Topic: The Tramway into Linwood Cemetery

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A brief article on the "Corporation Tramway" that goes into Linwood Cemetery and the tram hearse.

Installing a light tramway from the city centre to Linwood Cemetery was included in the plan from the outset (ref; The Lyttleton Times, 27 Nov 1886, p. 6.).  In March 1884, the Council approved the construction of a tramway to the cemetery.  It was mooted that the tramway would start from the corner of Cashel and High Streets and then turn eastward to the new cemetery.  The cost of the two and one half miles of line was estimated at 5,069 pounds and 10 shillings which included three cars and a shed.  The line was to be let to the cemetery for the sum of 400 pounds per annum.  It was also noted that as 300 graves were formed annually at Barbadoes Street Cemetery, the same average might be expected at Linwood Cemetery.  On this calculation the Council expected that the new cemetery would provide an annual return of 7.5% on the total cost of the cemetery for the first two years.  In fact it took 5 years until 300 people had been buried in total and until 1898 when over 300 were buried in a year. From 1921 the numbers trailed off slowly as people began to be buried in Bromley Cemetery.

The cost of providing cemeteries was a very real one.  The Addington Cemetery formed in 1858 had struggled to be financially viable.  The Council debated the reality of the cost of providing a public transport system from the city to the cemetery.  Councillors considered that the building of a tramway in one street only for a sole purpose was not the role of the city and it was mooted that the tramway could make a considerable saving if  " might be effected by having a cheap and efficient means of conveying refuse and night soil out of the city." So the tramway into the cemetery was justified as a means to link passengers by a 200m walk to the Linwood-end of the New Brighton Line at 'The Junction' (now the corner of Rudds Rd and Coulter St) and overnight take rubbish and night-soil to the Council's Sandihills 'rubbish tip', the entrance of which was on what is now Rudds Rd.

A tram-line, the ‘Corporation line’, or ‘cemetery tramway’, was indeed established. About 5km (over 3 miles) long, the line began at the Council's Yard in Oxford Terrace (now the site of the Scott statue) and went up the length of Worcester St - via the north side of Cathedral Square - to Canal Reserve (now Linwood Avenue) along Buckleys Rd and into Cemetery Rd (now Butterfield Ave) terminating in Linwood Cemetery. Evidence of the old tram lines can still be seen in the undulating surface of the tar-sealed road that leads north through the cemetery from the Butterfield Avenue car park.

The original tramlines showing through the main metalled road in the cemetery (April 2010)

Victorian funerals were, as they are today, an expensive exercise - the cost of mourning coaches, plumed horses, appropriate clothing and funeral staff weighing heavily on the less well off.  The tramway proposal was considered to be an answer to relieve some of this financial burden. (Linwood Cemetery Conservation Plan, February 2006.) In 1885, one year after Linwood Cemetery had opened, and only about 40 people had been buried in the cemetery (there are now approximately 20,000 people interred), a tramway funeral hearse was commissioned by the City Council to reduce the price of funerals for those on a low income.
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The tramway hearse had elliptical plate-glass windows and fine wood paneling (likely to have been Kauri like the Boon Company carriages of the era). It was designed to take 4 caskets at a time. Painted in black and with railings on a low roof to hold floral tributes, the hearse was never used. Alas, the poor, who might be expected to appreciate cheap funerals, would not accept the vehicle, however neatly it might accommodate four corpses. In January 1888, the Council’s Cemetery Committee recommended that the sleepers and rails leading from the tram-line into the graveyard (about 12 chains in length) be taken up and used elsewhere, but nothing was done about it as they can still be seen; as already mentioned.

The tramway hearse was such an embarrassment to the City Council it was sold in 1901 for three pounds; 1% of the price it cost to build. No remains are believed to exist. Mr Samuel ANDREWS MP ex-Mayor of Christchurch and owner of St Andrew's Hill quarries who brought it, is ironically buried in Linwood Cemetery (Block 36 Plot 46) following his death in 1916. ANDREWS had the vehicle on the side of the main road till about 1906-07, using it as a store for explosives. His sons, Hastings and George, then built a wooden pontoon, placed the hearse on it, and added a galley. Four bunks were fitted, a collapsible table installed for meals, and the bunks used as seats. The Andrews boys spent their summers on the houseboat which was moored off Moncks jetty, the site of the present Christchurch Yacht Club.

The New Brighton Tramway Company utilised the line, extending it through the sand hills where Pages Road is now located, and on to the seaside. Many Cantabrians have told us how they remember visiting the graves of their ancestors by a tram that drove into the cemetery grounds, or glancing at their family monument from the tram on their way to New Brighton, until trams were replaced by buses around 1954.

Tram, a necessary form of transportation  at the end of the 19th century when the alternatives were mainly walking, bicycling and, for the more wealthy, horse and cart; the impact of the tramway is also reflected  in those buried in the cemetery:
b19p62-cohen Tram Conductor, Charles COHEN, aged 21, fell off the foot board of a moving Linwood tram on Saturday 20th May 1911. Suffering from concussion of the brain and other injuries, he was taken to hospital but died on the morning of Monday 22nd May 1911. His memorial (Block 19 Plot 62) was erected by Tramway Board employees in Christchurch, probably as he had no family in NZ.  This memorial fell in the 22/2/2011 earthquake.

Frank FOX had only been in NZ for a couple of years also leaving his parents in England. He was a 27 year old traffic clerk working in the offices of the Christchurch Tramway Board. On 21 June 1910, he had a fatal heart attack at his desk. His memorial (Block 12 Plot 52) was also erected by fellow employees of Tramway Board, but sadly now is lost.

b13p60-malcolm-26th-jan-2011-035 Elizabeth (Millie) MALCOLM died on 23rd May 1903 aged 34 of complications following injury in a collision between a horse-drawn tram and a steam tram on Ferry Road on 11th April 1903. Buried at Block 13 Plot 60, her son was also badly concussed in the accident but seems to have survived.

William Henry Marley BERGH (Block 12 Plot 12), aged 31 accidentally stepped back to lean on a tram at a stop and fell under it's wheels and was instantly de-capitated.  He is on the CCC Cemeteries Database as a clerk, which may have been at his late father's company Ashley, Bergh & Co retailers with a shop at 217 High Street.  The report of his death notes his occupation as fisherman.


© Friends of Linwood Cemetery (2015)

Updated 23rd Dec 2015 by Alexandra.  Revised 26th August 2018 by Alexandra.

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The Tramway into Linwood Cemetery

Previous name :Corporation Cemetery
Suburb :Bromley