In August 1865, Surveyor JA Connell provided a cemetery reserve of ten acres (4ha) at the back of the town, on the block bounded by Litany, Achil, Neplusultra and Ortive Streets. The Old Cemetery has become known as the Litany Street Cemetery and is open at all times to the public. It is located in the reserve that also contains the Cromwell Squash Club, Central Otago Vintage Car Club, old skating club (Scout Hall) and Lions Club storage shed. Although there is no register for the Litany Street Cemetery, an original 1871 plan was redrawn in 1982 and marks the known burials for the pre-1888 period whether or not there is a headstone on the site. Some of the headstones remain readable and tell unique stories of the life and hardships of the times.
As the town expanded the old cemetery was inconveniently near the residential area and drifting sand threatened to overwhelm it. In 1886, the old site was closed and its care entrusted to the Borough, with a new cemetery reserve of four hectares being set aside on the Cromwell Flats and vested in the Borough Council. The first burial there took place in May 1888, and was that of a Chinaman, Sem Si.
The 'new' Cromwell Cemetery is located to the south of the town, on Cemetery Road. Access is gained via the Lake Dunstan Industrial Estate from the McNulty Road end of Gair Avenue. It is administered by the Central Otago District Council and provides separate areas for burials such as:
- Beam burials - headstones placed on concrete beam.
- Serviceman's beam - ashes and casket burials for RSA members.
- Memorial structures - garden plots and memorial structure permitted.
- Public ashes beam - plaques only allowed on concrete beam.
The Cromwell Community Board purchased a block of land surrounding the cemetery for long term expansion. The development of the adjacent industrial area allowed vehicle access to connect with McNulty Road and allowed funeral corteges direct access from the town, rather than travelling along the State highway.
In 1989 the Dunedin Group of the NZ Society of Genealogists (Inc) and The Cromwell Family History Society transcribed the headstones in both the old Litany Street and new cemeteries. In March 1992, the group compiled an extensive Transcript that listed the following information:
- Burial register from 1 to 1519 including the years 1888-1990.
- Transcript of headstones from Old Cemetery - 1864 to 1940.
- Transcript of headstones from New Cemetery - 1888 to 1990.
- Transcript of local War Memorials - 1914 to 1945.
- Index of burials Block by Block - 1864 to 1990.
This extensive and valuable work is available for inspection at the Cromwell Library. Updates of burials from 1990 to the present are available from the Central Otago District Council, Cromwell.
By 2000 there were some 1,647 burials in the cemetery and it is estimated that, without the purchase of surrounding land, it would be approaching capacity by the year 2020. The demand for burials was about 20 per year for the 2005-2009 period.
Tarras also has a cemetery located on Cemetery Road, Ardgour. It is about 4000m² in area and administered by three local trustees. All records are available at Central Otago District Council.
The Nevis Cemetery is one of two originally set aside for this small 1800’s gold mining settlement. It is located a short distance off Nevis Road and easily viewable by passing travellers. Although no formal records are available it is thought that the last burial was in 1939, although a headstone states a person is “at rest in….Nevis’ and died in 1976.