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Art & Heritage

Cemeteries Central Otago: trip attractions, things to see

  • 2 minutes

Kyeburn Diggings & Danseys Pass @Shellie Evans

History buffs do not forget the treasure trove of information to be read on old gravestones. The reason for the death, from drowning in fast flowing rivers, diseases such as fever or childhoold ailments banished by modern medicine.

For more odd, unusual and fascinating places to visit in New Zealand check out New Zealand attractions, things to do… and get excited about what you will find around the next corner.

Then the division of society into Christian denominations continued into the cemetery layout. Your wealth is on full display with ornate grave markers forever stating your material value. Visitors are reminded of the passing of time with grassed over graves, the fallen tombstones and the neglect of a prominent tomb a thoughtful moment. In Central Otago the prejudice against the Chinese miner is reflected in quiet unmarked graves on the fenceline.



  • Check the spelling of the name it is often an indication of literacy and position in society
  • Check place of birth and wonder how the person got to the place they died
  • Check relationships who is married to whom and the connections
  • Are they related to the deceased, if so there are probably records you can research

Central Otago District Council is an excellent online resource for cemeteries in the district. Samples of the public information are below.

Litany Street Cemetery, Cromwell, New Zealand
Litany Street Cemetery, Cromwell


Founded in 1865, Litany Street Cemetery (Old Cromwell Cemetery) is Cromwell’s first cemetery. It is located in the city of Cromwell at the corner of Litany and Ortive streets. A second cemetery was established in the early 1900’s outside the city called the Cromwell Cemetery (also known as New Cromwell Cemetery). Litany Street is the final resting place of many of Cromwell’s early pioneers, including Chinese miners. The cemetery contains many decorated gravestones of interest. Like many Central Otago cemeteries, unmarked pauper graves are known to exist in this cemetery.

An interpretation panel that lists all known persons interred on the site is a feature of this cemetery. This was an initiative of the Cromwell Lions Club who have made a point of taking an ongoing interest in this cemetery.

Litany Street Cemetery is now a closed cemetery administered and maintained by Council. It can be found on the corner of Litany and Ortive Streets in Cromwell.

Records are held at the Cromwell Service Centre.

*From Closed Cemeteries

Cromwell Cemetery, New Zealand
Cromwell Cemetery
Blacks Cemetery in Omakau, Otago, New Zealand @Find A Grave
Blacks Cemetery in Omakau, Otago @Find A Grave


This Omakau cemetery is named after the nearby Blacks gold diggings, which were on the property of an early run holder called Charles Black, near Ophir. Reading the inscriptions on the memorials would indicate that the cemetery has been used since the 1870s. Sadly, as with some other Central Otago cemeteries, early burial records have been lost to fire, and in this case a house fire in 1948. Blacks Cemetery is quite a large monumental-style cemetery on a Central Otago scale with a variety of elaborate gravestones. Blacks Cemetery is well worth a visit to gain some insight into the Irish history of this area.

Located on Deaker Street, Blacks Cemetery was administered by the Blacks Cemetery Trust and maintained by volunteers up until 2012 and has now come back into Council management.

*From Blacks Cemetery

Blacks Cemetery, New Zealand
Blacks Cemetery
Blackstone Cemetery, New Zealand
Blackstone Cemetery


Blackstone, also known as Hills Creek, is the site of the early gold rush and like Drybread, little remains of this thriving settlement except for its cemetery.

Blackstone Cemetery is located on Hills Creek Road, just off the main Highway near the turn-off to St Bathans. The Cemetery’s first burial (apparently unofficial) was recorded in 1864 for a Mr Peter Curle, who apparently died while in police lock-up. The gate entrance is also designed as a War Memorial.

*From Closed Cemeteries

Blackstone Cemetery, New Zealand @Pam Jones
Blackstone Cemetery @Pam Jones


Located in the historic township of St Bathans is this delightful church graveyard, the only example of its kind in Central Otago. While less common in New Zealand, church graveyards were once the only place for burials in the British Isles, until the public cemetery movement in the early 1800s.

This graveyard is set around the mud brick-constructed St Patrick’s Church erected in 1892 and built to replace an earlier church destroyed by a storm in the 1870s. With many of the early gold miners being of Irish descent, some are likely to have been buried in this cemetery.

This private cemetery is owned and maintained by the Catholic Diocese of Dunedin. To contact the Diocese email

*From St Bathans Cemetery

@Kyeburn Diggings Cemetery Trust
@Kyeburn Diggings Cemetery Trust


As its name implies Kyeburn Diggings, like the many settlements in the Maniototo, is derived from the early gold miners’ pursuit of gold the 1860s, followed by coal mining in Kyeburn’s case.

It is now a farming district, but once this settlement boosted a public school with up to 60 children as well as a hotel. Little now remains of this thriving mining settlement except for its cemetery sitting as a sentinel to the past on the road to Danseys Pass below the Kakanui Range.

About 129 burials are known to have occurred at Kyeburn Diggings Cemetery, but only 73 records remain. A fire in 1912 destroyed the cemetery record book. Remaining copies of the records are held in Maniototo Early Settlers Museum at Naseby and at the Ranfurly Service Centre.

The cemetery continues to be in use today and is administered and maintained by the Kyeburn Diggings Cemetery Trust. The burials and records are managed by the Trust.

*From Kyeburn Diggings Cemetery


Found near the confluence of the Manuherikia River and the Clutha Mata-au River at Alexandra and the entrance to the Roxburgh Gorge is a burial site known as the Manuherikia Cemetery (and by some locals as Graveyard Gully Cemetery.

This cemetery predates the 1868 start of the Alexandra Cemetery and is possibly one of the oldest European cemeteries in Central Otago. However it was only legally established in 1899, well after it ceased to be used.

Manuherikia Cemetery, New Zealand
Manuherikia Cemetery
Manuherikia River, New Zealand @Ingolfson
Manuherikia River @Ingolfson

Today, set behind a stacked stone wall, this small cemetery has a memorial at its heart commemorating those who lost their lives in the early part of the district’s European history. No actual graves remain today. Manuherikia Cemetery is thought to be the final resting place for some hardy miners who ventured out to claims in the rugged and unforgiving Roxburgh Gorge and the Old Women’s Range and unfortunately met a tragic end.

Manuherikia Cemetery is administered by Council.

The above material was largely sourced from Cemeteries Central Otago District Councils online public information. A superb resource for librarians, individual researchers and interested parties.

*From Council Cemeteries


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