Explore the old cemetery

History buffs can take a self guided walk around the old Waimate cemetery, and learn about some of our early settlers.  The walk produced by the Information Centre, was written by local historian John Foley. 

Photo by Sue Francis

Photo by Sue Francis

Stories told by the headstones trace the early settlement of Waimate, the scourge of Tuberculosis, Influenza and Scarlett Fever is reflected on inscriptions. In the third row from the south boundary, the Rattray memorial records the deaths of three children, 8 months, 6 months and 6 weeks 1891/92. Across by the side road, the grave of Cornelius McKee, lists three infant children, who died in the Influenza years. 

The old Waimate cemetery covers an area of 2.33 hectares. The grounds are allocated in areas according to faith, Anglican, Catholic, Wesleyan, Presbyterian, Episcopalian and Free ground. 

The earliest grave markers were of wood and Waihao stone. As the settlement prospered, other New Zealand stone and granite were used and in addition greenstone granite from Cathiners, in Scotland and Carrara Marble from Italy. 

Over the years some of the grave stones have fallen in to disrepair and been forgotten. Roger Kett’s grave, the first recorded burial in the cemetery in 1874, is one such grave. 

Kett was a notable Waimate publican. He built the Kett’s Hotel, later known as the Railway Hotel and then the Criterion, in Queen Street, opposite the band Rotunda. The hotel was built in just 6 weeks under penalty, using logs from the Waimate bush strapped together to form the foundations. As the logs settled the floor took on an undulating appearance and at night many a patron clutched the bar rail to arrest a rolling tendency. 

This old cemetery is the final resting place of Dr Margaret Cruickshank and Michael Studholme, both depicted on the murals on the silos in town.  The other two notable locals on the silos are Chief Te Huruhuru who is buried in the Maori Cemetery off Pt Bush Rd, and Norman Kirk buried in the new cemetery across the road.

Download the self guided walk here.

Kate O'Connell