The Symonds Street Cemetery is Auckland’s oldest municipal cemetery. It was created from 1841 onwards.

*almost all information for history of Symonds Street Cemetery site has been collected from the k road historian Edward Bennett and their site here  (unless stated)

Symonds Street (and by extension the Cemetery) was named after Captain William Cornwallis Symonds, although he is not buried there. Symonds was a friend of William Hobson and one of his closest and most effective officials.

William Cornwallis Symonds was one of the first six Police Magistrates in New Zealand and Chief Magistrate of Auckland. In 1841 he was appointed Deputy Surveyor-General of New Zealand.

William Cornwallis Symonds was related to the General Cornwallis who surrendered at Yorktown during the American War of Independence. William’s brother Captain John Jermyn Symonds (1819-1883) also lived in Auckland; Symonds Street in Onehunga is named after him.

William Symonds intended to create a settlement on the Manukau Harbour at Cornwallis. The Maori name for that place was Karangahape and Karangahape Road (including what is now Lower Symonds street) was part of the route taken to reach that place – hence the name.




Bishop Selwyn applies to Governor Hobson for land to use as a burial ground.

1842 July 20th

Hobson grants two eight acre plots to the east of Symonds Street to the Anglican Church.

1842 November 4th

An additional 3 Roods and 30 perches of land are granted to the Anglican Church.

1843 November 24th

One acre of land on the west side of Symonds street is granted to the Jewish Community as a burial ground.


A wooden Mortuary Chapel is built in the Jewish Cemetery.

1852 August 16th

Five acres are granted to Bishop Pompallier for use as a Roman Catholic Cemetery.

1863 February 7th

Wreck of the HMS Orpheus on the Manukau Bar, with the loss of 22 officers, 167 seamen and marines.


The Anglican Mortuary Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre is opened by Bishop Selwyn on Symonds Street opposite East Street.


The Catholic Mortuary Chapel of St Francis de Sales is opened on the corner of Symonds and East Streets. Blessed by Bishop Pompallier.


April 8th: Three acres are granted to the Presbytarian Church on the west side of symonds street between the Jewish and Catholic areas.


November: The “Act to Regulate Burials Near the City of Auckland 1871” is passed by Parliament to promote Public Health.

1872 May 11th

Three acres are granted for the use of the Wesleyan Church and other dissenters. Located on the east side of Symonds Street, north of the Anglican area this is often referred to as the “General Section”


Parliament passes an “Act to Provide for Closing Certain Burial Grounds 1874” This limits further burials at Symonds street to close family members of those already buried.


Between 1876 and 1881 a total of 228 acres of vacant land close to the Whau River in West Auckland is reserved by the Crown as a site for a public cemetery.


The wooden St Benedicts Church opens. This seated 1200 people and was probably the largest wooden church in the country at the time.

1885 March 9th

Mayor William Waddel opens the new bridge across cemetery Gully.

1886 March

Waikumete Cemetery is opened by Auckland City Council as a replacement for Symonds Street Cemetery.

1886 December 13th

St Benedicts Church is destroyed by fire.

1887 April 22nd

The replacement brick St Benedicts Church is opened.


The Chapel of St Francis de Sales is dragged down Symonds Street by bullock teams and floated over to Devonport where it is relocated on the north slope of Mt Victoria.

1904 October

Following a report about its structural worthiness the 1885 Grafton Bridge is closed and a small temporary bridge is constructed for public use.The Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre is moved to Grange Road in Mount Eden.


The Jewish Community gifts the unused portion of their sector to the City Council. Immediately proposals are put forth to use this space for a Public Building such as a Bath House. The wooden Mortuary Chapel is relocated inside the remaining Jewish Area,

1906 September 16th

The old Grafton Bridge is demolished


With the passing of the “Auckland (Symonds Street) Cemeteries Act, 1908”the cemeteries are formally closed and handed over to Auckland City Council as a Public Reserve.


The wooden fence along the Symonds Street edge of the Anglican area is replaced by a granite wall with iron railings. A monumental Gothic Arch designed by Miss Mary Pulling is erected as the new entrance from Symonds Street.


Construction starts on the third Grafton Bridge. Eight graves are disturbed and the bodies reinterred at Waikemete Cemetery.

1910 April 28th

The new Grafton Bridge is formally opened.


The Tram shelter and public toilets are built


Thomas Pearson, City Parks Superintendent, reorganises the Cemetery - in particular the two sites on the corner of Symonds street and Karangahape Road and Symonds street and East Street are laid out as parks with basalt walls, rockeries, lawns and seating.


The Church of Christ Scientist Building is constructed on the corner of St Martins Lane and Symonds Street. The Neo-classical building is the only church adjacent to the cemetery which post-dates the closing of the burial ground and thus has no representatives buried therein.


The great basalt rocks are removed from the Symonds Street Park. The lack of man power and budget constraints during the War period resulted in the rockeries becoming overgrown. These features are removed from several Auckland Parks and replaced by plain lawns and simpler shrubberies..


The City Council erects a Ladies Rest Room in the Symonds street Park designed by Tibor Donner (1907-1993), the City Architect. The brick tool shed in the adjacent Presbytarian area was probably part of this project.


The Jewish Centennial Memorial Hall by Albert and John Goldwater is opened.


Irene Broun and Zara Mettam record 1,479 inscriptions from every discernible tombstone, referring to 1,874 graves. This was collated by the Auckland Public Library and published by the New Zealand Society of Genealogists.


The “Reserves and Other Lands Disposal Act 1963” is passed which allows for the removal of monuments and bodies for Motorway Development.


Construction of the Motorway commences which involves the disinterring and reinterring of 4100 bodies.


The 1908 Arch is demolished


The two Memorials are constructed, one in the Anglican and one in the Catholic area. Those bodies disturbed by the Motorway construction are reinterred beneath these memorials which display lists of those people able to be identified.


The Bronze Fountain “Karangahape Rocks” is installed in Symonds Street Park.


Large volumes of railings and masonry elements are removed by Council .


Work commences on path refurbishment and some monument repairs. This is made possible through Government Sponsored PEP schemes.

1993 March

Work on “The Symonds Street Conservation Plan” commences.


A new survey of all graves is undertaken by Auckland City Council.


Council grants consent for sale of easement on part of the St Martins Lane frontage.


All new and older survey records are collated into a single database by Auckland public Libraries.


Guidelines prepared for Memorial Repairs and Gravesite Restoration.


The Tibor Donner building in the Symonds Street Park is demolished.


Friends of the Symonds Street Cemetery is formed.