– Linwood Cemetery, Butterfield Avenue, Canterbury, New Zealand

Linwood Cemetery had little damage after the September earthquake. We were relieved but it also lulled us into a sense of security. The February quake was a different matter. Many headstones fell and cement pads of plots cracked. Only a few of the 17,500 grave plots had liquifaction. The damage was vast and random. No pattern of the damage appears from the ground.

For moral support, the Trustees of the Friends of Linwood Cemetery Trust, walked through Linwood Cemetery as a group on Saturday 19th March instead of our scheduled Working Bee. The damage was considerable, looking at the glass half full; not as bad as it could have been. We have lost a lot of obelisks, tall monuments and the ‘Kerr angel’, but the Peacock vault is still standing though we have no idea of its condition behind the plywood boarding. There are at least three moderate sized areas of liquifaction. Sadly some grafitti has also arrived, giving a sense of defilement and adding to the disappointment.

Many headstones have fallen against other headstones knocking them over in a way that has severely smashed them. Even recently restored headstones have been thrown off their pins with the ‘trampoline effect’, showing how violent the quake was. Parts of tall monuments have landed metres away from their plot. It’s a disheartening, overwhelming mess. There is a real risk of people moving broken stones either off the cemetery or to put them back where they think they should go so we are trying to photograph as much as we can whilst getting our personal lives back together.

We continued to get quite severe aftershocks for some time. The new lime-chipped paths also cracked, indicating that the sandy land is probably quite unstable. Visitors to all the cemeteries in the city centre and eastern suburbs we requested to be extremely cautious, only making essential visits. There are still some precarious monuments, the movement of which defies belief (see our website for photos). It will take some time for these to be made safe by the City Council.

There was quite a lot of discussion about how the Trust goes ahead in the future to preserve this wonderful heritage space, though we were frustrated by the holding up of our activity – yet again. We are prepared for the availability of funding for our work to be a very low priority.

We do our best to keep posting updates on our website (www.linwoodcemetery.org.nz) and respond to people with ancestors in the cemeteries information about individual plots.

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