Quakers Acre Cemetery

Contents

The Society of Friends

Members of the Society of Friends, although few, were valued in the early settlement period of Nelson for their concern for the welfare of Maori people and abhorrence of the use of force against them. They were a pacifist, egalitarian group and supported the establishment of churches and schools of all denominations. Early Nelson Quakers Frederick Tuckett and John Cotterell were both involved in the 1843 Wairau Affray where they refused to fight or bear arms; Tuckett escaped but Cotterell surrendered and died; his grave can be found at Tua Marina, and that of fellow Quaker and surveyor Samuel Stephens at Fairfield Park cemetery. Isaac Hill is buried in the Baptist section of Wakapuaka Cemetery.

Isaac Mason Hill 1816-1885
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Although few in number, Isaac Hill treasured the company of his fellow Quakers at the early meetings held in Nelson at the home of Martha and Samuel Strong home. “I must acknowledge sitting in silence though with only a few to be a great privilege, and so all will find it who are absent from large meetings”.1

The Society of Friends now meets every Sunday in Nelson at its place of worship, 30 Nile Street.

Quakers Acre

Quakers Acre, which was once known as Town Acre 667, marks the site of New Zealand's first Quaker Meeting House. The land is technically a cemetery, and therefore it remained undeveloped. It was opened as a Quiet Garden in 2008.

Martha (d.1875)  and Samuel (d.1854) Strong are buried in the top corner of the garden.  Both were early members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) and attended worship in New Zealand’s first Quaker Meeting House on Town Acre 667, built 15 May 1853. Martha was unwell at this time and the following year she died and was buried here. Samuel Strong is buried beside his wife. Two infant children of Isaac Hill are also buried here, one named Samuel Tertius, the other name unknown.

The cottage of John Sylvanus Cotterell which became the Quaker Meeting House, sketched by a visiting member of the Society of Friends in 1853.
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The Strongs arrived in New Zealand on the ship Bombay in December 1842. They were keen members of the Quaker faith and for a time held regular meetings in their own home. Other Nelson Quakers included surveyors Samuel Stephens, John Cotterell and Frederick Tuckett, and storekeeper Isaac Hill. It was Cotterell who selected Town Acre 667 in 1842 from the New Zealand Company but died the next year. Two English Quakers, Robert Lindsay and Frederick Mackie, purchased the acre from Cotterell’s heir and established the Meeting House in the small cottage that was on the site.

It is thought that meetings were not held here on a regular basis after the death of Samuel Strong in 1875. The land was leased to timber merchant Henry Baigent in 1884 and used as a horse paddock. In 1922 parliamentary authority was obtained to sell most of the acre for subdivision, except 17.5 perches which included the graves and the site of the Meeting House. The Nelson City Council took over the maintenance of  the property in 1934.

In 2005 Grace Sutherland, a member of the Quakers, visited the site and, finding it badly neglected, decided to try and recreate the space as a quiet garden in the city. The community had pictures of the original site, showing the cottage, hanging in their present-day meeting house in Nile St. The Friends and Nelson City Council - guardians of the land - agreed to support Grace and her idea, and the area was tidied up, bench seats were installed and a garden was created. The seating area is meant to be a representation of the original rectangular cottage.

Trees

At the time the Meeting House was first established here, the Society applied to the government for funding under a ‘support for establishment of denominations grants’. The Society did not qualify, due to its small number of members, but the government did provide prison labour to clear the property; it is recorded that native trees and shrubs were planted although none from this era survive today.

Today an old yew Taxus baccata, stands at the front of the grave. In England, yew trees have been a traditional tree for planting in church yards and beside graves. The yew provided timber to make bows, cross bows and long bows.

The information in this story is edited from the text of the heritage information panel at Quakers Acre, prepared 2009

Nelson Cemeteries (a timeline)
  • 1840s - 1868 - Haven Cemetery - Malcolm Place, The Cliffs.
  • 1854 - 1875 - Quakers Acre - Rutherford Street.
  • 1840s - 1885 - Hallowell Cemetery - Shelbourne Street.
  • 1851 - 1910 - Trafalgar Street Cemetery (Fairfield Park).
  • 1861 - Present Day (limited burials)Wakapuaka Cemetery.
  • 1960 - Present Day - Hira Cemetery (Family and local resident burials); Seaview Cemetery, Stoke.
  • 1956 - Present Day - Marsden Valley Cemetery

 

Sources used in this story

  1.  Isaac Hill, Diary, 2 October 1843. 

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