Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wooden headstones and footstones at St Peter's Cemetery, Onehunga

 Updated 19 December 2013.

The Rev. Charles B Haslewood — In the Darlington Telegraph, of April 11th, appeared the following notice of this lamented young clergyman, who was last seen on board his ship, cheering and assisting one of the sick from below to a place of comparative safety:

"Among the families most nearly connected m the loss of H. M. S. 'Orpheus,' is that of our respected townsman, Dr. Haslewood. It is with profound regret that we have to record the death of the eldest son of this gentleman, the Rev. C. B. Haslewood, MA., chaplain, and naval instructor of the ill fated vessel. These are doubtless details in the life of the deceased which, in a merely ordinary acquaintance, many of our townsmen are unaware of. We therefore give them with high satisfaction, though scarcely enhancing the sterling nature of his character to those who understood him best. The rev gentleman was a first class man in the classical, and a fourth in the mathematical tripos in the University of Durham. He also gained several scholarships, as well as the distinction of Latin prose prizeman and Fellow of the University. He served as chaplain in the Royal Navy, in H. M ships ' Pearl,' ' Royal George,' and ' Nile,' and subsequently as chaplain and naval instructor combined, in the ' Cyclops, on particular service in the Red Sea ; and, lastly, in the ' Orpheus,' on the Australian station. As an affecting reminiscence of the love with which he was regarded on board the ' Cyclops,' we may mention that he was presented with a testimonial by the petty officers and seamen on the termination of that ship's commission. For a short time previous to his appointment as chaplain, he fulfilled the parochial ministration of St Cuthbert's, in this town , and it is no slight source of consolation to his afflicted relations to be assured of the grateful esteem in which those ministrations are remembered by the humbler classes of the parishioners The rev. gentleman has left a widow to mourn his loss, and a little girl, of a year old, born, subsequently to his embarkation in the ' Orpheus,' who will, we hope, prove the instrument of an all gracious Providence in soothing and comforting her widowed years."

(SC, 23 July 1863)

"H.M. steam corvette Niger, 13 guns, Captain Cracroft, has received orders to proceed from Manukau to New Plymouth forthwith, for which place she is to embark 250 officers, non-commissioned officers, and soldiers of the 57th Regt., under the command of Major Logan. This will leave about 40 of this gallant corps behind. The 57th Regt. will parade this morning, in the Albert Barrack Square, at 8 o'clock, from whence they will march across to Onehunga, there to embark in the Niger, which will sail about 2 p.m. Commodore Seymour returns, by the same opportunity, to the seat of war. It is probable that the Niger will remain for some time off the Taranaki coast. Last week, a melancholy death by drowning took place in the person of one of the seamen of this ship named Griffith, a fine young man and a general favourite. He was assisting to anchor one of the ship's boats when he unfortunately fell overboard : it was at first supposed that he had been dragged over, and the anchor was subsequently weighed, but without effect. The body was recovered in about an hour, and interred in the Churchyard of Onehunga on Sunday last, amidst the general regrets, and followed by a large concourse of his sorrowing shipmates."
(SC, 23 February 1861)

The A.B. after his name could stand for "able seaman".

As for George Perry ... Nothing on the BDM database at all. A farmer named George Perry arrived in Auckland on the African, 1864 (SC, 6 September 1862) That's all I have to date. As a Captain of the Forecastle, George Perry, whoever he was, would have been the equivalent of a chief petty officer. But, he's "late" of the HMS Niger. Did he ceased to serve on her, and died in retirement?

(To the Editor.)
Sir, I noticed when in the Church of England cemetery, Queen Street, Onehunga, yesterday afternoon, three headstones (or headboards, I should say, perhaps, for I think they are made of kauri), erected by the men of H.M.S. Ringarooma to the memory of Rev. C. Haslewood, HMS Orpheus, drowned Manukau Heads, 7th February, 1863. This board has fallen down, rotted through at the base. James Griffiths, able seaman, HMS. Niger, drowned Manukau Harbour, 16th February, 1861, and George Perry, captain of the forecastle, HMS. Niger, 31st December, 1860.

As an old Navy man, I felt sorry that a more permanent memorial had not been erected to these men who, we feel sure, were faithful and zealous in the service of their country and Queen. These few lines I trust will catch the eye of some of the members of the Navy League and the Victoria League, which is doing such good work in looking after the old soldiers' graves, and I trust that they will be interested enough to try and raise enough money (about £15 would do it) to erect a permanent memorial to these men.

We bear a lot of talk about patriotism, and it is well to foster the true spirit of patriotism, and one way to do it is to honour the last resting place of those who have done their part to keep the dear old Union Jack flying over this part of our great Empire. —I am, etc., ANDREW MILLER. 

Auckland Star,  8 August 1913, p. 9

This bit was found by Liz Clark:

Some men of H. M.S. Ringarooma, under chief carpenter's mate, Mackenzie, paid an official visit to St. Peter's Cemetery, Onehunga, yesterday. Their object was a most commendable one., viz., to clear away bush and undergrowth from the graves of sailors who lay buried there. After removing an immense amount of rubbish, the following inscriptions were visible on the tombstones, which should be interesting: —(1) "To the memory of George Perry," late captain forecastle of H.M.s. Niger, December 31st, 1860,, aged 44. Weep not for me my comrades dear, I am not dead,' but sleeping hero; My soul lies here beneath the sod, My spirit enters rest' with God."—(2) "To James Griffiths, an able seaman, who was drowned in the Manukau Harbour, February 16th, 1861, aged 20. I was duty-called thus to attend, Which brought me to thisa sudden end, Dear friends, grieve not, but trust that I May live with God eternally." (3) "To Chaplin Hazeworth, of H.M.s. Orpheus, February 7th, 1863."

Auckland Star 1 October 1892


  1. Some of the headstones look like they was erected only yesterday, they look well looked after.

  2. I agree. They seem to be almost fake -- but they aren't. A very special set, and not something you see every day (for instance, I don't see wooden headstones for sale on your site!)

  3. I visited this churchyard earlier this year looking for graves of those lost on HMS Orpheus. My father's great uncle Arthur Mallock , midshipman, aged 18 perished on it.

    I was puzzled by the lay out of the three graves and then realised that they were headers and footers of each grave with one footer missing. On inquiry I discovered that The Navy look after the headstones, hence their beautifull condition.
    Susanne Stone nee Mallock. Pukekohe East Church Preservation Society, Franklin.

  4. Thanks very much, Susanne -- that makes sense about the header and footer pattern. Cheers for finding out why they're so well kept. I hope you find some trace of Arthur Mallock.