Memorial Benches

By Julia Kennedy

Two marble seats add to the symmetrical layout of the original part of the Soldiers Cemetery. They were presented by the Women’s National Reserve (W.N.R) in 1920.

The seats were designed by Mr W Page and the marble was supplied, and design executed, by Messrs Hansford and Mills. They cost £60 each. At that time they were placed, the newspaper described the location as “being in front of the rose gardens and near each seat is a Spanish chestnut tree”.

The W.N.R was launched in August 1915 to demonstrate that in addition to a reserve of man-power, New Zealand also had a reserve of women-power. Women were invited to register their names for employment in professional and clerical fields, farming, shops, factories and domestic employment.

In 1918, at the request of the W.N.R, WCC set apart a portion of Karori Cemetery for a soldiers’ memorial cemetery.

In 1919 an offer from the W.N.R Girls’ Club was made to decorate the graves with flowers regularly, and also to plant flowers when the borders were ready. This work was continued every Saturday for several years.

Memorial bench 2022
Memorial bench inscription, 2022
Memorial bench, 2022
Soliders cemetery 1925, photo courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library ref 1/2-045825-G

Memorial Kauri

On the right hand side of the original Soliders’ area is a magnificent Kauri with a bronze plaque underneath which reads:

“Memorial Kauri Planted By Sir James Allen G.C.M.G, Armistice Day 1926, erected by W.N.R”.

Sir James addressed the crowd and said that the tree he had planted was a very small one, but as the years went by it would grow, a great kauri, symbolic of the strength, stability, and grandeur of the services of those men and nurses who gave up their lives for their country.Sir James was a prominent New Zealand politician and diplomat. He was New Zealand’s Minister of Defence during World War I and had visited all war grave cemeteries in New Zealand. We’re fortunate to have a photo from the occasion, as recorded in the Evening Post, and to see the size of the young Kauri that was planted on that day and is now nearly 100 years old.

Evening Post, 12 November 1926
Memorial Kauri, 2022
Kauri plaque, 2022

Mathew & Elsie Holmes

By Julia Kennedy

A sundial is placed on the upper slope of the right-hand side of the original Soldiers’ section. It was a gift of Mrs Holmes (Elsie), in memory of her husband Lieutenant-Colonel Holmes N.Z.M.C (Mathew).

Holmes was invalided back to New Zealand but succumbed to influenza in the 1918 pandemic.

Underground History have a wonderful post that covers his biography in detail:…/dr-mathew…

Mathew married Elsie Rawson in 1909 and they had two daughters. Elsie was an active member of the Women’s National Reserve and was president of their Soldiers’ Graves Committee, who made deputations to parliament pressing for the Soliders’ section at Karori to be realised. In 1919 she was elected president of the Soldiers Wives’ Club.

Elsie took her children to spend time in Scotland and England for the early part of the 1920s before returning to Wellington in 1924 where her “fresh ideas” were used to renew efforts to plant out the Soldiers’ section. In 1926 she was voted president of the Wellington Women’s National Reserve, during the absence of Mrs Tripp to England.

Elsie returned to live in England and in 1940 was credited with instigating the “Pigs For Victory” project from her house in Chelsea. “The idea was first started by Mrs Matthew Holmes, slim, smart, silver-haired New Zealand woman. She told me she put up a notice asking people round her to bring their scraps to her front garden”. Sufficient scraps were collected to feed 20 pigs.

“Having tackled this problem successfully Mrs Holmes turner her attention to another job. She heard that scrap metal was needed, so asked people to drop old razor blades, keys, locks, badges and brass buttons through her letterbox. Neighbours in their enthusiasm began bringing iron bedsteads. When the letterbox proved inadequate Mrs Holmes borrowed an empty house. She acquired her efficiency in the last war when she was president of the Women’s National Reserve”.

Elsie died in Wellington in 1969 aged 86, and her ashes are interred with her husband Mathew at Karori Cemetery.

Plot Public 2/I/273

Mathew Holmes memorial sundial, Services Section, Karori Cemetery
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Sundial-1024x683.jpgMathew Holmes memorial sundial, Services Section, Karori Cemetery

Elfie Williams

Elfie Clare Williams – ‘Dresden China’

By Julia Kennedy

Elfie was one of thirteen children born to Thomas Coldham Williams and his wife Annie Palmer Beetham. Thomas was the oldest born New Zealander at the time of his death in 1911.

Elfie was born in 1873 at Lansdowne, Wairarapa where her father owned shares in the station which was 2000 acres and at various times other stations: Brancepeth Estate (49,000 acres) and Annandale (15,000 acres).

Consequently she lived quite a charmed life. She began performing the piano at charitable and church events from a young age; acted as bridesmaid at many society weddings; and all of her outfits, appearances and travels were reported in the newspaper:

‘a lovely dress of palest dove grey’ ‘white silk with real lace bertha’ ‘black and pale blue corduroy stripe’ ‘pale yellow brocade and lace’.

In October 1898 the Governor General, the Earl of Ranfurly, held a fancy dress ball at Government House to celebrate the arrival of his son, Viscount Northland, who had just finished his schooling at Eton College (the Wellington suburb of Northland was named in his honour). The invitations were limited to 500 so as to ‘avoid any crushing’. A number of attendees clubbed together to procure the services of a special hairdresser from Melbourne. Elfie was among the guests. She wore a costume she called ‘White Dresden China’. Her mother went as Lady Castlewood and her sister Una went as Stephanie de Beauharnais.

In 1906 Elfie sailed to England, first class. She returned in 1909 after a stay in Switzerland.

Her parents retired to Auckland and Elfie visited Wellington often, staying with family members dotted along Hobson Street. She was the honourable secretary of the “Two Garment” society which redistributed clothing to charitable organisations and authorised “sisters” requiring clothing.

Elfie died at 53 Hobson Street (now Queen Margaret College) on 11th January 1913, ‘after a short illness’ and was interred at Karori. She is the only interment in this plot which is a double width and she is buried 9ft deep, anticipating further interments. Her mother died at Windsor, England in 1916 and is buried there. None of her siblings died in Wellington.

At her death her estate was valued at £21,000.

Plot: *Ch Eng/X/663

Photo courtesy of Auckland Libraries ref NZG-18981119-0656-05
Elfie Williams plot, courtesy of FindaGrave
Photo courtesy of Auckand Libraries ref NZG-18981119-0654-05
Photo courtesy of Auckland Libraries ref AWNS-18981118-04-02

Mary MacArthur

Midnight Tragedy In Wellington Harbour

The harbour collision of the steamer ‘Cobar’ and the launch ‘Mavis’ on 8th February 1924 resulted in the deaths of Mary Burden MacArthur and Daphne Tyree. Mary (20) and Daphne (15) lived in Alfred Street and were tailoresses in the employ of Haydon Lubransky in Newtown.

The night was dark and calm when Frederick Williams had invited a party of 14 aboard his launch at 9:30pm. The witnesses vouched the party was all sober and there was no alcohol on board. Frederick had asked them all to keep watch while he steered. There was a hurricane lamp on deck and electric light in the cabin. They were travelling at about 5 knots on their return from a visit to the Hinemoa which was lying off ‘Kaiwarra’ when the collision happened.

As they approached the boat harbour, Frederick heard a scream and looked to see the Cobar about 100 yards away and coming directly for the Mavis. He altered course but they touched the starboard quarter of the launch and the boat heeled over.

Three girls and one man fell in the water. Two were rescued from the water and Mary’s body was shortly recovered and taken aboard the Cobar. Her head was badly injured, apparently by the screw of the steamer. The Japanese war ship Yakumo came to the scene  and flooded the area with searchlights. Other boats rushed to the search also. The survivors were taken aboard the Yakumo while the search continued for Daphne to no avail.

An inquest determined that Frederick ‘committed an error of judgement in failing to give the bigger vessel clearance’.

On 25th February, part of a body was found floating near Te Aro baths, assumed to be that of Daphne’s.

Mary was buried in this unmarked plot at Karori Cemetery. Her father James died in 1951 and was cremated. Her mother died in 1952 and is in the same plot as Mary.

Plot Ch Eng 2/G/399

MacArthur plot courtesy of FindaGrave
Wellington harbour ferry Cobar taken between 1920 and 1925. Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library ref 1/2-197415-G
Photo courtesy of Auckland Libraries ref AWNS-19240221-38-01
Photo courtesy of Auckland Libraries ref AWNS-19240221-38-04

Aplin Family

Tony who is one of our fabulous volunteers uncovered this dear wee headstone during our working bee in September. Such a large plot for Alfred Oscar Aplin who died in 1902 at 4 months old.

His parents were Alfred Septimus Aplin, age 25 and his wife Ellen Ruth (nee Holmes) age 16. Ellen’s father had arrived on the ship ‘Oriental’ as a baby in 1840 and she had 12 older half siblings. She married Alfred on 18th December 1901. Alfred junior was born in June the following year.

The couple lived at Crofton where the wider Aplin family were farmers. The area is known today as Ngaio. Young Alfred died shortly after 7am on 1st October. A doctor who examined the body said it was likely the child died of convulsions. The coroner was informed but we can find no record of an inquest.

The couple went on to have six more children who all lived to adulthood. It can’t have been an easy life for Ellen. In 1936 she was found illegally in a yard drinking beer with three men who all had various aliases. All pleaded guilty and Ellen was subject to a prohibition order which she breached a month later and was fined 10s.

Alfred senior died in 1956 and Ellen in 1972. Both were cremated at Karori Cemetery.The only other burial in this plot is that of one year old Ronald Barry Aplin who died in 1942. He was Alfred and Ellen’s grandson, and a son of Maxwell & Winifred Aplin.


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Alfred Aplin headstone
Aplin Plot
Ellen Ruth Aplin nee Holmes
The Wellington suburb of Ngaio, c1900. Photo courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library reference

Richmond Family

This plot caught our eye as the headstone was placed to the side rather than head of the plot, which seemed unusual, especially in a double width plot. We presumed there were a number of burials here. But there is only one occupant of this plot: James Wilson Richmond, assistant engineer, NZ Railways.

James was born in 1865 in Nelson where his parents had fled to from the New Zealand Wars. He was the son of James Crowe Richmond and his wife Mary Smith. James senior was born in London and had trained as an engineer, working three years for Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

He came with his brother to New Zealand in 1850 before returning to England in 1854. He married Mary and returned to New Zealand in 1857. The Richmond, Hursthouse and Ronald families of New Plymouth all intermarried and became known as ‘the mob’. His sister Maria Atkinson was the first pakeha woman to climb Mt Taranaki in 1855 (she was invited along to be the cook).

James senior became a member for parliament and also the editor of the ‘Nelson Examiner’. He was  a talented artist. Mary died in 1865 having never fully recovered from the birth of James junior. Her husband was left with five children who were farmed out to various relatives.

In 1890 James first appears on the electoral roll living at Waterloo Quay and working as an engineer.  In 1897 he was assistant engineer of the Public Works Department on the West Coast before acting as District Engineer in Napier which had suffered from terrible floods. It was estimated that £40,000 would be required to repair the railway section alone including repairs to river embankments, bridges and culverts. The loss to the Hawkes Bay region was estimated to be £250,000.

He then transferred back to Wellington to the Railway Department in June 1897. In January 1898 his father died and then in April, after a week’s illness James died from peritonitis. His funeral was held on 1 May at Karori Cemetery.

He was a ‘much respected in the civil service, of which he was a faithful member’.

James died intestate and his two brothers and two sisters were the beneficiaries of his £3500 estate. Maurice was a lawyer, Anne (who married Edmond Atkinson), Dorothy Kate was an artist and Richard a dentist.

Dorothy Kate Richmond (known as Dolla) was encouraged by her father to develop her artistic skills. James senior took his eldest three children to Europe from 1873 – 1881 where Dolla studied at the Bedford College for Women in London and also the Slade School of Fine Art. She exhibited at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts from 1885. The death of her father made her financially independent and she travelled to Europe to paint. She died in 1935 and was cremated at Karori Cemetery.

Plot: *Ch Eng/O/2

Read more about the Richmond family:
James Wilson Richmond headstone
James Wilson Richmond plot

de Rose Family

It’s hard to not notice the de Rose plot as sadly the headstone has tumbled from its perch and lies in the path.

Frederick Richard de Rose was born in Bethnal Green, London in 1849. His father was a gunmaker and the de Rose family can be traced back to the seventeenth century in the east end of London. Frederick married Priscilla Grove in Adelaide in 1869, two months before the birth of their first child. Priscilla was born in Somerset, England. In 1870 they moved to Otahuhu where Frederick ran the ‘Otahuhu Bakery and General Store’. They moved to Wellington about 1878 and eventually settled in Majoribanks Street and also farmed at Taita.

Some snipets from the newspapers: in 1880 Frederick was elected an officer of the newly formed ‘Wellington Gardeners’ Mutual Improvement Society’. In 1892 he was advertising for ‘a smart, respectable boy, able to drive and used to horses’.

In 1894 he sued K. Wylie for £20 for selling him a four year old horse that turned out to be a five year old, and won the suit. He was also president of the United Dairymen’s Association.

Frederick rented stable space behind the butcher’s shop of Mr Walter Hampton in Majoribanks Street. On 11th March 1904, Walter saw Frederick return in his trap and feed the horse. He then saw Frederick lying dead on the floor of the stables with blood coming from his head. Walter moved his body so that it lay a few feet clear of the horse in the stall. The constable who was summoned later testified he did not think there was any foul play in doing this.

On 12th March at the Wellington morgue a coroner’s inquest was held. Six ‘good and lawful men of the neighbourhood’ determined Frederick came to his death by a head fracture, the result of disease of the heart.

Priscilla continued their dairy operations at Taita until 1906 when she sold up. She continued to own land in the Hutt and the property at the corner of Majoribanks and Brougham Streets.

Priscilla died in 1912 at her home in Karaka Bay. The subsequent probate lists their surviving children as Frederick James, electrical engineer at Karaka Bay; Charles Turner, warehouseman of New York; John Henry, saddler of Perth; Reuben, sheepfarmer of Koneko; Sarah wife of Joseph Lynam of Karaka Bay.

Frederick junior died in 1916 in Egypt from sickness while serving in WWI and is buried at Ismailia War Memorial Cemetery.

Plot Ch Eng/R/62

de Rose headstone
de Rose headstone in pathway
Frederick de Rose
Priscilla de Rose
Overlooking Majoribanks Street (centre) c 1895. Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library Reference
Detail image, assume the de Rose house on the corner next to the cottage,

John Blundell

The death is announced of Mr John Blundell of the “Evening Post” proprietary

John was born in Dublin where his father Henry was manager of the “Evening Mail”. The family went to Victoria in the 1860s then on to New Zealand where Henry Blundell started the “Evening Post” in 1865. It was the first daily newspaper in the country.

When Henry senior died in 1879, control of the newspaper passed to his sons John, Louis and Henry. The newspaper was later formed into a company with various members of the Blundell family sitting on the board.

The late Mr Blundell “had no taste for public life”. He was a vestryman and one of the oldest congregation members of St Peter’s church. He was a foundation member of the Wellington Bowling Club.

“Kindliness and consideration were outstanding characteristics of Mr Blundell in his business and private life”. Among his many bequests were £500 for a memorial window in St Peter’s church, £500 to WCC for a clock for the clock tower of the Town Hall and £500 to be divided among the staff members of Blundell Bros who had served more than 30 years.

John married Kathleen Willis in New Zealand in 1867. She was the daughter of James Fabian Willis, an early Wellington settler. They had seven children, two of which took over the running of the newspaper.

Ch Eng 2/D/376

The father of the Blundells, Mr John Blundell (left), Mr Louis Blundell (right), the late Mr Henry Blundell. ‘Free Lance’ 19 February 1901
Wellington Town Hall Clock Tower
Blundell plot


We have often admired this headstone for its unusual ‘drop shadow’ leadwork lettering, which seems quite modern for the era. It was a prime candidate to be cleaned. The plot fronts Church of England on the main road, if ever you are passing. Here is the Incledon family story:

Matilda Ellen Myhill was born in Deptford, Kent in 1844. Her father was William Myhill, a compositor at Lloyd’s Register. This organisation was named after a 17th-century coffee house in London that was frequented by merchants, marine underwriters, and others – all men associated with shipping.

Matilda’s first husband was Henry Hanson (a merchant’s clerk),. They married in 1865 and had four children. Her sister Emma married Henry’s brother Louis the same year. Emma & Louis emigrated to New Zealand in 1873. Henry Hanson died in 1876 and Matilda appears to have emigrated with her children to New Zealand shortly after.

Matilda then married William Henry Kingdon Incledon in Wellington in 1878, a man nine years her junior. William was born in Devon in 1853, the illegitimate child of Mary Incledon. (Was Kingdon his father’s name?). William and Matilda’s son William was born in 1878 and was the second of three successive generations named ‘William Henry Incledon’.

In 1879 William was fined 5s for removing the surface of the street in Sussex Square. In 1887 he became a licensed dealer for the Westport Coal Company. In 1889 the Kilbirnie main road contracts was transferred to him. William was also fined in 1889 for failing to stamp his weights.

In 1890 William sold his Wood & Coal business. The following year he appears to have gone farming in ‘Nainai’ and also supplied his own milk cart in Cuba Street.

In 1899 the family were living in Abel Smith Street, father and son living next door to each other and both working as dairymen. By 1902, William & Matilda were living in the Hutt and in 1905 they were living in Victoria Street, Petone. It was here that William died, aged 55. He left his estate in trust for his wife and son, but gave £50 to each of his Hanson stepchildren.

Matilda died in 1927 at her home in Laing’s Road.

Also interred in this plot with William and Matilda are their son, William Henry Incledon 1878-1940 and his wife Florence Tregigda 1877-1959; granddaughter Florence May McKenzie 1899-1944, and daughter Louisa Rosina Stevenson (nee Hanson) 1873-1952.

Plot Ch Eng/A/61