Bridge of Remembrance

Cashel Street, Christchurch

  • Bridge of Remembrance.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Melanie Lovell-Smith. Date: 1/09/2001.
  • Bridge of Remembrance.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Melanie Lovell-Smith. Date: 1/09/2001.
  • Bridge of Remembrance.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Melanie Lovell-Smith. Date: 1/09/2001.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Registered List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1
List Number 289 Date Entered 2nd April 1985

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Stopped Street SO Plan 14545, Canterbury Land District and the structure known as the Bridge of Remembrance thereon, and its fittings and fixtures.

City/District Council

Christchurch City

Region

Canterbury Region

Legal description

Stopped Street SO Plan 14545, Canterbury Land District

Summaryopen/close

The Bridge of Remembrance was built over the Avon River in 1923 to commemorate the soldiers of Canterbury who fought overseas during the First World War. The triple-arched bridge was designed in 1921 by William Gummer, then a partner in Gummer and Prouse. It is built of concrete faced with Tasmanian stone. Over the end arches lie carved lions, representing the British Empire, carved by the noted Canterbury carver Frederick Gurnsey. Gurnsey also carved the other symbols on the bridge, including rosemary wreaths and laurel leaves. Panels on the main arch list the major battles of the First World War; after 1945 those of the Second World War were added. The bridge's role as a place of remembrance has continued with plaques being added over the years to commemorate other New Zealanders who have fought and died in various wars around the world. These include Captain Charles Upham, Victoria Cross and Bar, who fought in the Middle East during the Second World War and was the third man to be awarded a bar to the Victoria Cross for his bravery and leadership.

The Bridge of Remembrance was converted in 1976 to pedestrian use only and remains a notable feature of the riverside area of Christchurch. Its design is a significant example of the work of one of New Zealand's leading architects of the time. Gummer's combination of utility, monumentalism and muted symbolism created a distinguished and substantial memorial to New Zealand's dead. The site on which the bridge was built is also significant as a place that all the Canterbury soldiers passed as they marched off to war.

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Construction Professionalsopen/close

Gummer, William Henry

Gummer (1884-1966) was articled to W.A. Holman, an Auckland architect, and qualified as an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1910. From 1908 to 1913 he travelled in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States. During this time he worked for Edwin Lutyens, a 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. Significant commissions undertaken during this period included the New Zealand Insurance (later known as the Guardian Trust) Building, Auckland (1914-18).

In 1923 Gummer, one of the most outstanding architects working in New Zealand in the first half of the twentieth century, joined with Charles Reginald Ford (1880-1972) to create an architectural partnership of national significance. The practice was responsible for the design of the Dilworth Building (1926), Auckland, the Dominion Museum (1936) and the State Insurance Building (1940), both Wellington. Gummer and Ford were awarded Gold Medals by the New Zealand Institute of Architects for their designs of the Auckland Railway Station and Remuera Library.

Gummer was also responsible for the Bridge of Remembrance, Christchurch and the Cenotaph in Dunedin (1927), and the stylistically and structurally advanced Tauroa (1916), Craggy Range (1919), Arden (1926) and Te Mata (1935) homesteads at Havelock North. Elected a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 1914, he was president of the Institute from 1933-4 and was later elected a life member.

Gurnsey, Frederick George

Frederick George Gurnsey (1868 - 1953) was born in Wales. He was apprenticed to Harry Hems and Company, a leading ecclesiastical carving firm in Exeter, and worked for them once his apprenticeship was complete. Gurnsey visited New Zealand in 1904-1905 and returned in 1907 when he was appointed as an instructor at the Canterbury College School of Art in Christchurch. At the School of Art he taught carving, modelling, casting, enamelling and metalwork, and was the acting director of the school from September 1917 to April 1920. He resigned in 1923 to become a full-time carver.

Gurnsey executed thousands of carvings, in both wood and stone, for churches, civic buildings, public monuments and various private commissions. Some of his more prominent carvings include the reredos in the Christchurch cathedral, his work in the Chapel of St Michael and St George, the carvings on the Bridge of Remembrance in Christchurch (1924), those on the Massey Memorial in Wellington (1930), and those in the Church of the Good Shepherd at Tekapo.(1935). During the Depression Gurnsey diversified into making domestic furniture. He has been described as 'one of the greatest European carvers ever to have worked in New Zealand', although due to his personal modesty and the way in which carving falls somewhere between fine arts and craft, his achievements have, until recently, largely been unrecognised. Confident with carving in both wood and stone, Gurnsey was responsible for many beautiful works, particularly in the South Island.

Additional informationopen/close

Completion Date

20th August 2001

Report Written By

Melanie Lovell-Smith

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

J.A.B. Crawford, 'Upham, Charles Hazlitt 1908-1994', Vol 5, 1941-1960, Auckland, 2000, pp.531-533

MacLean, 1990

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

pp.117-119.

Thornton, 1996

Geoffrey Thornton, Cast in Concrete: Concrete Construction in New Zealand 1850-1939, Auckland, 1996

p.178