History of Blackbridge Cemetery
1. The nearest Presbyterian Church is in Wellington City, a distance from about eight to twelve miles, at which, from the fatigues of the week, and the changeableness of the weather, we find it impracticable to give anything like a regular attendance.
2. That there are between forty and fifty, above fourteen years of age who are Presbyterians, and that number in all likelihood will shortly increase to double.
3. That we, looking forward to the rising generation, have cause to fear that they will either connect themselves with other denominations, or disavow religion altogether unless we have a minister of our own.
4. That there seems, particularly among the Scotch here, a revival of religion, coupled with a strong and earnest desire for the advantages which are enjoyed at home, under a sound Church as we consider the Free Church to be; that, in God’s ordinary dealings with his people, without the usual appointed means, this favourable state of things cannot continue long; and, on the other hand, if we became possessed with the means and instruments of grace, the spiritual wellbeing of this hitherto neglected place may revive and blossom as the rose.
5. That there has been subscribed within the last fourteen months 83 pounds sterling: with this we purchased two and a quarter acres of freehold land in the most central place at 8 pounds per acre, also removing part of the bush. We erected a substantial wooden church, capable of holding 140 of a congregation, which might be enlarged, if required, at a very small expense.
6. That were a minister to come amongst us, we would, so far as lay in our power, clear and fence the remaining part of the land, build a good house upon it as a manse, and moreover, subscribe as much as we could conscientiously afford for his maintenance . We cannot say at present what might be raised; this would depend in some measure upon circumstances, although we might calculate upon something between thirty pounds and forty pounds per annum.
7. That we have been supplied on Sabbaths since the opening of our church in September 1849 by sermons from the Rev. John Inglis, along with addresses from - ------ both of Wellington. These gentlemen have given their services until now, but they are both leaving …….. we hope that you (the Free Church of Scotland) will see it to be your clear course of duty to give us a favourable answer to our request, and send us a minister who will be a faithful husbandman in God’s husbandry – one who will rightly divide the Word amongst us. And your petitioners will ever pray.
This interesting document bears the signatures of forty-five individuals, and there is appended to each name a very minute statement of the number of the family whom it represents. A letter from Mr Inglis (dated 23d March last) furnishes additional and interesting information --
On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Presbyterian Chapel, a reporter from the Evening Post interviewed William Milne, who had been involved in the church since it’s beginning. The interview was published on 23 May 1912, and this is an extract from that interview.
In 1848 or thereabouts the Presbyterians in the Hutt District were, so it is stated, greater in number than any other recognised denomination. But they had no meeting-house then. The Wesleyans, on the other hand, had a chapel which was opened on 5 November 1845, and it was in this that all denominations worshipped. This chapel was situated on the east side of the Hutt River, on the site which is now the old Bridge Street Cemetery. At the best of times the services, as far as the Presbyterians were concerned, were very irregular. About 1850 the Rev. J. Inglis made occasional visits. "Mr. Inglis did his best to come as often as possible," said Mr William Milne, an old Taita settler who gave the writer these facts, "and when he did not come we read one of his sermons.
The transfer of the land to the trustees for the church took place in 1852, but it is obvious that the land must have been bought in 1849 at the latest.
Report 378 Claim 589
John Telford, Alex. Milne and others trustees Presbyterian Chapel Hutt 2 acres, 0 roods, 30 perches, part 35 Lower Hutt. Conveyance 10/3/1851 S. Vennell to John Telford, David McHardie, Alexander Yule, Peter Bruce, William and Alexander Milne and Robert Farmer. 27/6/1849 Robert Wainhouse to Vennell
17. 5. 0. Vennell to said parties as JOINT TENANTS 24/6/1852.
On 27th October, 1858, there is recorded in the Kirk Session’s Minute Book a list of members at that time:
Mr and Mrs William Buick Mr William Golder
Mr and Mrs Peter Bruce Mrs Gray
Mr Robert Burns Mr and Mrs Robert McCulloch
Mrs Caverhill Mrs McEwen
Mr and Mrs William Craighead Mrs McHardy
Mrs Fagan Mr and Mrs Sinclair
Mr and Mrs Alexander Farmer Mrs Speedy
Mr and Mrs George Farmer Mr and Mrs Alexander Yule
Mr and Mrs Flighty
However the first known burials did not take place until 1857, with the burials of David Speedy and Donald Couper. However, it is likely that there were earlier burials.
Firstly, the obituary for Alexander Dalgety in 1882 has the following statement:
Evening Post, 20 October 1882. Another very old settler has passed away at the ripe age of 87 years. Mr. Alexander Dalgety arrived at Wellington in the ship Arab from Bristol, England, in October, 1841, under the auspices of the New Zealand Company. By his own request, he will be interred at the Scotch Church burial-ground, of which he was one of the original purchasers, and about 33 years ago he assisted in clearing off the bush in order to make it suitable for the purpose it is now used for.
Secondly, there is the statement in the newspaper following the death of George Stratton in 1875. Evening Post, 18 November 1875. We are requested to collect a statement which has appeared elsewhere in reference to the man Stratton, who was found dying at the foot of the steps near the Hospital lately. It is not true that the body was buried without being identified by his friends. On the contrary, his friends were discovered and communicated with by the police, and by the undertaker, Mr. Brown, and his remains were interred at the Hutt, where some of his late relatives lie buried.
Two of his children pre-deceased him, as did his parents.
Stratton, Isabella 15 30 August 1865
Stratton, William 6 Wks 14 March 1873
Elizabeth Stratton died 7 Feb 1875 aged 72
Thomas Stratton died 1857 aged 73 (22 January 1857)
Over the next few decades there were 7 known burials in the 1860s, 10 in the 1870s, 26 in the 1880s, 23 in the 1890s, 4 in the first decade of the 20th century, and another 7 after 1910. Most of the later burials were permitted because people had a husband or wife already buried there.
At a meeting of the Borough Council on 7 October a report of the Department of Public Health upon the condition of the three cemeteries at the Hutt was read out. It recommended that the offer of the trustees to close the Wesleyan cemetery be accepted, that the trustees of the Presbyterian cemetery be asked to close it as a burying-ground and that the Church of England authorities should be asked to close their cemetery as a burying-ground except as to those who already have relatives buried there. After discussion it was decided to take steps to have all cemeteries in the borough closed, and to take immediate steps to procure a suitable new site for cemetery purposes. (Evening Post, 8 October 1901)
At the next meeting of the Borough Council, the Trustees of the Presbyterian cemetery notified that the Deacons' Court offered no objection, but asked that provision be made in favour of some half dozen old people who have already husband or wife buried there that they be allowed to be buried there also. This was agreed to, and a further amendment was moved with respect to the Presbyterian and St. James's cemeteries, viz., that interments be allowed as in the past, until a new cemetery be provided. This was agreed to, the recommendations of the Health Department officers notwithstanding. (Evening Post, 22 October 1901)
In the late 1940s the decision was made to remove all the headstones and bury them, leaving only lawn and trees. The one exception was the memorial stone for Rev. John Hope which is attached to the church building He died in 1892, at the young age of 33 years, having been the minister at Knox since 1890.
The names of those buried are recorded on a memorial which still stands beside a large Norfolk Pine. There was also a list made, giving year of death where known, and age at time of death. There are some errors in this list, probably because the headstones had been damaged or were hard to read.
Recently more burials have been identified through the “Papers Past” website, and these are included here. There is a strong possibility that there may be other burials of which we are unaware.
In 2002 during the process of extending Grimes Hall, new water pipes had to be installed on the western side of the church. The gravestone of Mary Thompson (nee Bruce) was unearthed at this time, (See photo left below), but was later re-buried.
In addition to the memorial stone there is a more recent memorial (see right above) which records the names of people who have had their ashes scattered or are remembered by their names being recorded.
John Gilbert Syme 3-3-1915 – 3-11-1991. Loved husband and friend to Gwen Syme
20-9-1914 – 22-2-1997. Devoted and loved wife of John.
Thank you both for your guidance and undying love to us all. You will always be remembered, loved and treasured forever in our hearts. Inserted by Barbara, John and families.
This stone has been donated by the Syme family for our brothers and sisters in Christ to use.
George Francis Belton 1907 – 1986. Loved husband of Marion May Belton 1908 – 1989. Loved parents of Lois.
Kathleen May Milne (nee Crafer) 5-12-1919 – 16-5-1998. Loved wife and mother of Douglas, Kevin Noel, Ross and Robin. At rest.
Douglas Anzac Milne 1-6-1916 – 30-3-2004. Loved husband of the late Kathleen and loving father of Douglas, Kevin, Noel and Robin.
In loving memory of Graham William Parkins 22-10-1939 – 9-12-2009. Loved husband of Barbara. Dad to Ann, Sandra Tim and Dean, Jason and Jerry. Now in the Light.
In loving memory of Mabel Leadbeater 21-4-1905 (Staffordshire) 12-5-1991 Lower Hutt. Much loved mother of Ken and Muriel. Grandmother of Heather, Iain, Sandy and families.
Lionel James Voice B.E.M 13-3-1911 – 9-7-1997. He was a man of great vision and inspiration. Missed by so many.
Ian Hutchison Fyfe 25-4-1944- 15-4-2020 Loved husband of Jewel. Over many years he cared for this cemetery
In addition to the two memorials there is a stone set into the western side of the church which reads:
Erected by the congregation and friends of the Rev. John Walter Hope, M.A. Late minister of Knox Church, ordained 28th April 1890. Died 28th June 1892. Thy day was short, thy work is done, Now rest thee well, thy course is done. Yea rest in God – that blest employ, Whose work is rest and endless joy.