National War Memorial

19 Buckle Street, Wellington

  • National War Memorial, Wellington. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Kristina D.C. Hoeppner - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Kristina D.C. Hoeppner . Date: 4/07/2010.
  • National War Memorial, Wellington. Interior of Hall of Memories. CC Licence 3.0 Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Nick D - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Nick D. Date: 8/06/2012.
  • National War Memorial, Wellington. Rear. ©Photographer Alex Efimoff /
    Date: 21/02/2017.
  • National War Memorial, Wellington. The dedication of the National War Memorial Carillon, in Wellington, on Anzac Day, 25 April 1932. Ref: 1/1-018026-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
    Copyright: No Known Copyright Restrictions. Taken By: William Hall Raine.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 1410 Date Entered 28th June 1990


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Sec 1266 TN OF Wellington (CT WN49D/144), Wellington Land District and the buildings known as the National War Memorial and Carillon and their fittings and fixtures.

City/District Council

Wellington City


Wellington Region

Legal description

Pt Sec 1266 Town of Wellington (CT WN49D/144), Wellington Land District


Consisting of a Carillon constructed in 1932, and a Hall of Memories completed 32 years later, the National War Memorial is a solemn tribute to, and a commemoration of, the contribution of all those New Zealanders who have served and died in war.

In 1919, after the end of the First World War, the New Zealand Government unanimously approved the expenditure of £100,000 to construct from permanent materials, a highly visible National Memorial that would embody the objects and sacrifices of war. After considerable debate, the prominent Mount Cook site in Wellington was selected in 1928. Long associated with war, the site was used as a pa by Te Ati Awa and for military purposes by the Government from 1847.

Debate over the form that the memorial was to take was partially resolved in 1927 by the Wellington War Memorial Carillon Society, who gifted 49 bronze bells to the Government. Originally intended to form part of the Wellington war memorial, the bells were paid for by the public and inscribed with the names of the donors and the city's war dead. Shortly afterwards the Government concluded that the National War Memorial should consist of two structures; a carillon, in which the bronze bells would be housed, and a 'hall of memories'. A new national museum and art gallery building was to be constructed to the rear of the memorial.

The well-known Auckland based firm Gummer & Ford won a national competition to design the museum and two memorial structures in 1929. The Carillon was the first of the three structures to be erected. It was completed by Christchurch building firm P. Graham & Sons at the cost of £18,687. The Carillon was constructed from reinforced concrete and faced with Putururu stone. Art Deco in style, the Carillon featured wrought iron grilles and delicate, copper louvres, which allowed the music of the bells to flow freely from the tower and provide an aural acknowledgement of the fallen. The approach to the tower featured a grand, paved staircase embellished by a brass lion-head fountain that was designed by sculptor Richard Oliver Gross (1882-1964). At 51-metres high (166 feet), the tower was designed to be a landmark in Wellington, and a prominent visual tribute. The opening ceremony was held on ANZAC Day in 1932 by the then Governor General Lord Bledisloe (1867-1958).

The Museum and Art Gallery building (Category I), completed in 1936, was the second of the three structures to be constructed. Although not a part of the National War Memorial, the building was designed to serve as an impressive and appropriate background for the Carillon and Hall of Memories. The construction of the Hall of Memories, the final stage in the project, was delayed by the commencement of the Second World War. After the war, in 1949, Gummer & Ford designed elaborate plans for the completion of the memorial. When a change of government led to call for a 'simple but dignified' memorial that avoided 'unnecessary and expensive embellishments', the plans were scaled down and construction was delayed until 1960.

Erected by P. Graham & Sons at the cost of £113,800, the Hall of Memories was a rectangular structure approximately 20 metres long and 12 metres wide. Its plain, concrete exterior was concealed behind the Carillon, whose entrance doubled as the entrance to the Hall. The interior of the Hall was paved in marble. Along each side, recesses in the walls commemorated each of the separate arms of the New Zealand Defence Force. Above them, curved stained glass windows reflected the gentle curve of the ceiling and allowed coloured light into the interior. At the far end of the Hall a large bronze sculpture of a mother and two children served as a focal point. Designed by Lyndon Smith, the sculpture symbolised the reasons for and the sacrifices made during war. Throughout the Hall were reflective verses that honoured those who served in the wars, and symbolic reminders of New Zealand's links to the Commonwealth. It was officially opened in 1964.

The focus of ANZAC Day celebrations since its completion, the Hall of Memories has undergone little change. The Carillon on the other hand, as a finely tuned musical instrument, has been restored and expanded. Rededicated in 1986 and played almost daily ever since, the instrument now features a total of 74 bells and has a range of 6 octaves. Changes around the Memorial include the closure of the National Museum & Art Gallery in 1996, the expansion of the road in front of the Memorial, and the construction of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior that represents those New Zealanders who lie in unmarked graves.

The National War Memorial has significance as New Zealand's key monument to those who have fallen in war. As a national acknowledgement of the sacrifices made by New Zealand citizens it has considerable cultural and spiritual importance and is held in high esteem by the public. The Carillon, now the third largest in the world, has technological significance and is a prominent landmark in Wellington. The Hall of Memories has architectural and aesthetic significance as the combined work of renowned architects, sculptors and designers from both New Zealand and England. The National War Memorial remains a living symbol of remembrance.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Designed as a sister carillon to the Peace Tower Carillon at Parliament Buildings, Ottawa, Canada, the National War Memorial of New Zealand,

consisting of the Carillon (1931-32) and Hall of Memories (1960-64), commemorates the 28614 New Zealanders who served and fell in the Boer War, World War I, World War II, and in the wars in Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam. It is one of New Zealand's principal war memorials.


Designed at the height of popularity of Art Deco architecture, the Carillon is an outstanding example of this genre and of William Gummer's work. Although not a style he used often, Art Deco in this instance was admirably suited to the function required. The soaring, tapered tower with abstract grille houses one of the world's largest carillons, the only one in New Zealand.

As a design this building has stood the test of time well and in its restored state and commanding position it is one of Wellington's outstanding buildings.


Sited at the terminal of the low spur of Mount Cook, the National War Memorial and Carillon is one of Wellington's most prominent landmarks. With the National Museum and Art Gallery building (1933-36) as a grand backdrop, the campanile is prominent from many parts of the city as well as from the surrounding hillsides of Mount Victoria, Brooklyn and Kelburn.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Gross, Richard Oliver

Gross was born in England and immigrated to New Zealand in 1914 having been trained in sculpture at the London Camberwell School of Art under Albert Toft. Toft was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy of Arts from 1885.

Gross' works include the Auckland Domain gates' statues, Wellington Citizen's Peace Memorial, the Savage Memorial at Orakei, the carved lion head fountain on the Carillon at Wellington and the stone lion in the Auckland Domain Wintergardens. At one time Gross was the only New Zealand sculptor casting in bronze at his own foundry.

Gross was president of the Auckland Society of Arts for ten years, chairman of the McKelvie Trust Board and chairman of the Associated Art Societies of New Zealand.

Gummer & Ford

The architectural partnership of Gummer and Ford was established in 1923, and became one of national importance.

William Henry Gummer (1884-1966) was articled to W.A. Holman, an Auckland architect, and was elected as an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1910. In the period 1908-1913 he travelled in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States. During this time he worked for Sir Edwin Lutyens, leading English architect of the time, and for Daniel Burnham in Chicago. Burnham was a major American architect and one of the founders of the influential Chicago School of Architecture. Gummer joined the firm of Hoggard and Prouse of Auckland and Wellington in 1913. In 1914 he was elected a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, was president of the Institute from 1933-34 and was later elected a life member.

Charles Reginald Ford (1880- 1972) was born in England and served in the Royal Navy. He was later with Captain Scott's 1901-1904 expedition to Antarctica. He trained as an architect working in Wanganui as an engineer. In 1926 he wrote the first treatise on earthquake and

building construction in the English language. Ford was president of the New Zealand Institute of Architects from 1921-22.

Buildings designed by the partnership include the State Insurance Building Wellington, (1940) the Dilworth Building (1926), the Guardian Trust Building and the Domain Wintergardens (1921 and 1928), all in Auckland, and the Dominion Museum (1936) in Wellington. Gummer and Ford were awarded Gold Medals from the New Zealand Institute of Architects for the designs of Auckland Railway Station and Remuera Library.

Gummer was one of the most outstanding architects working in New Zealand in the first half of this century and was responsible for the stylistically and structurally advanced Tauroa (1916), Craggy Range (1919), Arden (1926), and Te Mata (1935) homesteads at Havelock North.

P. Graham and Son

P. Graham and Son of Christchurch.

Smith, Lyndon

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Gilliet & Johnston Ltd

Croydon, England

John Taylor Ltd

Bellfounders of Loughborough, England

Whitechapel Bell Foundry

Bellfounders, London England.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

About 1926 the Wellington War Memorial Carillon Society was formed and in May of that year raised just under £10,000 in a one week fundraising campaign for the purchase of a 49 bell carillon. The Society offered the bells to the Wellington Citizen's War Memorial Committee who declined the offer in preference of a silent memorial and the bells were then offered to the Government for inclusion in the National War Memorial.

The Government had considered a National War Memorial since 1919 and about 1928 it offered the Mount Cook site for the location of a National War Memorial, National Museum and National Art Gallery.

Tender for the 49 bell carillon was let in July 1927 to Gillet and Johnston Ltd of Croydon, England. In 1929 a competition was held for the design of a complex to include a museum, art gallery, carillon tower and hall of memories, the last two to form the National War Memorial. The competition was won by Gummer and Ford of Auckland and the foundation stone of the carillon tower or campanile was laid by the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. G.W. Forbes on 15 May 1931.

During the planning and construction of the campanile the carillon was lent to the Newcastle-on-Tyne Exhibition. Later it was temporarily installed in Hyde Park, London, where it was heard by large crowds before being shipped to New Zealand and installed at Wellington.

The National War Memorial and Carillon was dedicated on Anzac Day, 25 April 1932. It was consecrated by the Bishop of Wellington, the Rt. Rev. Dr T.H. Sprott and opened by the Governor-General, Lord Bledisloe, who switched on the lamp of remembrance at the top of the tower. The lamp was a gift of the Air Force Association of New Zealand.

At this time the lower part of the south face was left unfinished, the site of the proposed Hall of Memories. Construction was delayed by World War II and preliminary plans were completed by Gummer and Ford in 1949. Construction did not begin until 1960. The Hall of Memories was completed in 1964 and opened on 5 April of that year by the Governor-General Sir Bernard Fergusson.

Restoration of the tower began in 1981 and in 1985 a major restoration of the carillon instrument was undertaken. The addition of 16 treble bells brought the total to 65, while the original specification made provision for 69. Following the renovations of the tower and carillon, the National War Memorial and Carillon was formally re-dedicated by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 26 February 1986.

Physical Description


The campanile which houses this 65 bell carillon rises to a height of 50.6 metres from base to roof top. The campanile is essentially an Art Deco design with a classical emphasis at lower levels.

A lion head fountain carved by R.O. Gross forms part of a grand staircase which leads to the campanile on the north facing slope of Mount Cook. The campanile itself consists of a marble base, through which entry is obtained to the north, and a slightly tapering tower. The tower has four almost identical facades of grey marble and buff coloured cement plaster. Recessed precast concrete grilles, three to each facade, allow music from the bells to pass through the upper portion of the tower. The abstract zigzag pattern in these trellises becomes increasingly intricate as the height increases. This appears to accentuate the height of the structure. The capital of the campanile has five semi-circular copper louvres at each of the four chamfered corners, above which is a dentilled pavilion roof topped with a lamp of remembrance.

Inside the campanile is the carillon of 65 (originally 49) inscribed bells. The bells are held in a stationary position and sounds are made by activating cast iron clappers from a keyboard known as the clavier. The bells cover 5.5 octaves, ranging from a 5.5 ton bell measuring 2.03 by 1.65 metres to the smallest treble bell weighing only a few kilograms.

To the rear (south) of the campanile is the Hall of Memories commemorating the war dead. Completed to the design of Gummer and Ford in 1964, the Hall of Memories is an unobtrusive structure at the base of the campanile.


1960-64: Addition of Hall of Memories to the original sketch design of Gummer and Ford.

1981: Stage 1 of restoration including replastering of the upper section of the carillon tower with course lines cut in to simulate stone blocks and the replacement of top bell chamber copper louvres, metal window frames, wrought iron window grilles and balustrades, timber doors and the glass surrounding the lamp of remembrance.

1982: Stage 2 of restoration including the recladding of the lower section of the campanile with Canaan marble from Nelson to replace the Putaruru stone. Structural steel supporting the bells was strengthened and a structural steel frame was constructed in the upper portion of the tower to meet earthquake standards.

1985: Restoration of the carillon instrument.

Notable Features

The bells 'Reo Wairua', Grace (Aroha), Hope (Tumanako), Remembrance, (Whakamaharatanga) and Peace (Rangimarie).

Inscribed bells.

Family sculpture by Lyndon Smith in the Hall of Memories .

Lionhead fountain designed by sculptor Richard Gross on the steps approaching the carillon.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1932 -
Carillon completed

1937 -
Plans for the Hall of Memories commissioned and completed

1938 -
Lift installed in the campanile

1949 -
Plans for Hall of Memories commissioned and completed

Original Construction
1960 - 1964
Hall of Memories constructed

1995 -
Carillon has full complement of bells (74)

2004 -
Construction of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior

1928 -
Site selected

1981 - 1982
Carillon restored

1985 -
Carillon restored

1987 -
New clavier and practice clavier installed in Carillon

Construction Details

The Carillon tower is constructed on a foundation of reinforced concrete. The body of the tower is also constructed from reinforced concrete and is faced with marble. The Carillon roof has a timber frame and is clad in copper sheeting. The interior is paved with tonalite from the Coromandel.

The Hall of Memories is constructed from reinforced concrete. It is faced with concrete slabs. The interior consists of limestone and pink Hamner marble.

Completion Date

1st May 2003

Report Written By

Rebecca O'Brien

Information Sources

Alexander Turnbull Library

Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington

'The Carillon', a scrapbook of newspaper clippings (q 727.69931 CAR p)

Department of Internal Affairs

Department of Internal Affairs

W A Glue, National War Memorial, Wellington, New Zealand, Historical Publications Branch, 1986

Evening Post

Evening Post

'The Campanile, First Official Act, Ceremony Tomorrow', 14 May 1931

'A Soaring Tower, The Campanile, National Memorial, Today's Ceremony', 15 May 1931

'Magic From the Skies', National War Memorial, Impressive Dedication Service, Grand Carillon Inaugurated', 26 April 1932

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

Land Information New Zealand

CT 20C/555

MacLean, 1990

Chris MacLean and Jock Phillips, The Sorrow and the Pride: New Zealand War Memorials, Wellington, 1990

Maclean, 1998

C Maclean, For Whom the Bells Toll: A History of the National War Memorial, Wellington, 1998

Wellington City Council

Wellington City Council

Building Permit B10786

Muir, 1932

E E Muir, National War Memorial and Carillon, Wellington, 1932

Shanahan, 1983

Kieran J Shanahan, The Work of William H. Gummer, Architect, Thesis, University of Auckland, Auckland, 1983

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Central Region office

The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior was incorporated into the National War Memorial grounds to mark the 85th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.