Timaru War Memorial
Queen Street, Timaru
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 2
Able to Visit
23rd June 1983
Extent of List Entry
Extent of registration includes part of the land described as Pt Lot 1 DP 11137 (CT CB818/65, NZ Gazette 2000, p.1298), Canterbury Land District and the structure known as the Timaru War Memorial thereon. Extent includes the concrete steps leading up to the memorial, the flagpoles, and small garden on either side. Extent does not include the blue stone curved walls surrounding the memorial, which were added c.1998.
Pt Lot 1 DP 11137 (CT CB818/65, NZ Gazette 2000, p.1298), Canterbury Land District
Located at the southern end of Memorial Avenue, Timaru.
The Timaru War Memorial, an elevated classical column topped with a cross, was unveiled on Anzac Day 1926 on Timaru’s Queen Street, facing down Memorial Avenue (then Charles Street), on the edge of the Timaru Botanic Gardens. It was built by Parkinson and Co, an Auckland building firm. The memorial illustrates local people’s commitment to the commemoration of the service of New Zealand soldiers in World War One. The ongoing use of the memorial for Anzac services and the addition of memorial walls in the 1990s demonstrate the continuing relevance of the memorial to the people of Timaru and South Canterbury.
As early as February 1919, Timaru’s war memorial committee met with returned soldiers to decide on an appropriate memorial. The site of the memorial was much fought over. Some in the town, including the Returned Services Association, wanted a site next to the railway lines at the end of Stafford Street, thinking that a large memorial in such a spot would provide a ‘fine silhouette effect’. The Railway Department refused to give up the land, and objected to the use of a neighbouring section, pointing out that a 69 foot high, 303 ton memorial sitting next to railway tracks would be unsafe. Some continued to agitate for the site, even travelling to Wellington to lobby the Prime Minister and the Minster of Railways. Lengthy newspaper reports weighed up different sites in the town, until the current site at the edge of the Botanic Gardens was chosen.
The column of the monument is marble, supported on a granite pedestal and a volcanic rock base. The design of the memorial is heavy with symbolism, a mixture of Christian and classical references. A leaflet produced at the time of the unveiling explains some of these symbols. The volcanic rock base, it says, was selected as it was ‘native of the soil from which the soldiers came’, the granite pedestal above represents ‘endurance’, and the reeds on the column represent ‘the spears of the dead warriors’. Above that are ‘garlands of laurel leaves representing victory’, four lighted torches ‘indicative of the unquenchable nature of victory’, and an orb representing ‘temporal power’. At the top the ‘bold cross surmounting all proclaims the sacrifice which the soldiers made and the triumph over earthly power’. The use of a cross as a war memorial is considered relatively rare in New Zealand, as people were wary of causing offence to bereaved families of non-Christian dead. A photograph taken in 1936 shows a large plaque on the front of the memorial, which has since been replaced. Unlike many war memorials, this memorial did not display any names.
Charles Street, leading to the memorial from the South African War memorial, was planted with ash trees, thought to have been brought back as seeds from France after the war. The annual commemorative parade on Anzac Day approached the memorial along this street, and it was renamed Memorial Avenue.
After the Second World War, a large new brass plaque headed ‘The Great Wars’, with the dates of both the First and Second World Wars, followed by a quote from Pericles, replaced the original. A further plaque was added later for those who served in Korea, Malaya, Borneo and South Vietnam. In around 1998 two bluestone memorial walls were built behind the memorial, containing 14 black granite panels, naming all those who served from South Canterbury in the wars spanning from the South African War to the Vietnam War.
William Parkinson & Co.
Sculptors and Monumental Masons based in Victoria Street, Auckland.
Opening on Anzac Day
1950 - 1959
Plaque added to the memorial
Memorial walls added behind the memorial with names of servicemen and women
9th February 2014
Report Written By
Elizabeth Cox and Robyn Burgess
Chris MacLean and Jock Phillips, The Sorrow and the Pride: New Zealand War Memorials, Wellington, 1990
J.B. Hamilton, The Streets of Timaru, Timaru, 1975
A fully referenced copy of this upgrade report is available upon request from the NZHPT Southern Region Office.
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.