Oamaru Public Gardens, 39 Chelmer Street, Oamaru
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 2
Able to Visit
24th February 1994
Extent of List Entry
Extent includes part of the land described as Lot 2 DP 317966 (CT 70398), Otago Land District, and the structure known as the Wonderland Statue thereon. (Refer to the extent map tabled at the Heritage List/ Rārangi Kōrero Committee meeting on 11 February 2016).
Lot 2 DP 317966 (CT 70398), Otago Land District
Unveiled in 1927, the Wonderland Statue in the Oamaru Public Gardens, depicting a boy and a girl absorbed by the fairy land revealed to them, recalls the curiosity and imagination of childhood. Sculpted by renowned Scottish sculptor Sir Thomas Clapperton and inspired by Sir George Frampton’s 1913 Peter Pan sculpture in London’s Kensington Gardens, the statue has historic, cultural and social significance.
Oamaru’s Wonderland Statue owes it allegiance to Sir George Frampton’s Peter Pan unveiled in Kensington Gardens in London in 1913. The sculptor, Sir Thomas Clapperton, was a former student of Frampton’s. Clapperton completed some prestigious commissions in England and other work in New Zealand. Clapperton’s other works include a statue of Robert the Bruce at the entrance to Edinburgh Castle, and an equestrian statue of a raider in his home town of Galasheils at the Scottish Borders. He also designed the bronze soldier for the First World War Memorial on Thames Street in Oamaru (List Entry No. 2316).
The sculpture was commissioned by Robert Milligan, a former mayor of Oamaru. Milligan had seen Frampton’s Peter Pan at Kensington Gardens, and entranced by it, wanted to bring the spirit of the work to Oamaru. The sculpture was cast in bronze at the foundry of A.B. Burton in London. The marquette, or model for the sculpture, is in a private collection. Milligan’s gift inspired at least one child who had gazed and the children and stroked the bronze nose of the small animals: Harold Richmond, who had grown up in Oamaru, commissioned the Peter Pan sculptures for the Dunedin Botanic Gardens in the 1960s.
In March 1927, two thousand people crowded into the gardens to witness the unveiling of ‘A Vision of Fairyland’ statue.’ The sculpture shows a boy and a girl on top of a rock entranced by the fairy world they can see below – finely detailed fairies and small animals. Although it does not depict any of the Peter Pan characters, the statue has acquired the name ‘Wonderland Statue.’ Oamaru’s statue seems to be the earliest of that genre in New Zealand, predating those at Wanganui (1967), Invercargill (1966), Dunedin (1965 and 1968) and Hawera (1951, List Entry No. 7469). Oamaru’s sculpture is also the least literal –the others depict characters from Peter Pan – and represents childhood imagination and wonder.
In 1959 a special Wonderland Garden was designed by Mr H.T. Beveridge, the superintendent of the reserves department. In November 1959, the Wonderland Garden opened with the statue on a new, less rustic base.
Thomas Clapperton (1879-1962) was a Scottish sculptor trained at the Galashiels Mechanics Institute, the Glasgow School of Art and the Kennington School of Art. After receiving a travelling scholarship he returned to London where he set up studios. Among his commission were war memorials, including in Canobie, Minto, Galashiels and Selkirk. His work abroad included Oamaru’s war memorial, sculpture in Canada, and a fountain in California. His most well known work in Scotland is the statue of Robert the Bruce at the entrance to Edinburgh Castle (1929). He completed other public monuments and friezes in Scotland and England.
Presented to the children of Oamaru by former Mayor Robert Milligan March 1926
Statue given new base and setting in Wonderland Garden
11th January 2016
Report Written By
A copy of the original report is available 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.
A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Otago/Southland Office of Heritage New Zealand