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Restoring Purewa’s historic graves

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What happens when grave memorials, constructed as a lasting memorial to a loved one, fall into disrepair?

For several years the Purewa Cemetery Trust Board has been conducting a programme of restoration and conservation of grave memorials that have collapsed. It’s a gradual task, but one that is gaining momentum as the Board has stepped up its programme utilising heavy lifting equipment to reset, repair and stabilise headstones.

Sometimes the work is carried out in collaboration with other interested parties. In late 2015, after the state of the memorial for longstanding Auckland Grammar School headmaster James William Tibbs came to light, great-grandson James (Ben) Tibbs and the Auckland Grammar School Old Boys’ Association appealed for help in its restoration.

Tibbs was headmaster from 1893 to 1922. After his death in 1924 he was buried at Purewa Cemetery, but over time the memorial had collapsed.

Fundraising began, then the project was picked up by the Purewa Trust Board which underwrote the major part of the cost of restoration.

The project was led by Trustee Murray Ward, a Grammar Old Boy and former Trust Board Chairman. The restoration work was carried out by Auckland monumental masons Jacobsen Memorials. Today the 1.5 metre high Celtic cross, restored lettering and new concreting is a fitting testament to one of Auckland’s most distinguished educationalists.

Purewa Cemetery general manager Clifton Thomson says the Trust Board is working to a plan so that when the cemetery reaches full capacity, there will be very minimal maintenance required on monuments and roading in the older historical areas of Purewa.

‘‘The Trust Board’s long term programme is aimed at leaving the grave memorials and roads in a well maintained condition. We are using experienced monumental masons for the restoration programme.

‘‘We’re gradually working our way through the older parts of the cemetery, reassembling a lot of collapsed or vandalised memorials. Currently we are tackling some of the bigger tasks, using a derrick and block-and-tackle to handle some of the heavy old headstones.

Purewa is a significant heritage site for Aucklanders, and conservation is an important part of our work.’


- Courtesy of East & Bays Courier (Fairfax Media)
Story and photos by Keith Whitten                          

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