Our community, its past, present and future, is determined by its people. Before us went generations who built the town and created its character.

As part of Heritage Month, historian Kyle Dalton will talk about those people and show us around their final resting place, the cemetery in Heads Rd.

"We haven't had a Heads Rd Cemetery tour since Wendy Pettigrew passed away," says Kyle.

"She wrote the tour: that was her baby. So she took the tours and she did most of the work for the council's Heritage Report and Heritage New Zealand. She was very diligent."


Now Kyle has taken on the job and added his own knowledge and perspective.

"We're going to look at the history of the site for a start. It's on the 1842 map.

"There are three areas of the graveyard: the general cemetery, the Catholic and the Jewish cemeteries."

While the Jewish graves have remained undisturbed, damage to the headstones has meant they have been removed and the Jewish dead are now remembered in a single representative memorial stone.

Kyle says they'll look at the name changes the cemetery has undergone – originally the Sand Hills Cemetery.

"It doesn't become the Heads Rd Cemetery at least until the 1870s because there was no Heads Rd before that."

Kyle will also talk about the cemeteries that used to be in churchyards around town, including Victoria Ave.

"It's not until the 1880s that they get exhumed from the Avenue and transplanted."


He explains why that came about and it pertains to military history.

"We'll be looking at some of the significant gravestones – Reverend Richard Taylor, John Balance – some of the interesting stories … looking at the mortuary … some of our street names are buried in there too."

Kyle knows about the paupers' graves and the unmarked graves of soldiers' children.

A walk around the headstones reveals names we are familiar with and many families still prominent in the town today. There are small, modest headstones for people we regard as illustrious, and huge memorials to people we may not have heard of.

Many graves lie unmarked and many have had their inscriptions erased by time and weather.

Part of the story is the different materials used for headstones, how some have endured and others haven't, and why such choices were made in the first place.


There will be sad stories and a few comical ones as Kyle leads tour groups around the cemetery.

Heads Rd Cemetery Walking Tours are on Sunday, October 4 at 10am and Wednesday, October 7 at 6pm. Tickets are $15 from the i-Site.