Quake topples Woodville headstones

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 09:53 27/01/2014
Gravestones
WARWICK SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

TOPPLED: Woodville's historic cemetery now has toppled and broken headstones following the region's 6.2 magnitude earthquake.

Gravestone
WARWICK SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ
EDGING CLOSER: A damaged headstone in the graveyard.

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The headstones of Woodville's founding fathers are crumbling away after the Wellington Anniversary Day earthquake.

Buildings across the wider Manawatu region swayed and some structures toppled in last Monday's 6.2 magnitude earthquake.

New reports from residents in Tararua have added more to the list of damage, including in graveyards.

Woodville's Old Gorge Cemetery, near the western entrance of the Tararua township, has been "destroyed" by the shake, according to visitors.

The cemetery features more than 1600 plots of pioneers, notable personalities and early settlers of Woodville and New Zealand, with some graves bearing elaborate marble monuments and others small stone markers.

Feilding woman Rose Finnigan's family - including her grandparents, mother and aunties and uncles - are buried at the cemetery.

On a visit yesterday, she counted more than 50 headstones knocked off their perch, some lying in pieces on the ground.

At least 20 per cent of those that had crumbled were beyond repair, she said.

Another 30 headstones looked on shaky ground, with cracks in the cement casings, splits in the solid-concrete interment chambers and pillars perched precariously on plinths.

The ground had also subsided in some spots, with slips visible on the graveyard's grassy knolls.

Mrs Finnigan's last visit before the earthquake was two weeks ago but since returning yesterday she said the graveyard looked destroyed.

"I was shocked when I saw it; it's heartbreaking. There's a lot of history in that cemetery, they're our pioneers."

Mrs Finnigan is a descendant of missionary Charles Frederick Baker, who had a hand in the formation of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Generations of Bakers were buried in Woodville, she said.

Ian Bailey, a co-ordinator of the Friends of the Old Gorge Cemetery group - a circle of historians who run tours of the cemetery and who keep the graveyard in good condition - said the damage was disappointing.

The group would begin fundraising to restore the toppled headstones.

The Earthquake Commission has received more than 1300 claims relating to the quake, more than 250 of them from Tararua.

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- Manawatu Standard

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