Not many people realise this but there is a mass grave in central Auckland, the final resting place of hundreds of our city’s pioneers. Folks using the new Grafton Cycleway might have caught a glimpse of this as they ride past:
Theses pioneers weren’t buried in a mass grave however, they were all respected and beloved family members who were laid to rest in their own graves. So why did they come to share a communal concrete sarcophagus tucked up the back of Auckland’s most neglected cemetery? Because motorways.
In the late 50s transport planners decided to build Spaghetti Junction right through Newton and Grafton, and the original resting place of these folks presented an convenient route for the motorway. You see the graveyard at K Rd and Symonds St used to stretch all the way back to St Benedicts St… in fact it was the graveyard of St Benedicts Church. So standing here on the cycleway, the cemetery behind you belongs to that church all the way over there:
Everything in between used to be a cemetery, or more like what they call a memorial park today. According to the Historic Places Register, some 4,100 graves were dug up from the path of the motorway and relocated en masse to two sites. One is the concrete box up the back of K’ Rd, the other I have no idea. Does anyone else know?
If you’re like me you probably assumed that the motorways ringing Auckland central were intentionally located into the steep, unused gullies that ring the city. At least this is what I used to think, until a little snooping revealed most of these gullies are man made, huge cuts carved out of level ground in the 60s for the motorways to run though. In the picture above the great trench never used to be there, as we can see below it used to be more or less flat and level. In this aerial the full graveyard can be seen at the bottom, K’ Rd runs across the middle, with St Benedicts Church just visible at the bottom left. While K’ Rd has always been on the ridgeline, the broad severing trench of the Central Motorway Junction is clearly a recent creation.
All a bit sad really, these old photos show what great fine-grained urban fabric we used to have in this part of town. Now the whole lot is sliced up and separated. In this picture we can see five or six streets running between Karangahape Rd and Eden Terrace, between Newton Rd and Symonds St. Today we have just one. I can’t help but think all our traffic and transport problems in this area are of our own device.
Anyway, to finish here is a shot of the rest of the cemetery, which is actually quite lovely in the right light. I wonder if we can’t tidy it up a bit and link it through to the cycleway and Symonds St better?