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Welcome to Bolton Street Cemetery, Wellington's oldest European cemetery dating back to 1841. Many of early Wellington's notable figures are buried here. The cemetery offers a tranquil and historically interesting escape from the city, just minutes from the centre. See the heritage rose collection woven through the tombstones, inspired by original graveside plantings. Blooms peak from November to December.
You can use this plot locator map to find out more information or trace history.
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When Wellington's first cemetery opened in 1840 it lay on the outskirts of the new town and served the colony's non-Catholic residents. A single, shared town cemetery - rather than graveyards for individual churches - was a new concept in England at this time. The cemetery at Bolton Street was considered a liberal concept for the fledgling colony.However, Anglicans, Jews and Roman Catholics insisted on separate burial areas. The cemetery was divided into three areas - Anglican, Jewish and Public.The Roman Catholic Cemetery was - and still is - in Mount Street, Kelburn.
Deaths recorded in Wellington's early days reflected difficulties of the times. Drowning, consumption and childbirth were common causes of death.Soldiers, sailors, thatchers, large families and children were among those buried at the cemetery. They were later joined by politicians, Māori and Pākehā community leaders.Overcrowding and the increasing encroachment of the city resulted in the cemetery closing to burials in 1892, with relatives of people already buriedthere the exception. The cemetery was transferred to Wellington City Council in the same year.
Controversy raged in Wellington in the 1960s over a proposal to direct the city's motorway through a section of the cemetery. The plan went ahead, closing the cemetery between 1968 and 1971. During this time, about 3,700 burials - many newly discovered - were exhumed. This section of the urban motorway opened in 1978.A large vault beneath the Early Setters Memorial Lawn contains most of the disinterred. A small number were reinterred at Karori and Makara cemeteries at the request of relatives. Identifiable burials are recorded in the Chapel.Most headstones were returned to the appropriate religious sectors of the cemetery, other than a few that were claimed by relatives. Protest groups did not stop the motorway's passage, but succeeded in elevating the cemetery's status as a significant historic site and city reserve.
Entry to the cemetery is from:
The cemetery sits on both sides of the motorway. A pedestrian over-bridge links The Terrace side of the park to the Botanic Garden. Some trails are unsealed and include steps.
There are limited parking and wheelchair access at the Kinross Street entrance. Parking is limited to 2 hours. Access is through Centennial entrance to the Botanic Garden on Glenmore Street. Parking is also available along Bowen Street.
Find out more at our Treehouse Visitor Centre, Wellington Botanic Garden
Phone: 04 499 firstname.lastname@example.org
Bolton Street Cemetery - open daily from dawn to dusk
Te Whare Taonga o te Urupā - Bolton Street Cemetery Museum - 10am-3pm Monday through Friday
The park is as popular with lunchtime joggers and walkers as it is with visitors to the city. Sign-posted trails offer a glimpse into Wellington's colonial history. The trails are found on both sides of the motorway. Please note: personal or group fitness training is not permitted.
There is a heritage rose collection inspired by original graveside plantings. Blooms peak from November to December.
The museum had a refresh in late 2022 and is definitely worth visiting. Discover the history of the cemetery and the stories of some of the people buried there. The museum is free to visit and is open 10am-3pm daily.
If you are looking for a particular grave there is a book inside the museum that has the known list of those buried in the cemetery.
You can also search the Bolton Street records dated from 1840 using our online database:
The Friends of Bolton Street Cemetery run guided tours from time to time. Check out the events page for upcoming tours.Special guided tours are available by prior arrangement through the Treehouse Visitor Centre.
If you wish to undertake grave maintenance, you must first obtain a permit from Karori Cemetery. Contact the Treehouse Visitor Centre first and we can help you with this.
Friends of Bolton Street Cemetery is a volunteer organisation that aims to protect, maintain and develop the Park and its historical records.The group was set up in 1977 to preserve the Cemetery’s historic atmosphere and help the Council maintain graves They also encourage descendants and associates of people buried in the park to repair damaged graves and promote the Cemetery through guided tours and promotional information.
You can use this Wellington City Council plot locator map to find out more information or trace the history of your descendants.
Styles of record keeping has changed over the years. The team have endeavoured o ensure that records are as accurate as possible.