Addington Cemetery opened in 1858 and closed in 1980. The cemetery was in effect the city’s first public cemetery and its plots were taken up over a relatively short period of time.
The cemetery is located on Selwyn Street (between Disraeli Street and Fairfield Avenue).
The cemetery was established by the Presbyterian Church of St Andrews in reaction to the ‘exclusiveness’ of the Anglican Barbadoes Street Cemetery which was at that date the only cemetery in the city. As a public cemetery, Addington was open to all denominations with no segregation according to religion.
The cemetery has a formal grid pattern of rows and graves head to head with a wide central gravel path which terminates at the original circular carriage turning area. The graves and paths are closely laid out not only because of the defined rectangular site but because the Presbyterian Church had a requirement to make money from selling individual burial plots at the cemetery.
Burials occur right up to the legal boundaries on the north and south sides and near to the edge of Baxter’s Creek at the east end of the cemetery.
The masonry styles are predominantly monumental Victorian style. There are a small number of elaborate sculptural monuments. The most common form of grave in the cemetery consists of a plain rectangular flat concrete slab on the ground, with an upright headstone.
There are a number of established trees in the cemetery, particularly yew trees, however early photographs show that the cemetery had very little vegetation. Recent Oak, Beech and Sycamore trees have aesthetic value and as plant types are appropriate for a Victorian cemetery, however they are recent and they are not significant. Many are intrusive and root growth is damaging the heritage fabric.
Profits made from the purchasing of plots went towards the acquisition of sites for religious and educational purposes and also to relief of the poor and provision of bursaries for the Christchurch High School (today known as Hagley Community College).
The first burial took place in November 1858. The deceased was George McIlraith, brother of Jane Deans who died at age 20. Burials continued in the cemetery up to 1980 with only a few burials and interments of ashes since then.
Ownership of the cemetery was transferred to the Christchurch City Council in 1947 who have maintained the cemetery as one of the city's recognised 'green spaces'. Noteworthy people buried here include activist Kate Sheppard, Christchurch Mayor Tommy Taylor, artist John Gibb, architect Samuel Farr and members of the pioneer family, the Deans.