News | 20 October 2023
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Friday Five: Crime and Punishment at the Bolton Street Cemetery

The Bolton Street Cemetery is full of history, but not many people know of the interesting stories behind some of the people buried there. Let’s take a look at some of the law keepers, law-breakers and gaolers at the cemetery.

Graves at Bolton Street Cemetery with daffodils at the front.

1. William Vitruvius Brewer (1812-1844)

Brewer was a lawyer who took part in a duel with another lawyer, Hugh Cokely ROSS, after an angry argument. He was wounded on 28 February 1844, and died four days later on 4 March 1844, and is now known as the first man to be killed in a duel in New Zealand. He has an unmarked grave in the Anglican section.

Interestingly, a man named Arthur MacDonogh was buried in the same cemetery. MacDonogh was a police magistrate in 1844, who was married to Annie Eliza Ross, who was daughter of the lawyer who wounded William Brewer in the duel. MacDonogh then used that same duelling pistol to kill himself on 26 October 1852, aged 40. Annie died in 1896, aged 74. The relocated headstone can be found on the Carr Path, in the lower cemetery.

2. Henry Halse (1820-1888)

Halse was a judge of the Native Land Court. He arrived in New Plymouth in 1841 and began farming, but in 1846 he entered the civil service, becoming a licensed interpreter. He married Mary Ann Shaw (1831-1894), who had also arrived on 'Amelia Thompson' with her parents. He was a Māori scholar and is buried in the family plot in the upper cemetery.

3. Thomas Hawkings (1849-1889)

Hawkings was a settler living on the northern side of Kaiwharawhara with his wife Mary and nine children. On his way home from town by horse and cart on 31 May 1889, he was attacked, shot at and stabbed several times, and died instantly. The funeral was on 3 June 1889, and his headstone on Chapel Walk states that he was murdered. A neighbour, Louis Chemis, was convicted of the murder of Thomas Hawkings in 1889. He was much later pardoned, but he committed suicide after his release after a long period of imprisonment. 

4. Tama Raihi (aged 24) 

Raihi was a married man who was never brought to trial. He was one of the non-violent followers of Te Whiti o Rongomai at Parihaki, Taranaki, who took part in ploughing settlers' farms as a peaceful protest against Pākehā settlement. One of the hundreds subsequently arrested and taken to Mount Cook Barracks in Wellington after the end of June 1879, Raihi was too ill to be included in those moved on to South Island prisons on 7 January 1880. He died in gaol (jail) on 6 April 1880, a "lingering death" caused by "dropsy, tubercular lungs and ulceration of the bowels".

5. George Bent

Bent was convicted of sheep-stealing and sentenced to 10 years in Wellington Gaol. He died in prison on Friday 19 July 1872. After an autopsy (which found no suspicious circumstances), he was buried in the cemetery on Saturday 20 July 1872 in an unmarked grave.

The Governor of Wellington Gaol for 25 years, Micaiah Read, can also be found at Bolton Street Cemetery. He was born 18 March 1820, died aged 70, and his relocated headstone is on Friends Path, in the upper cemetery.

Find out more about interesting people buried at the Bolton Street Cemetery through the Wellington Heritage Festival 2023, which runs from 23 October to 5 November, and includes a variety of events to suit different interests, availabilities, abilities, and locations.  

More information about the various cemeteries in the Wellington region can be found on the Wellington City Council website, and the Bolton Street Cemetery website.