Captain Scott Memorial

153 Oxford Terrace And Worcester Street, Christchurch

  • Captain Scott Memorial.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Zoe Roland. Date: 17/02/2010.
  • Captain Scott Memorial. Original image submitted at time of registration.
    Copyright: NZHPT Field Record Form Collection. Taken By: D Cosgrove.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1840 Date Entered 26th November 1981

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Extent of List Entry

Extent of registration includes part of the land described as Res 9 (CT CB373/207), Canterbury Land District and the structure known as Captain Scott Memorial, thereon.

City/District Council

Christchurch City

Region

Canterbury Region

Legal description

Res 9 (CT CB373/207), Canterbury Land District

Location description

On reserve opposite the Clarendon Hotel. Statue faces the former Municipal Chambers.

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Christchurch was the New Zealand base for Captain Scott's Antarctic expeditions in 1901 and 1910. Scott reached the South Pole on 25 January 1912 but died on the return journey. The Christchurch City Council appealed for donations for a memorial and raised over £1,000. Lady Scott, Captain Scott's widow and a sculptor, modelled the statue and it was officially unveiled on 9 February 1917.

The inscription reads: 'Robert Falcon Scott/Captain Royal Navy/Who died returning from the South Pole 1912/With A.E. Wilson, H.R. Bowers, L.E.G. Oates, E. Evans' and quotes Scott's farewell message: 'I do not regret this journey, which shows that Englishmen can endure hardships, help one another, and meet death with as great fortitude as ever in the past.'

The statue is significant as one of a handful of statues worldwide, which commemorate Scott and were carved by his widow, Kathleen Scott. It is also important as a link to Christchurch's history as a base for Antarctic exploration. This continues today with the New Zealand, Italian and United States Antarctic bases at Christchurch airport.

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Scott, Lady Kathleen

Kathleen Scott (1878-1947) was described by 'Truth' in 1950 as 'one of the greatest women sculptors of all history'. Born Kathleen Bruce, she studied first at Slade School in London and then at the Academie Colarossi in Paris. While in Paris she was befriended by Auguste Rodin and his influence can be seen in her sculptures. When she returned to England in 1906 she became part of London society and included amongst her friends, George Bernard Shaw, Max Beerbohm and J.M. Barrie. Kathleen met Robert Falcon Scott at a tea party in 1906. Scott was then being lionised by London society for his 1901-1904 expedition to the Antartic. They subsequently married and had one child, Peter. Kathleen continued to sculpt, and her works can be divided into two types: idealised naked youths, which sometimes also functioned as war memorials and portraits of her contemporaries. The latter were generally busts, but she also undertook a number of full-size monuments, such as her 1912 sculpture of the avaiator, Charles Rolls.

Scott and his party died on their return from the South Pole in 1912. Once news of this reached Britain, in 1913, Scott and his men became national heroes and memorials to them, particularly Scott as leader of the expedition, sprouted throughout the British Empire. As Scott's widow and with an already established reputation as a sculptor, Kathleen became the preferred choice for these memorials. At least seven of the sculptures that memorialise Scott and his men can be traced to her, including the marble statue of Scott in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the 1917 bust of Scott, currently on loan to the Canterbury Museum.

Kathleen's career peaked during the interwar period. She had 31 exhibtions at the Royal Academy between 1913-1947, and was awarded an Associate Membership of the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1923, and a Fellowship of the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 1946. The BBC made a television programme about her sculpture in 1937, and a book on her work was published in 1938. Depsite these successes she has been neglected by art historians until recently, as her realistic portraits were percieved to be traditional and passe.

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Historical Narrative

For nearly a century Christchurch has been used as a base for various Antarctic expeditions. Robert Falcon Scott used Lyttleton for both his 1901-1904 and his 1910 trips. Ernest Shackleton also used the port for his 1907-1909 expedition. The statue of Scott at the corner of Oxford Terrace and Worcester St was erected to commemorate Christchurch's links to Scott's second trip to the Antarctic which ended in disaster when he and four others, Captain Oates, Dr Edward Wilson, Lieutenant Bowers and Petty Officer Evans, died on their way back from the South Pole. Their deaths led to their lionisation throughout the British Empire.

Scott's first trip to the Antarctic, on the Discovery, was seen as a great success and as a consequence Scott became part of London society, and met his future wife Kathleen Bruce at a lunch party given by Mabel Beardsley in 1906. Kathleen was a sculptor who had studied at the Slade, and then in Paris where she met Augustus Rodin and Isadora Duncan. Robert and Kathleen married in 1908.

By 1907 Scott had decided to make another expedition to the Antarctic and spent the next two years organising money and people. On 27 October 1910 the Scotts arrived in New Zealand in preparation for the expedition. While in Christchurch Robert and Kathleen stayed at Joseph J Kinsey's house in Clifton whilst the Terra Nova was outfitted and stores loaded on board. The ponies and dogs that accompanied the expedition were kept on Quail Island.

The Terra Nova sailed for Dunedin on 26 November where it stopped briefly in Port Chalmers. On 29 November the Terra Nova left Dunedin harbour and set sail for the Antarctic. On their arrival in Antarctica Scott and his men settled at what is now known as Cape Evans and erected a hut and stables for the ponies. The first major trip the group made in January 1911 was to lay depots for the later attempt to the Pole. In November a party of twelve set out for the Pole and on January 4 1912 it split into two with five men, Scott, Wilson, Oates, Evans and Bowers setting off on their own for the South Pole. On 9 January 1912 they passed Shackleton's furthest point south and two days later were 74 miles from the Pole.

On 16 January they discovered the remnants of one of Amundsen's camps and realised that the Norwegian explorer had beaten them to the Pole. Amundsen had in fact reached the Pole on 14 December 1911. Scott made it there on 17 January 1912, over a month later, and wrote in his diary 'Great God! this is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority'.

The British expedition then turned back with the intention of being the first back with the news if at all possible. Their diaries record the story of their return journey, the lack of food and their growing depression and weakness. Evans was the first of the party to die, collapsing on 17 February. Oates was the next to go. His toes had become gangrenous and by 6 March he could no longer pull the sledge. He was becoming a burden to the others, and on 17 March he left the tent saying 'I am just going outside and may be some time' and walked outside to die.

The remaining three struggled on and by 19 March were eleven miles from One Ton Depot. However, a blizzard blew up and they lay trapped in their tent getting weaker and weaker. It is believed that Scott died around 29 March, the day of his last diary entry. The bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers were discovered eight months later, when one of the search party, Charles Wright spotted the top of their tent. The explorers' diaries and final letters home were taken and the bodies buried under a cairn of snow.

News of Scott's and his companions' deaths reached Christchurch on 11 February 1913. They became immediate heroes, with the King attending their memorial service at St Paul's Cathedral, London, on 14 February. Six days later Madame Tussauds' had already acquired a figure of Scott to add to their waxworks.

Only a week after the first announcement of Scott's death, the Mayor of Christchurch, Howard Holland called a public meeting to arrange for a memorial to commemorate Scott. The Scott Memorial Fund committee was established and they began to appeal for donations, raising over £1,000. There was an initial flood of contributions but these dropped off once it became obvious that the British government would provide for the explorers' dependants in fulfilment of Scott's last plea, 'For God's sake look after our people'.

While the site and type of memorial had not yet been decided, the committee wrote to Kathleen Scott to ask for her feelings about the matter. Kathleen gained a number of commissions for sculptures of Scott after his death and of the many monuments erected in memory of this expedition around the Commonwealth seven were sculpted by her.

By December 1914 the Christchurch committee had finally decided that the memorial should take the form of a statue situated outside the Municipal chambers. They commissioned Kathleen to create a replica of her statue of Scott, which had already been erected in 1915 in Waterloo Place, London. While the Christchurch sculpture was initially also to be bronze the rising cost of metal due to World War I made marble a better option. It had been planned to have four relief panels, two of Antarctic scenes and two of the heads of the other members of the party, but the cost of bronze meant these were abandoned. Kathleen went to Carrara, Italy, in March 1916 to carve the statue, as Britain had banned the importation of marble during the war. The block she was working with was 16 cubic yards and it needed 13 oxen to move it. Kathleen said of the marble 'You will be glad to hear that it is a remarkably fine piece of marble, of a good colour and without any flaw whatever. Considering the great size this is very fortunate.' She also built the base and pedestal for the statue. Scott's statue was finished in early April but, again due to war restrictions, it was not shipped until October 1916. However, two shipping firms, Shaw Savill & Albian Company and the New Zealand Shipping Company agreed to move half of it each for no charge. It was unveiled on 9 February 1917 before a large crowd on the site where it remains today, facing north to the former municipal chambers across Worcester Street.

Physical Description

Carrara marble, over life-sized statue of Robert Falcon Scott clothed in his Antarctic garb on a stone plinth. Scott is depicted clasping an alpenstock in his right hand. The statue was erected between the Avon River and Oxford Terrace, opposite the Clarendon Hotel and facing north.

It is based on Kathleen Scott's earlier statue of Scott situated in Waterloo Place. The Christchurch statue differs from the English one in that it is marble, not bronze, that some of the details on the marble have been left unfinished and that Scott rests one leg against a stump, which had originally been left there to support the figure. Kathleen offered to remove this stump if she came out to New Zealand again, but as she never returned the stump remains.

In 1922 the Reserves Committee of the Christchurch City Council was advised that the inscription on the statue was becoming illegible. It was suggested that this was because the inscription had been engraved into a copper plate, rather than being carved into the stone itself. One solution put forward was for the inscription to be painted with aluminium paint. However, others on the committee disagreed and it was decided to place a separate marble plaque at the entrance to the reserve rather than alter the statue itself.

Another plaque was added to the statue on 4 May 1998 that states 'This statue was sculpted by Kathleen Scott FRSBS (1878-1947) Widow of Captain Scott, and was unveiled in 1917.' This plaque was placed there as a result of a growing recognition of Kathleen as a person in her own right, and of her importance as a sculptor, partly due to the recent publication of her biography by Louisa Young (1995).

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1916 -

Completion Date

17th October 2001

Report Written By

Melanie Lovell-Smith

Information Sources

Archives New Zealand (Chch)

Archives New Zealand (Christchurch)

Scott Memorial Fund correspondence, CH 343/100a

Christchurch City Libraries

Christchurch City Libraries

Mark Stocker, ' 'Loving hands and a eye that knew': The Scott memorials in Christchurch and London', n.d., in 'Christchurch cemeteries, memorials and public sculpture'

Christchurch Press

29 August 1922, p.7

Wilson, 1972

Edward Wilson, Diary of the Terra Nova Expedition to the Antarctic 1910-1912, London, 1972

Jackson, 1990

Peter Jackson, Quail Island. A Link with the Past, Christchurch, 1990

New Zealand Historic Places

New Zealand Historic Places

Keith Lyons, 'Hell with a Capital H', 54, July 1995, pp.43-45

Ogilvie, 1991

Gordon Ogilvie, The Port Hills of Christchurch, Auckland, 1991

Preston, 1997

Diana Preston, A First Rate Tragedy. Captain Scott's Antarctic Expeditions, London, 1997

Historic Places in New Zealand

Historic Places in New Zealand

Russell Joyce and Yvonne Martin, 'Old Antarctic Huts Ravaged by Elements', 37, June 1992, pp.8-10.

New Zealand Journal of Geography

New Zealand Journal of Geography

Eric Pawson, 'Monuments, Memorials and Cemeteries: Icons in the Landscape', in New Zealand Journal of Geography, Oct 1991, pp.26-27.

Other Information

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.