As Waikumete Cemetery heads towards its 150th anniversary, its European history is developing significance, especially in respect of the cluster of buildings on the western side – the station, the Chapel of Faith in the Oaks and the sexton’s houses, all of which date from the 1880′s.
The station no longer stands on its original site immediately adjacent to the western gate to Waikumete Cemetery. It was built there in the 1880′s as the terminus of the funeral trains bringing the deceased and mourners from Auckland to the new Waikomiti Cemetery.
It was a “Vogel Class 5″ design used by the railways in the 1880s and legend says that it was unique in having two verandas but only a single track railway. Stations with a veranda on each side were only built for double-tracked railways, with the station being an “island” standing between the two tracks. The legend has it that Glen Eden was given a second veranda to give a place for the funeral trains to stop.
Alas, colourful as that myth is, in fact the second veranda wasn’t added until 1940 when officials anticipated a second track going west. However, instead of expanding the rail system officials of the period decided that Auckland would be a car based society with motorways and freeways having priority over public transport. As a result the double track wasn’t achieved until 60 years later.
When the railways decided to move the platforms south of Glen View Road in the late 1990′s the historic station stood unwanted and a target for vandals, graffiti and arsonists until it was eventually shifted to its present location on one of the new station platforms. There it was refurbished by the Glen Eden Railway Station Trust.
Today, it does duty as a station platform and veranda and café, and possibly home to a resident ghost.
The Chapel of Faith in The Oaks, meanwhile, was built as a mortuary chapel for the cemetery. It was accorded considerable respect for, despite being located “on the edge of the known world” of Auckland, it was no utilitarian box. It is an elegant and beautiful piece of architecture built in the shape of a Greek Cross with cavity wall brick construction, a slate roof, a timbered interior and beautiful stained glass windows.
Perhaps inevitably, having a ready-made church in what was in those days such a far-flung community, local residents of various denominations lobbied the Auckland Council for permission to use the chapel for their church services, provided of course, it wasn’t required for funerals.
The lovely old building gave locals a place for their Sunday devotions for the next 40 years until it was closed in 1926, Later in what could have been a sad footnote, it was used as a warehouse for 1,800 urns of ashes when the old crematorium was demolished in 1969.
The building fell into increasing disrepair over the next decade until the Waikumete Restoration Trust was formed in June 1978, with the support of the Auckland and Waitakere Councils, to restore and manage the chapel. They were given a 30 year lease in 1980 and the chapel acquired its name of Chapel of Faith in the Oaks when it was re-opened in 1986.
It went through a second strengthening and refurbishing in the 2000′s decade, with hi-tech carbon fibre materials to strengthen the structure and in a New Zealand first, a system used successfully in Europe to protect buildings from rising damp, was installed.
The chapel restored to its original glory was re-dedicated in a ceremony on 5 October 2010 and is available for weddings.