Historic site: Pauatahanui Burial Ground and Rose Project

"What man is, only his history tells."

- Wilhelm Dilthey


Pauatahanui Burial Ground

Below is an account of the history of the Pauatahanui Burial Ground. If you are looking for a record of the names of people buried here or for information about searching for genealogy records, have a look on our Cemetery page.

Image of Pauatahanui Burial Ground.
Pauatahanui Burial Ground.
St Alban's spire can be seen in left background.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref CD 21 Film 72 72_1.
Image of Pauatahanui Burial Ground, December 2011.
Pauatahanui Burial Ground, December 2011. Similar location to photo above.
Taken by Dale Hartle.

Thomas Hollis Stace donated land for a chapel and burial ground

When Thomas Hollis Stace donated land to build a small Protestant chapel and establish a burial ground, he also set up a trust to administer the land and included in the Trust Deed the right of his family and descendants to a family plot in perpetuity.

Stace conveyed the land by a deed of trust to William Bromley, Edward Bolton, Thomas Hollis Stace, William Jones and James Mitchell on specified trusts for the following purposes:

  • to permit a chapel to be built on the land for religious worship by the Protestant denomination; and
  • to permit the chapel to be used as a schoolhouse for the education of children of the neighbourhood; and
  • to permit the land to be used as a public burial ground.

The Deed of Trust also provided that Thomas Hollis Stace and his heirs and assigns had the exclusive right to use a part of the Burial Ground as a family plot (the Stace Plot). On 9 July 1887, the trustees of the Burial ground amended the Deed of Trust to correct the legal description of the Burial Ground and Stace Plot.

The first interment

The first known interment in the Burial Ground was that of Maria Bradey, aged 26, in May 1860. She was the daughter of Francis Bradey, a member of one of the well-known pioneer families in the district. Maria's grave is close to that of her brother and sister-in-law, Frederick and Agnes Mary Bradey, whose graves are near the entrance to the burial ground and are marked by a white marble angel. Maria's grave is enclosed in the wooden picket fence to the right of the angel.

Old image of Grave of Helen Walker died 1897, 100 years old.
Grave of Helen Walker died 1897, 100 years old.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref D.1c.9.

There are 200 individuals named on the headstones. The public cemetery has always been inter-denominational as was the first chapel on the site and is the final resting place for many of the area's earliest settlers, including Bradey, Flighty, Jones, Judge, Gray and Harris family members. Notable burials include William Blackey who built the chapel, Sarah-Ann Jones, the first European women immigrant to step ashore in Petone in 1840, Helen Walker whose husband farmed the Ngati Toa Domain land and who died in 1897 aged 100, two brothers who were tragically drowned crossing the bar to Porirua Harbour in 1928, and children, often several to a family, who died in infancy. For a list of names of those buried at this cemetery click here.

The cemetery continued to service the community even after the chapel had closed its doors, but by the 1930s only a few vacant plots remained. At that time, land around St. Alban's was consecrated for burial.

Management of the cemetery

As with other cemeteries the Burial Ground was subject to enactments dealing with burial and cremation including the Cemeteries Act 1882 and the Cemeteries Act 1908.

Managers of the Burial Ground were later appointed by the Minister of Health under the Burial and Cremation Act 1964. Up to the time of the proposed Porirua City Council (Pauatahanui Burial Ground) Bill the Burial Ground was still owned by Messrs Brady, Tregurtha and Button.

Over time, all the trustees died, and the Trust Deed became outdated. In the late 1990s, the Pauatahanui Residents' Association became concerned that the lack of a legal owner of the Burial Ground was contributing to the decay of the site. The Association convinced the Porirua City Council to agree to become the legal owner and to fund and manage the Burial Ground. This initiative eventually resulted in the introduction into Parliament of the Porirua City Council (Pauatahanui Burial Ground) Bill in July 2007.

Meanwhile the Council set up and supports the Pauatahanui Burial Ground Management Committee, which comprises representatives of the Heritage Rose Group, Stace Family, Pauatahanui Residents' Association, St. Alban's Church and the Council. Its activities cover physical maintenance, heritage roses, preservation and conservation, genealogical and historical research, records, publicity, documentation, and liaison with other groups. The Pauatahanui Burial Ground Bill was passed and became law on 23 October 2007.

Pauatahanui Burial Ground Rose Project


Image of historic Stanwell Perpetual rose.
Image of historic Stanwell Perpetual rose.


The project to clear the overgrown and neglected Burial Ground site adjacent to the Historic Church of St Albans and to plant Historic Roses was the vision of 5 Pauatahanui women in 1991. With the help of friends and families, the first area was ready for planting in 1992. The bulk of the roses were grown from cuttings, but some were donated. Advice was given by the then Custodian of the roses at the Bolton Street Cemetery, Wellington. Over the years a notable collection has been built up of mainly older varieties which survive with very little attention in an exposed position.

Working parties are held several times a year with local residents and members of Wellington Heritage Roses and the Mana Branch of the Wellington Rose Society, taking part. The project is one of the longest running of the Keep Porirua Beautiful organisation. Many volunteers have received Keep Porirua Beautiful awards for their work in the Burial Ground. Renowned rose experts have visited the site and the project has been widely acclaimed within New Zealand and abroad.

The early settlers to New Zealand brought rose cuttings and seeds with them on the long voyages from Britain for their gardens and when a family member died they often planted a rose by their grave. Some roses found growing in the Burial Ground are believed to be from original plantings and these are considered "living history". Roses have been rescued from historic sites and local roadsides where they are in danger of being destroyed by development or weed killing. Volunteers are mindful of the rural setting and have attempted to keep the planting informal and not contrived and in keeping with the history of the area.

The best time to visit the Burial Ground is from late October, November and December for peak flowering, but roses can be found flowering for many months of the year.


Historic roses receive national recognition

Heritage Roses New Zealand Inc. has recognised the Pauatahanui Burial Ground's roses as a nationally significant planting of historic roses.

On Friday 5 December 2014, Project co-ordinator Rosemary Patterson, who began the restoration with four other local women 23 years ago, along with Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett, were on hand to receive an award and citation from Heritage Roses New Zealand President Sally Allison.

The burial ground was nominated for the award by Judith Soja, a member of Heritage Roses New Zealand, to recognise the rose collection, acknowledge the vision and work of Rosemary and her volunteers, as well as the Council's on-going commitment and contribution to the preservation of the burial ground and rose collection.

Heritage Roses award presentation.
From left: Sally Allison, Rosemary Patterson, Judith Soja, Mayor Nick Leggett.

Heritage Roses NZ Plaque.
Heritage Roses NZ Inc. plaque which was presented on 5 December, and now adorns the entrance wall at the burial ground.