Karori Cemetery historic wooden cross project

WelCom August 2021 Roger Swanson In 1892 a large, 3-metre high, wooden cross made from Totara, was erected on a hill overlooking the newly-opened Wellington cemetery in Karori. On 31…

WelCom August 2021

Karori Cemetery historic wooden cross project Archdiocese of Wellington
Vaughan Stagpoole, chair of the Friends of Mt Street Cemetery, holding the ‘temporary’ wooden cross, installed by Archbishop Redwood in 1892, as it looks today. Photo: Supplied

Roger Swanson

In 1892 a large, 3-metre high, wooden cross made from Totara, was erected on a hill overlooking the newly-opened Wellington cemetery in Karori.

On 31 March 1892, the following item appeared in the Evening Post newspaper: 

Yesterday afternoon His Grace Archbishop Redwood, accompanied by the Very Rev. Father M’Namara SM, V.G., and Rev. Fathers Devoy, SM, and Power, proceeded to the Karori Cemetery, and blessed the Catholic portion, and also blessed a temporary mortuary cross which Rev. Father M’Namara had caused to be erected on the hill situated in the middle of the Catholic ground. It is intended at no distant date to erect a mortuary chapel where the cross stands.

And in the Catholic Times of 1 April 1892:

The New Catholic Cemetery: His Grace the Archbishop, accompanied by the Vicar-General and other members of the clergy, went to Karori on Wednesday last to erect a cross in the part of the new cemetery allotted to Catholics, and also bless that part of the cemetery.

Surprisingly, the ‘temporary mortuary cross’ still survives but the mortuary chapel was never built.

The wooden cross stood very visible to passersby for over a hundred years until a storm toppled it into nearby trees where it has remained largely intact.

The Friends of Karori Cemetery propose to have the cross professionally restored and reinstated back into its original location. The cost for this work is estimated to be up to $3,500. A memorial specialist who works with the council will be overseeing this.

The Friends were established in 2020 to support the heritage values of the cemetery. This is the first project they have undertaken to save one of the oldest artifacts at the cemetery. The Friends are seeking the public’s support for this venture and have established a ‘Give a Little’ page for this purpose: givealittle.co.nz/cause/karori-cemetery-historic-wooden-cross-project

For more information about the Friends and our activities, and the wooden cross, see: friendsofkaroricemetery.co.nz

Roger Swanson is a member of the Friends of Karori Cemetery Committee. He lives in Newtown, Wellington.