Jun 3, 2009

A Rare Taphophilic Survivor at Ashburton

Reminiscent of the South African Veld or the American West, wooden fences around graves were once a common sight in New Zealand. As the nineteenth century drew to a close the availabilty of wrought iron railings marked a change in tastes for funereal ornamentation, but the need to recycle iron for the wars of the twentieth century saw many of these elaborate railings consigned to the Smelter's furnace.

Above is an ornate example of wooden fenced grave from the 1880s, which barely survives in the Ashburton Cemetery. A relic from an era when child mortality was commonplace, it surrounds the graves of the four children of William and Mary Ullyatt of Methven.

Anna, Emma, John and George Ullyatt died between 1883 and 1887, but their farming parents retired to Christchurch and were buried in the Linwood Cemetery in 1917 and 1924.

It is to be hoped that this extremely rare survivor of Canterbury's heritage will be restored before it finally falls prey to the elements.


Above: designated in October, 2005 for restoration by the Christchurch City Council is the fenced grave of Walter Powell Beauchamp in the Linwood Cemetery. A Clerk of New Brighton Road, 20 year-old Beauchamp died on the 2nd of April 1888 after only eight years in the colony.

Made of Totara, the remains of the contemporaneous wooden fence had undergone partial restoration by April 2009 (below), but the original pickets have yet to be replaced.


Sarndra's lovely photograph of the wooden fenced grave of a child and her grandmother in Auckland's Waikumete Cemetery.

This is a good example of how the fenced graves depicted above might be restored. Enclosing flowering shrubs would add colour and also attract birds to otherwise rather drab and utilitarian cemeteries.

Landscaping our historic cemeteries as parks of remembrance could make them more attractive to the public and quite possibly circumvent the ongoing problem of vandalism.

Photo credits: Sandra Lees and Early Canterbury Photographers


Sarndra said...

Splendid photo.

Here is another sadly VERY dilapidated one in Linwood Walter Beauchamp POWELL http://tinyurl.com/powell-grave. His grave is noted as one of the notable ones to do some maintenance on 'within 3 to 6 months' sadly obviously not followed through. Mentioned here http://www.ccc.govt.nz/Parks/Cemeteries/Appendix2SpecificExamplesLinwood.pdf I'd like to know why he was notable. He was very young also. I've done a bit of a hunt but to no avail.

Have a great day!

Canterbury Heritage said...

A rummage through the Biographical Index has failed to elicit further details of Walter Beauchamp, so one must presume that his grave is deemed notable only as a consequence of its Totara fence.

But in the pursuit of preserving his memory for posterity, I've added your pic and the Council's from 4 years earlier. It's a shame that they've failed to follow through with their published intention, perhaps they thought that no one either cared or would notice...

Jayne said...

I don't know of any wooden fenced graves that survive to this day here in Melbourne (I could be wrong, though I've done my best to visit every cemetery over the years!).
Hope that work is completed and maintained, it would certainly be a dignified sight.

Sarndra said...

It's a dreadful shame isn't it :-( they've done so well elsewhere in the cemetery.

I have another pic of a little wooden fence, although this one is at Waikumete Cemetery in Auckland. The caption explains it.

Thanks for looking in to Walter B for me... i too thought that must be the conclusion also [the fence being important] because his headstone really is very simply worded as shown here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/porkynz/3478734351/in/set-72157617378552226/


Canterbury Heritage said...

Added Sarndra's photo from Waikumete Cemetery to the article (with a modicum of blurb), as a good example of what might be.

Upon further reflection, the idea of an ongoing series of articles depicting the graves of our pioneer settlers, both notable and humble becomes increasingly attractive. They could also include illustrated biographies, with portraits and possibly photographs of their homes, etc.

Jayne said...

That sounds like a great idea!
We loved the NZ series Epitaph and regret they didn't make more series, your posts can cover so much more, too !

Sarndra said...

Ohhhh i'm sooooo for that! I just love cemeteries and the stories within them :-)

I too loved the Epitaph series...fabulous.


kuaka said...

Nice work all round, everybody!

Let me second or third the idea of entries on "epitaphs" or tombstones of the notable and not-so-notable. Have learned as much of my own family history at the elbow of an aging family member while standing over a tombstone at some cemetery or other, as by other methids. But it, of course, relies on faulty or incomplete memory and is usually fleeting if unrecorded.

Am tempted to dabble with a few tombstone, epitaphs pics I have & post entries on my blog.

Maybe it only sounds of value or useful to me, but the prospect that one day one could wander through a cemetery, key in a few search terms to a wireless device and pull up a short (or long) history or story about the entombed's life would be fun and informative. Of course, I hasten to add no one has suggested such a thing here - creating a database - but Timaru's photo database is suggestive.

Sarndra said...

Hi Kuaka

Holograms from headstones.... i read something about this a few years back...imagine that... the vandals would get to them though...what a tremendous thing for historians!

Oh, and dabble away! I'm sure we'd all love to see!