Fairfield Graveyard


The Fairfield graveyard, along with the popular Fairfield house was for a long time thought to be haunted (as are most graveyards).

Nelson CemeteriesNelson Cemeteries. Nelson City Council
Click image to enlarge

On 21 January 2007 a paranormal investigator team came to inspect both Fairfield House and graveyard for ghostly activity. Some people have said that they have witnessed the appearances of a transparent woman walking around and appearing in their dreams. However, few results were found that proved Fairfield House and Park were truly haunted.

Fairfield graveyard has had over 78 people buried on its land from 1851.  The first person to be laid to rest is unknown, as many of the earlier gravestones are damaged, faded or unmarked and, in some cases, have been relocated to other cemeteries. Damaged graves were relocated to the Rhododendron Dell in Fairfield Park in August 1948, but some more recently damaged headstones, whether by time and mother nature or vandalism, still remain in the graveyard.

The land now known as "Fairfield Park" was originally Reserve D, when it was marked on the town plan in 1842 by chief surveyor Frederick Tuckett. The land was to be used for "Military Stations",  such as barracks and a parade ground.   Once streets began to be named debates grew about the naming of Reserve D,  and it was then christened Copenhagen Mount, after a battle involving Lord Nelson.  The cemetery was quickly renamed Trafalgar St. Cemetery and is sometimes referred to as Trafalgar Street South Cemetery.   This cemetery became the preferred choice for the deceased residents of Nelson, rather than Reserve B, which in later years became Hallowell Cemetery

A group of trustees was given the task of dividing up Reserve D into different sections -  for Roman Catholics, Church of England and the "general public" . There was one very confused case involving these sections. A young Roman Catholic man named Mr. Otterson, who had come from overseas to stay in Nelson but had died at the age of 17, was to have been buried on the Roman Catholic section, however Mr. Otterson's parents were Protestant and so a debate began. This was quickly resolved under the terms that Mr. Otterson was to be buried on the dividing line between the Roman Catholics and the Protestants, so as to please all.  

Nelson SouthBurton Bros. (1880's). Nelson South, showing Reserve D and the cemetery. Nelson Provincial Museum
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Once the Wakapuaka Cemetery opened in 1861 only close family members could be buried in Trafalgar St. Cemetery. On January 1 1910 the cemetery was closed completely by the Nelson City Council.   In some cases a family member's grave was moved,  despite the rest of the family being buried  in the Trafalgar St. Cemetery. This happened to  the daughter of James Palmer Black. James Palmer Black was buried on the 29 October 1889 after living in  New Zealand for 38 years. He was buried with his late wife Joan who died in 1861. Their first child, a daughter named Jessie Black, was buried with her parents (dates unknown) but was then transferred to Wakapuaka Cemetery on the 25 August 1917 for reasons unknown.

In later years the Trafalgar St. Cemetery was renamed Fairfield Cemetery by the Nelson Historical Society, because of the cemetery's close proximity to the public Fairfield House.

Anastasia Byrne, Nelson College for Girls, 2009

Additional information from the Nelson City Council Heritage Plaque at Fairfield Park

(text by Janet Bathgate)

Copenhagen Mount
Reserve D, a parcel of land marked on the 1842 Plan of the Town of Nelson by chief surveyor Frederick Tuckett, is now Fairfield Park. The six acre reserve was set aside for "military stations" - for barracks and a parade ground. Hot debate amongst the newly appointed street-naming committee occurred when the majority christened it Copenhagen Mount after one of Lord Nelson's battles. Possibly, some people felt uncomfortable with a recollection of a battle that was fought against a country with which Britain was technically not at war.

Trafalgar Street Cemetery 1851-1910
In late 1851 it was decided Reserve D, what was Copenhagen Mount, would be more suitable for a cemetery than Hallowell  (Reserve B - the cemetery today accessed from Shelbourne Street) and the name Copenhagen Mount was quickly replaced by the Trafalgar Street Cemetery (and sometimes referred to in records as Trafalgar St South Cemetery).

Three roods of Reserve D, under the control of a group of trustees, were set aside for Roman Catholic burials. There were separate sections, two acres one rood, for Church of England burials and a "general public cemetery for the burial of all persons of all classes and denominations without the imposition of any sectarian creed." After the Wakapuaka Cemetery was opened in 1861, burials of close relatives were still permitted here but the cemetery was completely closed on January 1, 1910 and the land vested in the City Council.

Fairfield Park
The name "Fairfield" was given to the Park in 1963 at the suggestion of the Nelson Historical Society, because of the close proximity of Fairfield house, the early home of the Atkinson family. Together Fairfield Park, Fairfield house and also Melrose house make for a fine historic parkland precinct on upper Trafalgar Street. Fairfield house is open to the public and tree-top views from the reconstructed observatory tower are well worth the climb.

For information about the graves and the people buried in them, see the the Graves of Fairfield Park.


Updated April 2020

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  • Item #4: should read Robert Shallcrass had a son who died of diptheria aged 11.5 months (not years) a second son is also buried in the plot, he also died of diptheria aged 3 years. Ed. We will amend this.

    Posted by E Grindlay, 09/03/2014 8:43pm (10 years ago)

  • Item 5 says Thomas Black. Are you sure that is correct? I am of the opinion it should be Blick. Ed. You are correct. A scanning error, now amended. Thank you

    Posted by A Robinson, ()

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Further sources - Fairfield Graveyard


  • Broad, L. (1892) The Jubilee History of Nelson: From 1842 to 1892.  Wellington, N.Z.: Bond, Finney, and Co., p. 21



  • Nelson City Council Heritage Plaque : Copenhagen to Fairfield [sited at Fairfield Park, text by Janet Bathgate]

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