Tucked away amongst the bustle of K’Road and Symonds Street, beside the city’s busiest motorway, lies Symonds Street Cemetery. It is Auckland’s oldest and most historic cemetery, and has been a public park since 1908.
On the Western side of the cemetery is the beginning of the Rose Trail, a winding, 30-minute ramble through the Jewish, Presbyterian and Catholic sections of the cemetery. Much of the trail does not follow formed paths but explores the tree-laden lawns and garden setting, traversing the Victorian gravestones of Auckland’s founding families.
It’s called the Rose Trail because there are many heritage roses planted throughout this section. The planting of roses – all of which were brought to Auckland by early British settlers – was a Victorian tradition in cemeteries, adorning the graves of loved ones. Today the roses along the Rose Trail are cared for by a team of dedicated volunteers from the Heritage Rose Society.
One of the monuments of interest in this part of the cemetery is that of the noted philanthropist Elizabeth Knox, who founded the Elizabeth Knox Home for the Elderly. She died in 1908 and was buried alongside her husband beneath a large obelisk of Scottish granite in the Presbyterian section.
Archibald Clark, the first mayor of Auckland in 1851, died in 1875 and is buried under a tall, gothic monument in the south-east corner of the Presbyterian section. His company, Archibald Clark and Sons, made clothing and employed up to 500 people in Victorian Auckland.
Isabella Watson was only four years old when she died in 1870, probably from one of the infectious diseases of the time – cholera, diphtheria, influenza or measles. Her monument is one of the few topped by a statue, a portrait of Isa herself.
Constable Naughton, buried in the Catholic section of the cemetery, was one of Auckland’s early characters. He was one of the city’s first policemen and was reportedly kept very busy. Sadly the rigours of the job proved too much for him and he ended up in the Whau Lunatic Asylum, suffering from mental unease. He died there in 1884.