Cenotaph

Esplanade, Gisborne

  • Cenotaph.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 2/04/2003.
  • Cenotaph.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones.
  • Cenotaph.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: J Blackburne. Date: 11/05/2010.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 3472 Date Entered 19th April 1990

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Sec 26 BLK III Turanganui SD (CT GS5B/1247), Gisborne Land District and the structure known as Cenotaph thereon, and its fixtures.

City/District Council

Gisborne District

Region

Gisborne Region

Legal description

Sec 26 BLK III Turanganui SD (CT GS5B/1247), ( Drainage Taruheru River NZ Gazette 1983 p 3555 ), Gisborne Land District

Location description

Opposite the junction of Esplanade Road and Rawiri Street

Summaryopen/close

Built on the western bank of the Turanganui River, The Cenotaph was unveiled on 25 April 1923 in honour of the district’s servicemen who fell during the First World War. A war memorial was first suggested by the local newspaper in 1919. World War One memorials were encouraged by Anzac Day celebrations, which became prominent in the early 1920s and required a permanent focus for the community’s annual tribute to the dead. Its construction was proposed by C.E. Armstrong, the District Engineer, and H.G. Kells, and the monument was designed by Edward Armstrong. The style of the memorial was chosen at the suggestion of the architect’s father, C.E. Armstrong, District Engineer, Public Works Department and H.G. Kells, a prominent citizen and fellow borough councillor. Initially the proposal was to create a memorial through improvements to Waikanae Beach, but by 1920 this idea had been replaced by proposals for a park on Kaiti Hill, and a memorial located in the town centre. In form, the memorial is a cenotaph, a style that had been promoted by the local newspaper after the Whitehall Cenotaph designed by Edwin Lutyens. The lions and soldier were carved overseas and shipped into Gisborne. Messrs Kane and Griffen were contracted to assemble the monument, and it was officially unveiled by Col. C.W. Melville, on Anzac Day in 1923, the eighth anniversary of the historic landing on Gallipoli Peninsula.

Since then it has been the site of Gisborne’s Anzac Day parade and service, and has become a lasting tribute to those who died in the Great War. The monument was much admired in the East Cape region and other local war memorials show its influence. In 1995 four more bronze plaques, bearing the names of those killed during World War Two and later overseas campaigns were designed to match the original plaques. This project was steered by the Gisborne branch of the Returned Services Association, with the advice of the NZ Historic Places Trust. The new plaques were added to the cenotaph and formally unveiled on Anzac Day, 1995. The Cenotaph is now a tribute to all Tairawhiti citizens who have died in war.

The Cenotaph has jarrah piled foundations, reinforced concrete base and concrete shaft faced with Carrara marble. The marble blocks are butt-joined and backed with concrete. The statue is marble. The monument consists of a base and pillar supporting a statue. Bronze tablets bearing the names of the fallen are recessed in the centre of each side of the base. Four reclining lions flank the corners of the base. The pillar has crosses carved in relief on opposite sides. An entablature caps the pillar. Above this is the statue of a soldier in reversed arms stance. He portrays the reversed arms stance in memory of the 561 fallen men whose names are inscribed on the bronze tablets.

The Cenotaph suffered significant structural damage in the Gisborne earthquake measuring 6.8, at 8.55pm on 20 December 2007. Consideration of methodology for repair and strengthening is currently underway with work expected to be undertaken in 2011/12.

The Cenotaph has historical significance as Gisborne’s war memorial for the First and Second World Wars, and for all other conflicts in which people from Gisborne were killed in active duty. It has architectural and aesthetic significance as a well-designed and well-executed public memorial, and because of its importance to the townscape as a prominent landmark situated in the Esplanade Park, overlooking the rivers confluence and the town centre. The much admired monument has influenced other local war memorials. The architect, Edward Armstrong, was very likely to have drawn on overseas influences for his design and with its graceful form and finely carved status it is a particularly fine example of that distinctive feature of New Zealand towns and cities – the war memorial.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

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.

This monument is a typical example of community recognition of the sacrifice and selfless duty of the servicemen of New Zealand during the Great War, 1914-18.

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.

ARCHITECTURAL QUALITY:

This monument was much admired in the East Cape region and other local war memorials notably those at Taraheru and Patutahi show its influence. Armstrong was very likely to have drawn on overseas influences for his design and with its graceful form and finely carved statue it is a particularly fine example of that distinctive feature of New Zealand towns and cities - the war memorial.

TOWNSCAPE/LANDMARK VALUE:

This finely proportioned and detailed memorial has splendid landmark qualities.

Linksopen/close

Construction Professionalsopen/close

Armstrong, Edward

Armstrong completed his early training with the Gisborne Architects Burr and Mirfield before travelling to England to carry on his studies at the Architects Association School in London. While working in London he won the Henry Jarvis Scholarship in 1920 which allowed him to attend the British School in Rome for two years.

Armstrong then spent several years in Burma and designed many buildings in Rangoon such as the Courthouse (with T O Foster) in 1926, the new offices for the Commisisoner of the Port of Rangoon and the Police Courts. He then returned to England where in 1932 he won a design competition for the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, Christchurch.

He was in private practice until World War II and then worked for the Ecclesiastical Commission designing housing for the Civilian Rehabilitation Programme. Armstrong returned to New Zealand in 1953-54 and was readmitted to the New Zealand Institute of Architects as a Fellow. He worked part-time with Glengarry and Corson of Gisborne and designed the Farm Products Co-op building in Gisborne. He retired in 1968.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical and associated iwi/hapu/whanau

Ngati Porou

Physical Description

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.

ARCHITECTURAL DESCRIPTION:

The style of the memorial was chosen at the suggestion of the architect's father, C.E. Armstrong, District Engineer, Public Works Department and H.G. Kells, a prominent citizen and fellow borough councillor.

The monument consists of a base and pillar supporting a statue. Tablets bearing the names of the fallen are recessed in the centre of each side of the base. Four reclining lions flank the corners of the base. The pillar has crosses carved in relief on opposite sides. An entablature caps the pillar. Above this is the statue of a soldier in reversed arms stance.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1923 -
Memorial unveiled

Other
2007 -
Damaged by Gisborne Earthquake (20 December 2007).

Restoration
2014 -
Restoration project commenced January 2014

Construction Details

Jarrah piled foundations supporting a reinforced concrete base. Concrete shaft and base faced with Carrara marble. The marble blocks are butt-jointed and backed with concrete. The statue is marble.

Completion Date

16th March 2011

Report Written By

Damian Skinner

Information Sources

Gisborne District Council

Gisborne District Council

Gisborne District Heritage Study, Gisborne, G11

MacLean, 1990

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

Poverty Bay Herald

Poverty Bay Herald

23 Jan 1919, quoted in Philips and MacLean, p.72

Other Information

A copy of this report is available from the NZHPT Lower Northern Area 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.