Mystery graves lie among historic roses
There are more people buried in a Porirua cemetery than the number of headstones suggest.
About 28 ‘‘probable graves’’ lie among the 205 people known to be interred in Pauatahanui Burial Ground.
Genealogist Sharon Evans said the mystery graves were discovered in 2008 when groundpenetrating radar was used to survey bare earth at the site.
‘‘It showed where the ground had been disturbed and we think that’s where they are.’’
Evans’ extensive research revealed many of the characters buried in the cemetery, which is home to hundreds of historic roses and flanked by a 100-yearold holly hedge.
The grave of the first white woman to step ashore at Petone Beach in 1840 lies there, as do five soldiers who died in World War I.
Before the site became a cemetery, it was used by several iwi as a base for gathering food, Evans said. A fortified pa was abandoned in 1846.
In 1853, Tasmanian settler Thomas Hollis Stace bought the land for farming and in 1856 donated an acre to be used for worship and burial. A Protestant chapel, built that year, was demolished in 1908.
The earliest burial with a headstone was that of Maria Bradey, who died in 1860, but Evans said Bradey was not the first person interred on the land. That honour belonged to three people buried on their farms before being disinterred and moved to the cemetery when it opened.
To Evans’ frustration, the burial register that listed the names of the interred and where they lie was destroyed in the 1950s.
She did not have a favourite headstone, but said there was one that always made people laugh. Its epitaph read: ‘‘The Lord Giveth, The IRD Taketh.’’
Porirua City maintained the Council cemetery’s grounds, but the upkeep of the graves and the historic roses that cover them, fell to volunteers.
As part of Cemeteries Week, Evans will guide a tour of the Pauatahanui Burial Ground on April 4, 11am until noon. There is no charge and no booking required for the tour.
On April 6, Whenua Tapu Cemetery staff are holding a question and answer session from 11am until 1pm at the cemetery.
Pauatahanui Burial Ground, Porirua.
Visitors to the site can enjoy a view over Pauatahanui Inlet.