Marton Park, in Marton, was established by locals and has served as a venue for recreational and commemorative events, and as a place of aesthetic value, since 1893.
It is bounded to the south by Follett Street; to the east by houses and buildings (off Broadway); to the west by houses; and to the north by the end of Maunder and Oxford Streets, the caretaker's house, toilet block, St Stephen's Church and Hall and more houses. It is composed of two sports grounds together with a landscaped garden, lawns, trees, a pavilion, memorials, paths and fences. The two grounds are located along the southern boundary that runs north/south, and east/west.
Marton Park is socially significant. It is a visual display of the town's history, memory, and affiliations. The Park is the focus for the town's physical commemorations of events the townspeople considered important. Strong links to England and the Crown are demonstrated through the memorials located within the Park. Of the seven memorials erected there, three are associated with British Royalty. They include a memorial tree planted in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria's jubilee, and an elegant stone structure and memorial tree that commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII.
The impact of war on the small community is also demonstrated. The Park's most dominant memorial is the World War I Memorial that commemorates 86 local men killed in action. A small but elegant memorial commemorates a trooper from Marton who was killed in action during the South African War.
The Park also demonstrates the strength of the town's own sense of history. Each of the town's important dates, such as its 50th and 75th Jubilees have been marked in the Park through commemorative trees and the Jubilee Pavilion.
The Park is also of interest on a cultural level as the town's key venue for sporting and other recreational events. The Park's combination of open space, trees, paths, and built structures add to its aesthetic and architectural value, and enhance the beauty of the town.
Historical Significance or Value
For its collective, commemorative value to the people of Marton, its strong historical connections, and its on-going value as a public utility Marton Park is a place of heritage significance.
Marton Park has strong local, historical significance for its lengthy association with the town and the former Marton Borough Council, the people of Marton, and the many individuals and institutions that have used the ground. Since its establishment by community-minded individuals in 1893, it has been the scene of a large number of sporting and cultural events. The ground has long-standing commemorative associations, which is physically demonstrated by the memorials located within the grounds. The Park has been used continuously for rugby matches since its establishment, and dozens of other sports have used it over its history.
Marton Park is a place of considerable aesthetic value, having a combination of open space, trees, paths, and built structures that enhance the beauty of the town. The individual structures in the park, particularly the memorials and pavilion, have a particular aesthetic value, as do the various post and rail fences, which also make a key contribution to the character of the park. It is the home of a fine collection of native trees, which testify to the foresight of those who planned this park and its improvements.
The park contains structures of modest architectural value, in particular the 1930 memorial pavilion, which is a small, elegant structure, with an attractive splayed roof.
As the principal open space in Marton, the park is a place of great cultural and social significance to the town and its people. The park has been used by generations of Martonians and is highly regarded for its commemorative importance. The town has memorialised its past and important events, such as wars, in this public space through the use of trees, plaques and built structures.
The Park is the focus for the town's physical commemorations of events the townspeople considered important. Strong links to England and the Crown are demonstrated through the memorials located within the Park. Of the seven memorials erected there, three are associated with British Royalty. They include a memorial tree planted in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria's jubilee, and an elegant stone structure and memorial tree that commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII. The impact of war on the small community is also demonstrated. The Park's most dominant memorial is the World War I Memorial that commemorates 86 local men killed in action. A small but elegant memorial commemorates a trooper from Marton who was killed in action during the South African War. The Park also demonstrates the strength of the town's own sense of history. Each of the town's important dates, such as its 50th and 75th Jubilees have been marked in the Park through commemorative trees and the Jubilee Pavilion. The Park is also of interest on a cultural level as the town's key venue for sporting and other recreational events. The Park's combination of open space, trees, paths, and built structures add to its aesthetic and architectural value, and enhance the beauty of the town.
Marton Park, located near the centre of Marton, has been a focal point of the township's recreational, and commemorative activities for over 100 years.
Establishment and early improvements
The proposal to establish a public park was promoted by local residents who held a public meeting in May 1893 to discuss purchasing land in Marton. The Marton Park Company was formed with a capital of £700 and its conveners included Messrs S. Gibbons, T. Bredin, J. McDonald and R.E. Beckett (chairman). The Company agreed to purchase 'Shannon's Paddock', 3.8101 hectares of land that had been surveyed for subdivision in 1887. The portion to the west was owned by Emily Jane Shannon, after whom the paddock was named. The portion to the east was owned by Christoppher Richmond, a solicitor based in Wellington. The specially formed, local company intended to convert the paddock into park, and then sell it to the borough within seven years. On 10 July 1893, Shannon and Richmond transferred their land to the newly formed company, which borrowed an additional £200 to finance the bank overdraft and make the necessary improvements to the paddock.
To assist in paying off this overdraft the Company's trustees requested that rates no longer be charged on the property due to its public use. Events that generated profits also provided the Marton Park Company with contributions towards the upkeep of the grounds, although local societies were granted permission to hold sports days at Marton Park at no charge.
In 1895 the Park was offered for sale to the Marton Borough Council at a price of £700. The Council accepted the offer and funded further improvements to the ground. The land was formally transferred on 4 May 1896. Improvements included the completion of a pavilion, donated by R.E. Beckett, and a band rotunda. The pavilion, which some sources suggest may have been built in the 1880s, was replaced by the present grandstand in 1930. The band rotunda, which was in regular use over many years, was removed during World War II.
The Council had hoped to run the park at a profit. However, in the seven years between 1900 and 1907, the Park ran at a loss of £557 7s 11d. Fees gathered for events held on the grounds rarely covered costs, and by 1909 the ground was in poor repair. The Council was criticised for its management of the Park, and in response, it agreed to undertake 'extensive permanent works' including the construction of post and rail fences within the park. In 1910 the council's investment was augmented by £100, which was provided by the Government for improvements. The subsequent improvements to the ground's appearance were well received.
Sport and recreation
From the outset, Marton Park served two main functions. As a sporting ground it was the town's main arena until 1940, when Centennial Park was formed. The history of use for sports and recreational activities is a long one. Recreational activities held at Marton Park include carnivals, parades, A & P shows, and community celebrations. Rugby games have been held at the Park since the 1890s and other sports, including cricket, athletics, hockey, cycling, tennis, marching, show jumping, and quoits, have also used the Park for a long period. The flood lighting at the Park was designed to assist its use by sports such as athletics and cycling. In 1971 the national cycling championships were held at the park. Marton Park remains in use for rugby, marching and cricket, but most other sporting activities now mainly take place at Centennial Park or Sir James Wilson Memorial Park. Other users included the Marton Athletic Club, which held its meetings at the park for 48 years, until a new stadium was built at the Sir James Wilson Memorial Park in 1968.
The variety of uses to which the Park was put meant that competition for its use could be bitter, and could cause problems for some users. Cricketers, in particular, expressed their anger at the way the ground was cut up by other users during the winter season. Cricketers found the grounds difficult to play on due to the soil being '... sticky after rain and hard as a brick during a dry spell.' In 1924, cricket games were moved to the purpose-built Marton Cricket Ground in Wellington Road. Games recommenced at the Park in 1988.
One particular event that captured public imagination was the demonstration, in 1908, of hot-air ballooning and parachuting by Frenchman Captain Lorraine, then residing in Auckland, who demonstrated his daring at various exhibitions around the country. Described as a balloonist, aviator or aeronaut, Captain Lorraine soared to the desired height and then leapt from the balloon. At the time his demonstration was a sensation, as it was in other parts of the country, but Captain Lorraine died shortly afterwards in an accident off the Canterbury coast.
In 1914 an open-air movie was held. It is not known if such an event was ever held again but it was regarded as a success at the time.
Marton Park's other long-standing function is as a focus for public commemoration. The earliest memorial placed within the park was a tree planted by the Mayoress, S.J. Humphrey, to commemorate Queen Victoria's jubilee on the 22 June 1897.
The next memorial was another tree planted by the Mayoress, J.J. McDonald, commemorating the coronation of King Edward VII, 9 August 1902. Then, after the South African War ended, a memorial was erected to honour Rangitikei trooper George Hyde, who lost his life while serving in South Africa on 29 November 1900. He was the only Martonian to die during that campaign. The memorial also serves as the town's commemoration of King Edward VII's coronation, who was crowned just three months after the war ended on 31 May 1902, and peace after the South African War. Composed of a concrete plinth and iron stand, the memorial was inscribed on three sides. It was originally featured four lamps that added to its decorative value. The memorial has recently been painted white and green.
The second war memorial followed World War I. Unveiled on ANZAC Day, 25 April 1922, the memorial, entitled 'The Glorious Dead', was a tribute to the soldiers from the district who served in World War I. A total of 350 men from the district fought in the war and 86 were killed. Their names are listed on the memorial, which also contains an inscription, which notes that it was 'erected by the people of the Marton District in grateful memory of the men who fell in the Great War'.
Marton Park was also the focus of Marton's fiftieth jubilee celebrations, which were held on 28 September 1929. A plaque was placed under a tree planted by the Mayoress, Mrs F Purnell, carrying on the earlier tradition of tree planting in the Park. That year, a small grandstand, known as the Jubilee Pavilion, was designed by architect Newton Hood. It was built the following year by builder T. McChesney. The Pavilion also served as a jubilee memorial. It has a capacity of 210 people. The ground was realigned to run parallel to the new stand.
The seventy-fifth jubilee celebrations of Marton were also commemorated at the Park. A tree was planted in the Park by the Mayoress, Mrs A Meads, on 12 September 1954.
The most recent arboreal memorial in Marton Park was planted in 1990, by the women's section of the RSA, to again honour and memorialise the ANZAC troops that landed in Gallipoli 25 April 1915.
The park covered a large area and was subject to on-going efforts designed to improve its appearance. Prominent in this work was the Marton Scenery Preservation and Beautifying Association. This Association, derived partly out of the Scenery Preservation Act 1903, protected places of outstanding natural beauty. The Association devoted a large amount of its time and effort on Marton Park. It focussed on planting, and, during the 1910s appears to have had a considerable role in the Park's management. In 1913 The Rangitikei Advocate reported that the Marton Borough Council had given entire control of the park to the Association.
In 1915 Horton and Sons, nursery owners of Hastings, sent a 'landscape artist' to Marton. They recommended that the Council draw up a plan for the park. Horton and Sons was commissioned by the Council to prepare the plan. It is unclear if this work was actually undertaken and, if it was, what impact it had on the appearance of the park. By 1921 the Association had ceased operating, and the council was lamenting its absence. There were calls for the Association to be revived so that control of the Park could be handed back to it. By 1922 upkeep of the park was costing £247 per annum.
Throughout the 1920s, tree planting went on. In 1927, a New Plymouth nursery, Duncan and Davies, donated a large collection of native trees for planting, and did so again the following decade. Councils from other parts of New Zealand also regularly donated trees for planting and the residents of Marton took particular pride in the quality of the native tree collection. Not all tree planting was a success; however, and in 1982 $1200 worth of native trees died.
Changes to the Park's appearance have often attracted local comment and criticism. The decision by the Marton Borough Council to build clubrooms within the ground caused considerable anger. In 1980 the mooted removal of a hedge lining Follett Street, which was planted about 1895, also raised local ire. A petition was raised, and 800 signatures were collected, forcing a change of heart by the Council. Nevertheless, four years later, the hedge came down. This began another debate over whether a fence should be built to replace it, and to what height, after Marton residents decided they liked the views of the park. It was also not anticipated that the loss of the hedge would also mean the loss of revenue from paying spectators at local rugby games. Four years later, the post and rail fences inside the ground, built in 1909, were also scheduled for removal by the Council. Again, the protests were considerable. Another petition was presented to the Council, and the fences remain in place today.
A children's playground (now demolished) was mooted in 1923, although it was not finally approved until 1928 and not completed until 1931. In 1927 lights were installed for evening sports, mainly athletics and cycling. Lighting administration remained under the control of the Marton Park Lighting Committee for some years and contributions toward their cost were sought from users. However, the lighting remained a regular issue, in particular who was to pay for it. In 1956 sporting groups asked the Council to take over administration of the lights to simplify matters, which it agreed to do. In 1963 a new picnic area was established, with tables and seats in the form of toadstools. These remain today.
In 1971 the Marton Borough Council gave the Marton Old Boys Rugby Football Club permission to build their clubrooms in the south/east corner of the park, although there was much protest from a number of groups and individuals over the construction of a building within the park.
21st September 2004
Report Written By
M Kelly / L Fair / R O'Brien
Marton Historical Society
Marton Historical Society, The Story of Marton Park, Marton (not published)
Marton Jaycee Chapter, 1979
Marton Jaycee Chapter, Marton 100 years: 1879-1979, Marton Borough Centenary, Marton, 1979 (Jaycee Chapter)
P. Melody, They called it Marton: the life and times of Marton 1866-1979, Palmerston North, 1979 (PH Print)
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central 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.
Historic Area Place Name
South African War Memorial