Karori Cemetery buildings earthquake strengthening and cremator renewal

The Karori Cemetery chapels and crematorium were earthquake strengthened from March to October 2016, as part of the Council's programme to make Wellington stronger and safer.

Small chapel content
The Karori Cemetery chapel has been earthquake strengthened

Strengthening the small chapel work plan included maintenance to further preserve and protect this heritage building and improve the crematorium. Other buildings strengthened were the main chapel and the cemetery staff's mess room.

We also take this opportunity to replace the cremator unit, as it was near the end of its serviceable life.

Stainglass 2
The stained glass windows were designed and built in the An Tur Gloine (Tower of Glass) factory in Dublin

It carries out about 250 cremations a year – during the work, cremations were carried out by other local operators.

The small chapel was designed by noted Wellington architect John Sidney Swan and also opened in 1909.

There are seven stained glass windows in the small chapel, six of them were designed and built in the An Tur Gloine (Tower of Glass) factory in Dublin. The windows were made by artists Wilhelmina Geddes, Michael Healy and Hubert McGoldrick between 1914-1939.

The windows were commissioned by an English-born Wellington resident, William Ferguson, in memory of his family. The seventh window was a more recent addition, installed in 1990 in memory of John Marten Butt. 

The windows were restored by Stewart Stained Glass Ltd of Rangiora.

Chapel interior
The small chapel was designed by noted Wellington architect John Sidney Swan

Work plan

The crematorium was closed while the strengthening work on the small chapel and the cremator renewal was done.
Key work involved:

  • Earthquake strengthening the small chapel, crematorium, main chapel, and mess room.
  • Removing and restoring the seven stained-glass windows in the small chapel.
  • Installing the new cremator.
  • Accessibility and fire protection improvements.
Stainglass 3
There are seven stained glass windows in the small chapel

Relocation of urns

While work happened in the small chapel, access to the marble niche walls and the niche cabinets was restricted.

Due to the nature of the seismic strengthening work being carried out on the small chapel, we needed to relocate a number of ash urns from inside the niche cabinets in the small chapel. These were stored in a secure facility within the cemetery and reinstated when the work was finished. 

Stainglass window 1
The stained glass windows were removed and restored

Time frame

The removal and restoration of the stained glass windows started in January. Strengthening work started March 29 2016, and was completed October 2016.


Karori Cemetery was established in 1891 and is New Zealand's second largest burial ground, covering nearly 40 hectares. The crematorium was New Zealand's first crematorium opening in 1909, and is the oldest in Australasia.

Stained glass window restoration process

Stained glass window restoration involves the following processes: The black coating is monochromatic paint, kiln fired on to the glass to create the details that you see on the white canvas. A chemical is applied to break down the linseed oil that seals the original lead and glass, to allow the dismantling of the composition without any damage. The glass is then free to be cleaned completely.

Wherever possible, glass pieces that are broken are retained almost entirely, and once cleaned, are put together with special adhesive and a thin clear glass back plate, to act as a splint. Any non-salvageable pieces of glass are replaced if possible with matching coloured glass from a broad selection of antique, mouth-blown glass in stock at the studio, or new glass put carefully and expertly together to match the lost element. Non-salvageable usually means that the glass segment is not by the original artist and a poor copy.

More information

Carlos Gonzales, Project Manager
Email: Carlos.gonzales@wcc.govt.nz 
Phone: 04 499 4444   

For Cemeteries information: 
Elizabeth Reddington, Cemeteries Manager
Email: Elizabeth.Reddington@wcc.govt.nz
Phone: 04 499 4444