Insights into the People buried in the Cemetery
of Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, Onehunga, Auckland, New Zealand

History of Saint Peter’s Cemetery - 1848 until now

The most accurate account of the beginning of the cemetery comes from a 1 May 1970 document: ‘First Appointment of a Body of Trustees.’ … It states that by a Crown Grant bearing the date 21 July 1848 the acre of land on the corner of Onehunga Mall and Church Street was granted to Bishop G.A. Selwyn ‘as a site for the erection of a church … to be devoted, when consecrated, to ecclesiastical purposes for ever’ … The first Vicar, Reverend A.G. Purchas, had been appointed in 1847, and there is evidence to suggest that the first church was erected in 1848 immediately after the Crown Grant. There is no evidence whatever of any burials in the churchyard prior to 1848.’

From ‘An Account of the Churchyard and Buildings of Saint Peter’s Church, Onehunga’
by Rev Ian Beattie, 21 Dec 1976

Apart from being the burial ground for Onehunga Anglicans, Saint Peter’s Cemetery became the burial ground for people of other Christian denominations, and also for many ‘others’ (e.g. people who had suicided, people of no fixed abode, people unknown) 

In some newspaper death-notices the cemetery was referred to as ‘the Onehunga Cemetery.’

Such was the demand for burial space that, come the early 1880s, concern was being expressed by Saint Peter’s Vestry to the Onehunga Borough Council for the need of an alternative burial ground for Onehunga residents.

‘In 1888 there was an attempt to close the burial ground … in fact it was not closed until 1899 (i.e closed to all, other than people who already had an established family plot) … though burials continued fairly frequently until 1920 … since then there have been 40 burials (the last being in 1960).’

With the approval of the 1973 Onehunga Borough Council, the Church Cemetery Board has used parts of the Cemetery for the interment of deceased parishioners’ ashes. Since 1973 there have been 45 interments of ashes.



Other cemeteries in Onehunga and immediate surrounding Districts:
  • Onehunga Catholic Church Cemetery: first burials 1848
  • Waikaraka Cemetery: first burials 1890
  • Hillsborough Cemetery: first burials 1916

Sources Consulted in the Preparation of this Record of Burials

Note: there are no existing Saint Peter’s Burials Registers from:

  • 1848 (when the first church was built on the site) to 1862 inclusive (noted as missing by The Rev John Haselden when he became Vicar in 1898)
  • July 1875 to December 1879 (noted as missing by The Rev John Haselden when he became Vicar in 1898)
  • May 1899 – January 1902


This website Record of Burials in the Cemetery of Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, Onehunga is a compilation of information gathered from the following various historical records:

  • Headstones: there are 430 known burial plots in the cemetery; approximately one quarter of their headstones were still in existence in 2009; the first burial recorded on an existing headstone is that of Charlotte Shale, 12 February 1850; the last burial in the cemetery was that of Edith Anne Morton, 13 April 1960
  • Burial Register (March 1863 – July 1875): some of these records are very difficult to decipher, and there are gaps when no records were noted
  • Burial Register (January 1880 – May 1899): this 50-page book is missing 2 pages (pp.23-24: May-December 1887)
  • Burial Register (January 1902 – August 1991): recording all burials up to April 1960, and the interment of ashes August 1974 – August 1991
  • Plan of the Cemetery (drawn up 31 August 1898) indicating plots with the known family names of the person/family buried in each plot.
  • Where Is it – Book One (completed 21 August 1898): a record of all the then known plots with the known family names of the person/family buried in each plot as discerned by the then Vicar (The Rev John Haselden) and the late Sexton (John Lloyd); information also gathered from headstones and knowledge of local people
  • Where Is It – Book Two: a record of all burials and the relevant plots 1898-1921
  • 1979 Plan of the Footprint of the 1980 Church Building including: 1) the graves that were affected by the proposed new church building; 2) the various headstones that were removed from the area before the erection of the new church building and placed elsewhere in the Cemetery grounds; 3) the new plaques that were erected commemorating some of the people whose graves were covered by the new church footprint
  • Transcription of the Headstones (12 January 1980): transcribed by Mrs H.Y. McLean and Mrs J. Willcock on behalf of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists
  • Headstones: still in existence in 2009
  • Record of the Internment of Ashes: 1983-2019
  • Brass Plaques: still in existence within the church, 2009
  • Royal New Zealand Fencible Records: nzfenciblesociety.org.nz
  • Saint Peter’s Church Marriage Registers
  • Saint Peter’s Church Baptismal Registers
  • Birth, Deaths and Marriage Records Online: bdmonline.dia.govt.nz
  • Papers Past Online: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

 

Special thanks to Saint Peter’s parishioners Alison Burge (now deceased), Anne Jones, Derek Neutze and Jenny Harrison (now deceased) who contributed in so many ways to the research of the above sources. Thanks also to Garth Houltham, Research Officer of the New Zealand Fencible Society, for his assistance in aligning the information that Saint Peter’s Church holds with the information that the Society holds regarding the Fencibles buried in Saint Peter’s Cemetery.

Saint Peter’s Cemetery and the Fencibles

Upwards of 60 Fencibles and/or members of their families are buried in Saint Peter’s Cemetery.

In the Record of Burials of this website, the entries regarding these Fencibles are printed in blue, plus the name of the Fencible and that of his wife are highlighted in yellow, not to privilege them over other Onehunga people buried in the Cemetery, but rather to acknowledge their considerable contribution to the infant European settlement in Onehunga.

There follows a brief description of the Fencibles, adapted from the website of the New Zealand Fencible Society Incorporated: 

www.nzfenciblesociety.org.nz

The Royal New Zealand Fencible Corps were retired soldiers from Britain and Ireland, often referred to as ‘pensioners’, who enlisted as a military reserve to act as a ‘defence force’ for the protection of the early settlers in the fledgling town of Auckland.

The word ‘Fencible’ comes from the word ‘defence’ which this detachment of retired soldiers were required to do, as opposed to a unit of fighting men.

The Fencibles and their families arrived in Auckland, New Zealand between 1847 and 1852 on board the following ships:

Ramillies – arrived 5 August 1847
Minerva – arrived 8 October 1847
Sir Robert Sale – arrived 11 October 1847.
Sir George Seymour – arrived 26 November 1847
Clifton – arrived 23 January 1848
Ann – arrived 16 May 1848
Berhampore – arrived 16 June 1849
Oriental Queen – arrived 18 September 1849
Inchinnan – arrived 27 May 1852
Berwick Castle – arrived 13 December 1852

The men numbered 721 and together with their families comprised a total of over 2,500 new settlers for the villages of Onehunga, Otahuhu, Howick and Panmure.

The men had served in many regiments of the British Army in many parts of the world. They were used to harsh conditions and many were ‘pensioned out’ as being unfit for further active service, largely due to rheumatism.

A large number of the families were from Ireland, which was in the middle of the famine period, and all would have left for a better life in New Zealand. The promise of owning land would have been a great incentive. When the first contingent arrived it had not been decided where they should settle, nor had any accommodation been built. The families quickly settled into life in New Zealand, building their own houses, growing vegetables and finding work on the neighbouring farms.

The Fencibles were a large group of immigrants who swelled Auckland’s population at the time. They created the four villages, now suburbs of Auckland. They were instrumental, in the creation of roads, bridges and lines of communication. They shaped the communities with churches, schools, shops and local governing bodies.

Now it is estimated that there are over a quarter of a million descendants of Fencible families living today spread around the world. The villages are now bustling communities. The Fencibles came for a better life; they committed themselves to developing their communities with their labour and their limited resources. They are to be remembered with respect, for without their service the shape of Auckland would have been a very different place to what it is today.

A Record of the People buried in Saint Peter’s Cemetery, Onehunga

© Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, Onehunga, New Zealand: 2020

If you have information that would clarify the data in this Record, 
please contact John McAlpine using the Contact Us Button on this website.

Permission is granted for the copying of information pertaining to a single family.


You can download any of these files by right-clicking and selecting Save Link As, or you can left-click to view.


01 Family Names beginning with A – B
02 Family Names beginning with C – E
03 Family Names beginning with F – H
04 Family Names beginning with I – M
05 Family Names beginning with N – S
06 Family Names beginning with T – Z

Record of the People whose Ashes are interred in Saint Peter’s Cemetery, Onehunga

© Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, Onehunga, New Zealand: 2020

If you have information that would clarify the data in this Record, 
please contact John McAlpine using the Contact Us Button on this website.

Permission is granted for the copying of information pertaining to a single family.


 

You can download any of these files by right-clicking and selecting Save Link As, or you can left-click to view.

 


 
Record of Interment of Ashes

Biographies of People buried in Saint Peter’s Cemetery

Help us thicken these Grave Insights

This website’s Record of the People buried in Saint Peter’s Cemetery, Onehunga gives us some insights into the lives of the people who settled in Onehunga, in particular during the years of 1848-1900.

As noted in this website’s section Sources Consulted, there are significant gaps in the Saint Peter’s Burial Registers, and the existing Registers offer only minimal information, usually only ‘name of the deceased person, age, and date of burial.’ Also the handwritten entries are sometimes a challenge to interpret. In some cases we have only the ‘plot number and a surname.’ In such cases, where we have the barest of information, the entries are highlighted in red.

So we have had to turn to other sources to flesh out the thin details that we have from the Burials Registers, and to begin to thicken the story therein.

In some cases we have been able to do some detective work to unearth the truth; or sometimes, when alerted by family descendants to the probable burial of their forebear in the Cemetery, we have made an entry such as ‘presumed buried in family plot.’

If you are able to shed some light on any of the entries, in particular those highlighted in red, or if you believe we have ‘got the wrong end of the stick’ regarding an entry, or if you are confident that a forebear of yours will have been buried in Saint Peter’s Cemetery because they lived in Onehunga during the years of 1848-1900 (and are unlikely to have been buried in the Onehunga Catholic Cemetery), please contact John McAlpine, ‘author’ of this website, using this website’s Contact Us option.

John writes:

If possible please send me hard data to back-up your assertions: e.g. photocopies of birth and death certificates, data from BDM Records, copies of written entries in the family Bible, newspaper entries etc. Be aware that great-aunt’s memory of events can be fallible, even though she may think otherwise!

Remember, the purpose of this website is to both honour our forebears and to thicken our insights into the lives of the people of Onehunga in the later decades of the nineteenth century.

Biographies:

John writes:

Should you be a serious family researcher, or should you have such a researcher in your family, I would welcome a brief biography (1000 words max) of people buried in the Cemetery – see Biographies on this website for examples of such biographies. Please be in contact with me if you feel motivated to write a biography.

'No Ordinary Man'

‘No Ordinary Man’
Rev Dr Arthur Purchas
One of Onehunga’s most prominent ‘founders’
and first vicar of St Peter’s


No Ordinary Man is the title of a historical biography by John Steele, first published in 2019, detailing the life and times of Arthur Purchas, a man regarded as one of the most extraordinarily talented pioneers of New Zealand’s 19th century. Click here to read more about this book.

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