Citizens' War Memorial

100 Cathedral Square, CHRISTCHURCH

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The Citizens' War Memorial, a monument to the dead of the First World War, stands in Cathedral Square to the north of the Christ Church Cathedral. It was designed by William Trethewey, a Christchurch sculptor who was also responsible for the Captain Cook monument in Victoria Square. Trethewey was a monumental mason by trade 'supplying angels and carving headstones'. He also gained the commission to build the Kaiapoi war memorial, a soldier in field dress that was described by the Mayor of Kaiapoi as 'a typical Anzac'. For the Citizens' War Memorial Trethewey worked with Christchurch architect G.A.J. Hart (1879-1961). Proposals for a war memorial in Christchurch had been promulgated since the end of the war. While many ideas were put forward, by 1920 three had become dominant; a hall of memories, a memorial bridge and a column in Cathedral Square. The idea for a hall of memories disappeared due to a lack of support, but the other two proposals had many supporters, and the idea of a column in the Square was backed, in particular, by the Canterbury Anglican elite. An agreement was reached so that both proposals were adopted as official war memorial projects and any money raised was to be split between them. The Bridge of Remembrance was unveiled in 1924 but city council opposition prevented the building of a column in the Square. The council argued that such a column would be dwarfed by the cathedral, and that the bustling nature of the square was inappropriate for the reverence that should be shown a war memorial. While the council suggested other sites, George Gould, who had first conceived the idea, held out for the Square. The memorial was eventually erected on the site next to the Cathedral, which had been occupied by the statue of John Robert Godley from 1918, until 1933, when it was moved back to its original position. The Citizens' War Memorial consists of a fifteen metre high cross surrounded by allegorical figures. In her recent thesis on Trethewey, Penelope Wilson argues that the successful structure of the memorial, which allows the figures to be viewed both individually and collectively, owes more to Hart's input than to Trethewey's. The seated figure at the base of the monument is one of sacrifice, a mother with bowed head and outstretched arms. The next level features youth, peace, justice and valour, and above them all stands an angel breaking the sword of war. The figures were modelled on specific people; Bob Hampton, one of Trethewey's workmen, was the original of youth, Trethewey's daughter, Pauline, the model for peace. Trethewey sculpted the six figures of the memorial in clay and travelled with them to England to oversee their casting at the Burtons Foundry in London. On the stone base, built from Portland stone left over from the construction of the Auckland War Memorial Museum, is engraved 'In grateful remembrance of the sons and daughters of Canterbury who fell in the Great War 1914-1918 Give peace in our time o Lord'. Today the Citizens' War Memorial stands as one of the significant landmarks in Cathedral Square and a dawn service is held there every Anzac Day. Chris MacLean and Jock Phillips, in their book on New Zealand war memorials, have argued that one could make 'a good case...for it being the finest public monument in the country' and it is seen as the supreme example of Trethewey's work. Historically it is important as a symbolic link to New Zealand's involvement in World War I.

Citizens' War Memorial, Christchurch. Image courtesy of | PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite | 22/01/2024 | Phil Braithwaite
Citizens' War Memorial, Christchurch. CC BY-SA 2.0 Image courtesy of | Roger Wong | 30/01/2010 | Roger Wong - Wikimedia Commons
Citizens' War Memorial, Christchurch. 'Youth'. CC BY 3.0 Image courtesy of Kete Christchurch. | 26/08/2009 | Christchurch City Libraries
Citizens' War Memorial, Christchurch. CC BY 2.0 Image courtesy of | Eric Brechemier | 20/11/2008 | Eric Brechemier - Wikimedia Commons



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 1


Private/No Public Access

List Number


Date Entered

9th September 1984

Date of Effect

9th September 1984

City/District Council

Christchurch City


Canterbury Region

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Lot 1 DP 39475 (RT CB18K/1392), Canterbury Land District, and the structure known as the Citizens' War Memorial thereon, with a 1 metre buffer zone.

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 39475 (RT CB18K/1392), Canterbury Land District

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