Finding beauty in function at Waikumete cemetery

External view of the public toilet in Waikumete cemetery

I like cemeteries, I always have. I went through the obligatory pseudo-goth, over dramatic, dark romance period in the  early 2000’s but even after I woke up, started wearing colour again and stopped being such a cliche teenager douche I still enjoy a good cemetery wander. As an anxious person I often look at many things in more depth which means I can find beauty and charm in many basic things.

Empirically there is plenty to like about them; the fresh air, open spaces, lovely green grassy grass, the multitude of different architectural and sculptural styles, the fascinating social and family histories behind the plots and if none of that does if for you how about just searching for the best and worst names? That’s always a fun game.

Waikumete Cemetery opened in 1886 when the council noticed Grafton Gully Cemetery was filling up fast and wasn’t going to stretch to the required expanse of Auckland’s growing population.  Being in West Auckland (then the very outskirts of city existence) they were able to make it larger than anything the central city could offer and it is. It’s fucking huge.

I did some research prior to our visit as I wanted to scout for loos, for the blog obvs. but also because I may need one during our walk. I’m not here to tell you stories about the cemeteries history, if that’s what you’re in to have a read of this here document. I quite enjoyed it but then I’m a total history geek.

So toilets! Within the cemetery proper there is a pair of matching brick toilets on Kowhai and Acmena Roads, which run through the middle of the site. There is an additional toilet way over on the Western edge somewhere but I had read it was a basic boring bullshit Exceloo so I didn’t bother finding it.


These functional beauties were built around 1939 in a basic utilitarian brick and corrugated iron design. The ladies loo is accessed from the right, the men’s on the left with a bus stop style seating area at the front.

External2 - acmena

External bus stop-acmena

In the council document it states that the bathrooms are pretty badly treated and have sustained plenty of vandalism and damage over the years but the day we were there they were both open and in good working order. I was impressed that the loo on Kowhai Street was still open let alone still standing as I had read that it was to be demolished.

bus stop gates-acmena

bus stop gates3 - acmena

bus stop gates2 - acmena

Each loo had two stalls with what looks to be original wood interiors. I really liked that it was still original and hadn’t been replaced with stainless steel or some heavy duty plastic personality-less crap.

gate - acmena

Internal - acmena

Internal2 - acmena

Internal roof- acmena

They are genuinely lovely little units with plenty of 40’s austere charm. If I could I would buy something like this to transport to the end of my own garden, take out a couple of the toilet units and make it into a kind of Lucy-cave shed and fill it with cat napping spots, comfy chairs and cheese toastie making machines (not near to toilets obviously. I’m not that gross).

Internal toilet - acmena

Internal grid - Kowhai

loo rolls - acmena

Even the dreaded rectangular toilet roll holders didn’t put me off too much.

Internal lock - Kowhai

sink - acmena

One tap, cold, no soap or any other “frills”. It felt like a toilet for a man who had been digging graves in greyeige (grey-beige) canvas over-alls and leather work boots, no fuss, no mess.

Internal roof - Kowhai

The differences between the two toilets were so minor that it felt pointless to rate them separately. The internal walls of the bus-stop had been painted cream at the Kowhai Street facility but otherwise they were identical.

External roof hole - Kowhai

Waikumete grass


Cleanliness :  8/10 It was as clean as you could hope for when you’re unit is 75 years old and probably not super taken care of.

Interior :  7/10 No soap and only one sink but it had all the basics like sanitary units and two toilets which we all know I prefer to one. The level of privacy was pretty good as there are never heaps of people around.

Exterior :  9/10 I really enjoy the understated utilitarian charm of these little buildings. They really thought things out back then even when something was 100% function and no % prettiness. Somehow it still has it’s own understated beauty in a very New Zealand back yard fashion. Also parking wise it is great, you can drive right up to the entrance, jump out and use the loo without anyone bothering you. Great for a panic attack.

Safety :  7/10 Ok so it is in a cemetery and we all know some dodge people like to hang out in the graveyard and drink cheap booze but during our visit I only saw one such drunkard and he seemed in good cheer. I didn’t feel like I was in danger if I had been there by myself (thought I wasn’t as I had my lovely, solid personal security with me the whole time). I wouldn’t hang out there at night but if you’re wandering about in cemeteries at night you’re either asking for a mugging or a grave robber. Either way perhaps rethink your life choices.

Snugglitude : 9 /10 Something in me loves an under dog. I’ve always liked finding beauty in something overlooked and intentionally functional. These toilets have history and a quiet peaceful charm.

Total :  40/50




2 thoughts on “Finding beauty in function at Waikumete cemetery

  1. Kathy. Parsons - The one and only !!!!! says:

    Hi Lucy. Just saying I’m loving your blogs. Your writing is full of fun, interesting and fabulous. Love Kathy xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    • lucybellegable says:

      Aww Kathy thank you! I’m so glad you are enjoying it. I hope to be publishing more thing about anxiety and agoraphobia specifically as time goes on so stay posted for things that may help your clients! Your support is very appreciated XXX

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