$300,000 revamp for Larnach tomb

Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
A major restoration is being planned for the Larnach tomb in Dunedin's Northern Cemetery.

The stonework is damaged, windows smashed and graffiti covers the interior.

However, Dunedin's historic Larnach family tomb, for so long the home to vandalism and ghoulish late night parties, could finally be set for a restoration.

New Zealand Historic Cemeteries Conservation Trust chairman Stewart Harvey, of Dunedin, confirmed when contacted by the Otago Daily Times yesterday a $300,000 restoration project was planned.

The project aimed to see the tomb - a miniature gothic church in Dunedin's Northern Cemetery - restored to its former glory, including stonework repairs and the reinstatement of stained glass windows, he said.

A quote for the work indicated the project would likely cost "$300,000-plus", he said.

The Dunedin Monumental Masons group would act as project managers, and a meeting with trust members and other key stakeholders was planned for today.

A fundraising drive was expected to be launched early next year, and Mr Stewart planned to make a presentation to the Dunedin City Council's public forum in February, seeking a funding contribution.

Details of the plan were confirmed after Cr Colin Weatherall raised concerns about the state of the tomb during this week's community development committee meeting in Dunedin.

He told the ODT yesterday he was surprised at the condition of the tomb during a recent visit.

"It's one of the most historic landmarks in the province.

"The state of deterioration, the state of it simply, I was uncomfortable with what I saw," he said.

Mr Harvey agreed, saying the tomb had been the target of vandalism and desecration.

It housed the remains of William Larnach and his second wife Mary Alleyn, eldest daughter Kate and eldest son Donald.

Coffins were originally suspended from the ceiling, before being moved under the wooden floorboards after being desecrated and remains stolen - but vandals ripped up the floor boards and ransacked the remains again.

The coffins were then placed under a concrete floor, which "stopped them getting at the bodies", he said.

A fire in 1999 destroyed the glass windows and chapel ceiling.

Mr Stewart said security around the tomb would be upgraded as part of the restoration.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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