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Pietermaritzburg Commercial Road Cemetery

Basically, there are no registers dating from before 1860, for any of the churches. I don’t really know why but apparently the Municipality kept the registers up to 1860, despite the various cemeteries being owned by the churches (and my understanding is, being maintained by the churches). I don’t know what happened in 1860 and why it changed, but from that date the municipality no longer kept registers, and these were the responsibility of the various churches. Unfortunately, the municipal registers up to 1860, like all municipal records in Pietermaritzburg, were lost when the first City Hall burnt down in 1898.

So for all the cemeteries any records of deaths or burials prior to 1860 in the attached lists are what were taken from the actual tombstones.

From 1860 to 1948 the cemeteries were administered by the churches, who all kept registers EXCEPT apparently the Roman Catholic church. With the exception of a list of the indian people buried in the Catholic section, there are no registers for the Catholic section, and as far as can be ascertained, there never were. Personally, I find this hard to believe, but that is what the records in the Bessie Head Library tell me. Why they would have kept a list of the indian people but no others, does not quite make sense, but there It is. So the list of persons buried in the Catholic section is entirely from the tombstones and all the work was done by Mrs Jenny Duckworth in 1984. In 1948 the Catholic section was “cleaned up” by the municipality following their takeover (with, apparently the agreement of the Catholics) and all broken tombstones, etc removed. This list is therefore probably a long way short of being a complete list of persons buried in this section.

The municipality wished to “clean up” the other sections as well, but could not get the agreement of the churches so to do.

Neil Bloy


Plan of the NE side of the Cemetery.

A plan of the cemetery's SW side.

PMB Commercial Road Cemetery - Wesleyan cemetery
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Map of cemetery drawn by Mr. D. Buckley.

PMB Commercial Road Cemetery - Roman Catholic Section
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There is no plan or register of the Catholic cemetery, nor does there appear to have ever been one, and the graves themselves are unnumbered and randomly arranged.

I have divided the cemetery plan into 6 rough blocks as indicated in the accompanying sketch.  Some of the stones are covered completely by earth and grass and may have subsequently disappeared once more.   There is also a list of Indian plot owners which is a bit unsatisfactory as the original compiler of the list seems to have been only semi-literate.  Most of the Indian and Black graves are in Block F which has very few gravestones.  Blocks A, B, C & D are parishioners' graves.  Block E was used by the religious orders of priests, nuns and brothers. 

HISTORY:  The burial ground was granted to the Roman Catholic community in 1850.  At this point it measured only 1 acre 30 perches.  An extension was granted in October 1884 which doubled its size.  The earlist gravestone surviving in the cemetery is that of Sarah Doyle who died on 18 June 1854 aged 37.  She was the wife of Dennis Doyle, an ex-45th Regiment soldier.

Neil Bloy