As the sun sets at the end of another day, some of early Napier's most notable figures - holding some of the city's richest history - lie atop Napier Hill at the old cemetery.

MTG Curator Social History Gail Pope first visited the cemetery about 25 years ago while still at university, "I was so impressed with who was buried here and I thought what an amazing taonga Napier has".

A taonga which Mrs Pope shares - by day - by revealing tragic tales of how many met their end.

Stories of everything from massacres, to shark attacks.


"Her arm had been badly burned as a child, it had never healed and it was badly deformed."

Mrs Pope tells the story of Mary Mansfield.

She was buried as a teenager at the Napier Cemetery in the 1800s - her story embodies the plight of many at the time.

All of their stories remembered at the site they call the Paupers Grave, an area of the cemetery designated by Napier City Council to those who were less fortunate.

Napier resident Jake Brookie calls the cemetery an "amazing spot".

"It tells the story of a Napier that used to be, it was swamps, it was hardships, it was very little communication and it's one of the few tangible connections of what life was like back then and it's wonderful to have that brought to life."

Records from the time were destroyed in the 1931 Napier earthquake - making the tour a unique history lesson about the way Napier was - taught through headstones that have stood the test of time.

"We just worked and worked on finding out about the lives of people who have probably been forgotten and to keep doing that is wonderful and is bringing people into this place and letting them share what a beautiful place it is," Mrs Pope says.

Brenda Wheatley of Hastings took the tour in hope of discovering the grave of relatives.

"When Gail was talking about that unmarked grave as a Mary Mansfield, that's the surname that I'm looking for."

Brenda Wheatley says the tour has inspired her to continue her search for her long lost relatives.

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