New Zealand Walk: 160 years of history - Take a walk through a beautiful garden
In October 1861the Taranaki Provincial Council set aside 24 acres (9.4 hectares) of land and established the first public burial ground in New Plymouth. This cemetery is the resting ground for the last eight victims of Titokowaru’s war.
On the 13th of February 1869 a Maori war party of Ngati Maniopoto led by Wetere Te Rerenga killed all three men, a woman, three children and also the Weselyn missionary John Whitely who arrived shortly afterwards at the isolated Pukearuhe redoubt situated at Whitecliffs near Tongaporutu some 57 kilometres (35 miles) from New Plymouth. There is a large headstone in memory of them in this cemetery.
This was the final act of the Taranaki wars. There are two separate monuments at the cemetery to commemorate people who died in the incident.
With the abolition of the Provincial Government in 1876 the cemetery came under the control of the New Plymouth Borough Council. Today it is controlled by the New Plymouth District Council.
The acreage is divided into the old system that was prevalent in those days of each religious denomination with their own separate area’s. In 1934 these were all disbanded due to disorganization. There is a large information signage board in the cemetery showing different coloured area’s as to where these different denomination graves still remain.
The cemetery contains the commonwealth war graves of 12 men who served in the First World War and 19 men who served in the Second World War. There is also a large area of Returned Serviceman’s graves and also those of the early infantry men along with many old New Plymouth identities.
In 1984 a garden of remembrance was established in honour of all the still born babies that had previously been buried in an earlier era in one large grave at the rear of the cemetery and left with no identification as to where it or they were. It is still remains an unidentified
large square of clay under a cherry tree that flowers in the summer. There is now a lovely black marble wall with the names of many of those babies on plaques one of them my own daughter who was stillborn in 1965. The New Plymouth District Council in their sympathy for what had occurred many years ago and the way in which these babies had been treated kindly donated the memoriam and so the Garden of Remembrance was established.
There was a lovely old wooden villa
a cemetery chapel on the grounds that was transferred to another area of New Plymouth in 1951 and demolished in 1973 due to deterioration which was a shame as it was certainly a piece of history gone forever.
Early burials were 10 feet down, later 8 feet until the mid seventies and were dug by hand until nine years ago. Many of the older grave fronts have collapsed inward due to the type of stone that was used in those days but the later ones are now made with concrete.
There is also the large tomb of Abraham Walley Mohamed Salaman a world renowned herbalist. He had to obtain special permission to build it which he did and completed in the late 1940’s.
The outside is constructed of painted concrete and is approximately 15 feet square. It has a large square blue dome on top and four blue plinths one on each corner which serve to ventilate and light the tomb. The entrance has a locked iron rail double gate and double wooden doors, each with a star and moon crescent hollowed out. There used to be two clay urns sitting between the gate and the door with BISMULLAH engraved on their rims. They have now been placed inside for safety because of vandals.
There are three marble steps leading down from the door into the tomb. The lower eight feet of wall and side coffin supports are in 12 inch green marble tiles. The top half of the wall and dome are painted the same colour green.
The coffin is oak with three brass handles on each side. A brass plaque is on the top and reads ABRAHAM WALLEY SALAMAN DIED 8TH FEB 1941. On the floor scattered around the room are several vases and a green clay frog approximately 12 inches high.
The only light into the room is through the door. The tomb is no longer open to the public.
This cemetery would have to be one of the most beautiful in New Zealand. It is well maintained, an absolute delight to wander through and to learn about the early history on the gravestones some of which are beautiful marble figurines and old wrought iron fence railings entwined in creeping plants and old roses. There is so much history and so many stories to be told. A view from the top of the hill is spectacular showing both the mountain and the sea. It is like wandering through a beautiful garden that has been maintained by dedicated volunteers.
An added bonus is the fact that it is situated between two amazing walkways. It sits above the popular Te Henui cycling/ walking track and on the right up on the top of the rear hill in the cemetery the old Te Henui Walking Track which is separated from the main track by the river which flows between
the both tracks that take you out to Cumberland Street exit and both approximately an hour’s walk. The cemetery can be accessed from the main Te Henui walkway from the east end of the beach and is signposted further along the walkway.
This amazing cemetery is beautiful in all seasons, especially spring, summer and autumn. Winter has its own charm as well.
Make it a destination and on your bucket list next time you visit New Plymouth.
The main entrance is situated at the intersection of Watson and 173 Lemon Street where the memorial gates were installed in 1924. It is just south of the New Plymouth Girls high school. There is plenty of parking just follow the road right around the cemetery.
There are no toilets on the grounds and the cemetery is dog friendly as long as they are under control. Take your camera and enjoy. Time for this amble could be several hours or more depending on your interest in reading the inscriptions on the head stones and enjoying the rustic character of an old lovely cemetery. There is an evening guided walk through there each January during the school holidays.
160 years of history - Take a walk through a beautiful garden Above: Rear of the cemetery the R.S.A. plots. The signpost at the bottom leads down to the Te Henui Walkway which is on the other side of the trees.
Above left: A rustic path walk. Above right: Blossoms in Spring. Above middle right; Flowers bloom beside toombstones.