Queen Victoria Monument

Kent Terrace; Cambridge Terrace, Wellington

  • Queen Victoria Monument, Wellington. CC Licence 2.0 Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: russellstreet. Taken By: russellstreet. Date: 10/08/2011.
  • Queen Victoria Monument, Wellington. CC Licence 2.0 Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Phillip Capper. Taken By: Phillip Capper. Date: 9/07/2006.
  • Queen Victoria Monument, Kent & Cambridge Terrace, Wellington. World War II soldiers marching on Kent Terrace, Wellington, past the statue of Queen Victoria. c.1940s Ref: PAColl-8848 Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.
    Copyright: Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Taken By: Unknown.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 3663 Date Entered 28th June 1984

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the part of the land described as Pt Canal Reserve Town of Wellington, Wellington Land District and the structure known as the Queen Victoria Monument and pedestal thereon.

City/District Council

Wellington City

Region

Wellington Region

Legal description

Pt Canal Reserve Town of Wellington, Wellington Land District

Location description

Situated between Kent and Cambridge Terraces, Wellington.

Summaryopen/close

The Queen Victoria Monument, now situated between Kent and Cambridge Terraces in Wellington, is a posthumous memorial commemorating the monarch Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901. For Wellington, the Queen has special significance as the much of the planning and building of the city occurred during her reign.

The Queen Victoria Monument was planned in the days following the death of the monarch on the 22 January 1901. The monument was originally intended as a national memorial but this idea was rejected after considerable public outcry (particularly from the South Island) against being forced to contribute to a monument many would never see. As a result, Prime Minister Richard John Seddon (1845-1906) decided to act on behalf of only the citizens of Wellington. He set about informing William Pember Reeves (1857-1932) to begin the search for an artist who could create a ‘creditable statue for the sum of ₤3000’ all of which would be public donation. Reeves contacted several English newspapers to advertise the proposal; he was wary of setting up a competition as first class artists often did not compete. The commission was finally won by Alfred Drury (1856-1944) in late 1902.

Drury began work on the monument in 1903, creating it in two pieces. The bronze statue of the Queen portrays the monarch wearing the robe of state, with the customary small crown over her widow’s veil. She carries the sceptre and an orb surmounted with a personified winged Victory. Her gown is embroidered with decorative details of national emblems. The pedestal was made from Aberdeen granite. It is decorated with four bronze reliefs showing the artist’s representations of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, Fine Arts and Literature and the inventions of Queen Victoria’s reign. The fourth bears an inscription in Latin-VICTORIA REGINA ET IMPERATRIX 1837-1901, Victoria Queen and Empress 1837-1901. The bronze pedestal reliefs have been the subject of heated debate since their creation, mainly due to the representation of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Drury’s attempt to create a dignified but believable scene has been interpreted in a range of ways from a ‘striking artwork’ to a ‘triumphalist gloss over the events of 1840’. The detailing found on these reliefs is remarkable, with Drury including small wheels on the locomotives on the ‘inventions’ relief and individual moko on the chiefs on the relief depicting the Treaty.

Getting the monument finished was easier said than done. Many artists had been commissioned to create statues of Queen Victoria for her Diamond Jubilee and on her death. This meant the casting of the main statue and reliefs for the Wellington monument were delayed due to a large backlog of work at the foundry. The reliefs were not finished in time for the unveiling.

The Queen Victoria Monument was unveiled on the 29 April 1905 by Governor Sir William Plunket (1864-1920) in Post Office Square. Plunket believed that the monument held the significance of a mini Statue of Liberty for immigrants arriving at the harbour. Though Post Office Square seemed well suited for the monument, it was relocated in 1911 to a site between Kent and Cambridge Terraces. The reasons behind this relocation are not well defined, but it seems that the decision to relocate the statue was made due to traffic issues in the Jervois Quay area and the introduction of new electric trams. In its new location, the statue is exposed to heavy traffic and exhausts fumes, and views of the Monument are blemished by the presence of bus and power lines. Attempts have been made to relocate the monument back to its original site in Post Office Square but have failed following protest from local residents and businesses.

The Queen Victoria Monument is a significant piece of Wellington history and an example of artistic and technical skill. The monument is important to many people in Wellington as a fascinating, enduring and beautiful expression of the values that were held in New Zealand’s colonial past.

Linksopen/close

Construction Professionalsopen/close

Drury, Alfred

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1905 -
Unveiled in Post Office Square, Wellington

Relocation
1911 -
Relocated to Kent Terrace, Wellington

Modification
1947 -
The Wellington City Council gave the statue several layers of lacquer which were subsequently removed due to public protest and disagreement from prominent sculptor Richard Gross (1882-1964).

Completion Date

8th October 2011

Report Written By

Kayla Wilson

Information Sources

Archives New Zealand (Wgtn)

Archives New Zealand (Wellington)

National Archives IA, 1/1901/939, Prime Ministers Office to William Pember Reeves, 1 February 1901.

Wellington City Archive, Box 1977, Part 1; Alfred Drury to J.R.Palmer, 10 March 1904.

Wellington City Archive, Box 1977, Part 1; William Pember Reeves to Richard John Seddon, 23 February 1901.

Wellington City Archive, Box 1977, Part 1; Alfred Drury to the Mayor of Wellington, 17 December 1903.

Bulletin of New Zealand Art History

Bulletin of New Zealand Art History

Stocker, M. ‘Queen Victoria Memorials in New Zealand: A Centenary Appraisal’, in The Bulletin on New Zealand Art History. 2001, No.22.

Wellington City Council

Wellington City Council

Wellington City Council Report of the Independent Commissioners of an Application to Relocate the Queen Victoria Statue to Post Office Square, Wellington, 11 June 1996.

Other Information

A fully referenced Upgrade Report is available from the Central Region office of NZHPT.

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.