Nurses Memorial Chapel

2 Riccarton Avenue And Oxford Terrace, Christchurch

  • Nurses Memorial Chapel.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Melanie Lovell-Smith. Date: 1/09/2001.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Melanie Lovell-Smith. Date: 1/09/2001.
  • One of the four stained glass windows designed to commemorate local nurses by Veronica Whall, a leading British Arts and Crafts artist, between 1932 and 1952..
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Paul Thompson. Date: 1/11/2001.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1851 Date Entered 20th July 1989


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Pt Res 24 (CT CB464/207), Canterbury Land District and the building known as Nurses Memorial Chapel thereon.

City/District Council

Christchurch City


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Pt Res 24 (CT CB464/207), Canterbury Land District


The Nurses Memorial Chapel was erected as a memorial to three nurses from Christchurch Hospital who died during the First World War when the troopship they were on was torpedoed in 1915, and to two nurses who died in the 1918 influenza epidemic.

The three nurses who went down with the Marquette were Nona Hildyard, Margaret Rogers and Lorna Rattray. The Marquette had been converted to a transport ship at the beginning of the First World War and on 19 October 1915 she sailed from Alexandria for Salonika with the No. 1 New Zealand Stationary Hospital and the British 29th Divisional Ammunition Column on board. She was torpedoed on the morning of the 23rd and sank in ten minutes. Of the thirty-six nurses on board, ten died. The news reached New Zealand in November and a collection, taken at a memorial service, was dedicated to the erection of a memorial chapel at Christchurch Hospital.

Towards the end of 1918 New Zealand was struck by an influenza epidemic which killed over 8,000 people. Fourteen doctors and at least thirty nurses died after nursing the sick. In Christchurch one doctor and two nurses died in the epidemic, and the nurses Grace Beswick and Hilda Hooker are specifically remembered in the Nurses' Chapel.

It was not until 1925 that the hospital board approved the building of the chapel in the grounds of Christchurch Hospital, and a public appeal for funds was launched in November of that year. The chapel opened with a service on Christmas Day 1927 and thereafter has been used as an interdenominational chapel by hospital staff, patients and their families. In 1928 the Chapel Fund Committee passed the building to the North Canterbury Hospital Board. Plaques and windows have subsequently been added to commemorate other health workers, both men and women.

The Nurses Memorial Chapel was designed by local architect J. G. Collins (1886-1973), who practised with the firm Collins and Harman from 1903 until 1955.He designed the chapel and supervised its construction free of charge. In style, the chapel is typical of Arts and Crafts churches, both in the detailed brickwork of the exterior, and in the finely crafted timber interior. The stained glass windows of this church are particularly significant.

The chapel was first threatened with demolition in the mid-1970s when the hospital wanted to use the site to build new operating theatres. Although other solutions were found at this time, due to public opposition to the demolition, by the 1980s the hospital was again proposing to demolish the chapel and move its interior into a new chapel to be built in a new wing of the hospital. This proposal ran into strong public opposition and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust Pouhere Taonga issued a protection notice on the building in August 1989. The Canterbury Area Health Board subsequently agreed to lease the building to the City Council and today it is administered by a trust board and the group 'Friends of the Chapel'. It continues to be used for weddings, baptisms and as a meditative space for staff, patients and visitors to Christchurch Hospital. It is open to the public from 1pm to 4pm daily.

The Nurses Chapel is significant as the only war memorial in New Zealand dedicated solely to the memory of women. It was also the first hospital chapel built in New Zealand. The public regard for the building has been demonstrated by strong public opposition to both proposals by the Canterbury Area Health Board to demolish it.

The Friends of the Chapel Committee maintain a website that contains a brief history together with photographs of the Nurses Memorial Chapel.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Collins, John Goddard

Collins practised as an architect with the firm of Collins and Harman from 1903 until 1955. He was competent in a variety of styles, from Gothic Revival, as seen in Canterbury College (c.1905-23), through to the modernist, post-war styles of architecture. The South British Insurance Company building (1951) is an example of the latter.

Collins was particularly noted for his attention to detail, as cna be seen in the Sign of the Takahe (1918-46). He was the architect for Nazareth House (first block 1909; west wing 1929; chapel (1939) and much of Christchurch Hospital, including the Nurses' Home and Chapel. For this last building, Collins furnished plans and supervised construction free of charge.

Additional informationopen/close

Notable Features

Two of the chapel's stained glass windows, the Dove of Peace and the Lamb of God, were initially installed in the first St Mary's Anglican Church in Merivale, and were given to the Nurses' Chapel at the time of its construction. Four of the nine windows were designed by Veronica Whall, a leading British Arts and Crafts artist, between 1932 and 1952. They commemorate Mary Ewart, the former matron of Christchurch Hospital; Nurse Sybilla Maude, the first district nurse in New Zealand; Annie Pattrick, a former Director of Plunket Nursing; and pioneer nurses of Christchurch.

Also important are the Frederick Gurnsey (1868-1953) carvings, which include the altar and reredos. Other examples of Gurnsey's work can be seen on the Bridge of Remembrance in Cashel Street and in the Christ Church Cathedral. More recently the chapel has acquired an aisle carpet designed by Dunedin artist Nicola Jackson, and a stained glass window designed by Suzanne Johnson. This latest window commemorates Poppy Blathwayt, Home Sister at Christchurch Hospital during the 1950s and 1960s.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1927 -

1991 -
Porch added. Architect Tony Ussher

Completion Date

16th October 2001

Report Written By

Melanie Lovell-Smith

Information Sources

MacLean, 1990

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


Other Information

NZHPT Heritage Order (16 August 1989)

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.