Sunday, February 21, 2010

Symonds Street Cemetery--Auckland (January 16, 2010)

I found this place by accident, the day after I arrived. I'd set out to return to the Auckland Domain and the War Memorial Museum, since by the time I'd arrived the day before, the museum was only open for one more hour (I knew it wouldn't be enough time). Now thoroughly sunburned, I looked forward to a day spent in the shade, under a layer of 50+ sunblock.

Just before the entry to the Grafton Bridge, at "K' Road" and Symonds Street, I noticed there was an iron gate leading to a graveyard. Always morbidly fascinated by burial places, I decided to take a look; the gate stood open and there appeared to be no restrictions on entry.

I ended up spending about 45 minutes walking through this cemetery and taking pictures. It turned out to be very old, by New Zealand standards especially--in use only between 1842 and 1886 (the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840), and originally divided into five different burial grounds for the various different faiths, with Anglicans taking up the most room.

What made the place really fascinating, yet somehow haunting at the same time, was the air of dilapidation about it. Old stonework crumbled below while lush pongas (tree-ferns) spread themselves over the graves with their usual umbrella-like protectiveness. Cabbage trees and palms grew next to decaying bricks and mouldering, unreadable lettering on broken headstones. The place looked like a Victorian graveyard falling victim to encroaching jungle, which I suppose is a fair enough description. Quite lovely in its mournfulness.

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