Burial register ID: 14410
Surname: WEDLAKE
First name: JOHN
Middle names: ALFRED
Gender: Male
Age: 64 Years
Cause of death: Unknown
Burial type:
Date of death: 26-Aug-1926
Date of burial: 29-Aug-1926

Block: 50
Plot: 22

Bio contributor: John Wedlake

John Alfred Wedlake (1862-1926)

John Alfred Wedlake was a son of Frederick and Elizabeth (née Beswetherick) Wedlake. He was born in Cornwall in 1862.

John, his brother Frederick and sister Charlotte were initially left behind in England when their parents came to New Zealand in the late 1860s for the gold rush. However, in 1874 when John was 12 years old, the children came out to New Zealand on the ship Asia, arriving in Otago on 26th April of that year to join their parents in Blue Spur, a town above Gabriel’s Gully near Lawrence, where they attended Blue Spur School. In the 1876 school examinations John was 1st in Arithmetic and also 2nd in Geography and Grammar.

By 1888 John, also known as James, had left Blue Spur and was in Queenstown, where he had an accident one morning when he was hit by the mail coach. It is possible that he mined reefs in the Rees Valley around 1886-1888. He also lived for some time at Cromarty, in remote South Fiordland. Cromarty was a gold mining town in the 1890s. The advertisement placed in the Otago Witness on 26th February 1902 may have been his parents wanting to contact him, as it asks him to send his present address to Box 176, Chief Post Office, Dunedin.

Several years later, after the outbreak of World War 1, he was living in Waiutu, another mining town, near Reefton in Westland. The army was looking to form a tunnelling corp to dig tunnels under the German lines in France. John enlisted in Greymouth in October 1915. He claimed to have been born on 20th February 1875; in fact he was over 50 years old. John travelled to Avondale where he did his military training. This was not full military training as the corp was formed to dig tunnels, not fight the enemy. There are several accounts of life at the Avondale Race Course, used as the army training facility for the tunnelling corp. The main body of the Tunnelling Company left New Zealand on the NZFT Ruapehu on 18th December 1915. They arrived in Plymouth on 3rd February 1916 and then travelled to Arras in France. John’s war record shows that he worked underground in the Arras caverns for 18 months. Then when on a rest break in London in 1917 he became ill and was admitted to hospital. He was diagnosed with sclerosis of the arteries. It was then discovered that he was in fact 53 years old and he was discharged from the army and sent home. He travelled back on the ship Rimutaka arriving in Devonport on 17th August 1917, then on to Dunedin.

John Wedlake lived with his mother Elizabeth and sister Lottie at 359 Castle Street, Dunedin until he died in 1926. He is buried here in the Northern Cemetery in the Wedlake family plot with his parents, brother, sister and sister-in-law.

The house at what was once 359 Castle Street still stands today. It is one of the last houses not demolished by the University expansion. The house is in a part of Castle Street that was cut off by the University in the 1970s and is now known as number 5 Ethel Benjamin Place. The numbers 359 can still be read beside the front door of the house.

(Details from the Tuapeka Times and the Otago Witness on the Papers Past website)

There are 6 Interments in this grave:

Surname First names Age Date of death Date of burial
WEDLAKE ELIZABETH 79 Years 07-Apr-1923 10-Apr-1923
WEDLAKE FREDERICK WILLIAM 69 Years 16-Apr-1906 18-Apr-1906
WEDLAKE JOHN ALFRED 64 Years 26-Aug-1926 29-Aug-1926
WEDLAKE LOTTIE 75 Years 29-Mar-1939 31-Mar-1939
WEDLAKE MARY EDMOND 63 Years 17-May-1928 19-May-1928
WEDLAKE WILLIAM FREDERICK 51 Years 04-Jul-1911 07-Jul-1911