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Bolton Street Cemetery, Wellington, North Island, New Zealand

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Bolton Street Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in Wellington, New Zealand. Dating back to 1840, it commemorates many early pioneers and important historical figures from the 19th century. It was closed in 1892, except for burials of close kin within existing family plots; this was due to inadequate space as the city grew. In 1978 the name “Bolton Street Memorial Park” was adopted to emphasise the area’s heritage and landscape qualities, but in 2014 the Wellington City Council returned to the original name “Bolton Street Cemetery”.

In 1851 following some controversy, the ‘town cemetery’ was split into three sectarian areas known as Bolton Street Cemetery (for Church of England burials), Sydney Street Cemetery (the public one for “non-conformists”) and the Jewish Cemetery. Roman Catholic burials took place in the Mount Street Cemetery located adjacent to the University.

Huge controversy prevailed in the 1960s over the proposed selection of the cemeteries area for the route of Wellington’s motorway. The cemetery was temporarily closed to all public access from 1968 until 1971 while about 3,700 burials, many newly discovered, were exhumed. Most of these remains now lie in a large vault beneath the Early Settlers Memorial Lawn situated behind the replica Chapel, while a small number were reinterred at Karori or Makara Cemeteries at the request of relatives. All recovered grave stones and monuments were relocated throughout other parts of the Cemetery, except for a few claimed by relatives. This section of the motorway was opened on 21 May 1978. A promise to build a linking piazza never eventuated and a more modest footbridge over the motorway was constructed instead. The overall damage to the cemetery was considerable and marked a turning point on Wellington ‘s attitude to conservation questions.

// Road works through the Bolton Street cemetery in preparation for the Wellington motorway. Shows earth moving vehicles working below a statue on the Flyger family grave. The city sexton, P J E Shotter, is nearest the statue. Photograph taken circa 18 April 1969 by an unidentified staff photographer for the Dominion newspaper.

// MOTORWAY UNDER CONSTRUCTION: View of Wellington Motorway under construction, taken from Bolton Street Cemetery, Wellington, 1976. A headstone marking the grave of Mary Ann Noakes and Mary Ann Nye can be seen in the foreground. Graves overlook construction of the Wellington urban motorway at Bolton St cemetery

Of the 8,500 people reported buried in the cemetery, only 1334 headstones were traced. Of these less than 600 are still in their original position. The reinstated graves, mostly moved for the motorway work, have been placed as near as possible to their original location and within their original sectarian boundaries of the old Church of England or public cemeteries. None of the Jewish graves have been relocated. In many cases the gravestones have been lost or destroyed through time, especially the earliest ones which were made of wood.

Notable Burials at Bolton Street Cemetery


  • George Allen (New Zealand politician) Reinstated Monument







  • Kennedy Macdonald
  • George Macfarlan



Rickman Grave Plot number(s) unknown. Any information gratefully received.



  • Christian Toxward
  • Alexander Turnbull (bibliophile) Sydney Street Cemetery section, Reinstated Monument


// Seddon's grave in Bolton Street Cemetery

Please add everyone who was buried in Bolton Street Cemetery, Wellington, New Zealand to this project.