also be in danger as ground water from the Anglican and Wesleyan (Methodist) sectors drained into the Grafton Stream (Waiparuru). That stream made its way to the harbour passing by the most prestigious housing area in Auckland; Lower Symonds Street.

Central and Local Governments throughout the western world embarked on many public health initiatives during this period, and Auckland was no exception. Many Public works concerning Health Issues were initiated around this time.

These included; a new Hospital (1876), a Public Water Supply (1877), a Sewer System, having the Ligar Canal covered over (1873), a Municipal Rubbish Collection, Council Pest Control Officers and General Health and Sanitary Inspectors.

New regulations covered the disposal of “nightsoil” and horse manure - no small undertaking during a period when virtually all transportation involved horses.

Cemetery closed

Symonds Street was closed as a functioning cemetery in 1886 – but continued to take burials of people whose close relatives were already interred here, and from the end of 1909 those who were over 50 years of age.

  • <p>Looking south west from Partington's Windmill showing Karangahape Road, c1878. Auckland was starting to grow around the cemetery and problems with smell and contaminated water arose.</p><p><em>George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 29-ALBUM-100-2.</em></p>