This statue of Sir George Grey (1812-1898) reflects early twentieth-century civic attitudes to British colonial rule and Maori, as well as to New Zealand's 'founding fathers'. Originally erected in 1904, it depicts Grey standing in morning dress, with a scroll in his hand and a replicated Maori carving to the rear. Grey was an important British colonial diplomat and politician, having been twice governor of New Zealand (1845-1853 & 1861-1868), the last superintendent of Auckland (1875-1876), and the premier of New Zealand (1877-1879). He had also served as governor of South Australia (1841-1845) and that of Cape Colony, South Africa (1854-1861). Grey supported colonial expansion as a way of alleviating poverty in Britain and Ireland, and was an advocate of cultural assimilation between different peoples. In New Zealand, he actively encouraged the Europeanization of Maori and a greater understanding of Maori culture by Pakeha settlers. The monument was commissioned soon after his death, being funded through a combination of public subscription and a government grant. Parliamentary subsidies were unusual at this time, but in this instance official involvement extended to the premier Richard Seddon (1845-1906), who approved the final model. Seddon had entered parliament in 1879, reputedly at Grey's suggestion, and often sought to strengthen his position as leader of the Liberal Party by claiming an affinity with Grey.
The marble statue was executed in England by Francis Williamson, who was a sculptor to Queen Victoria. Its plinth was crafted from Coromandel granite and Tamaki scoria by a firm of local masons, Trayes Bros. The monument contained a number of inscriptions, including a list of Grey's administrative posts and a verse in Maori praising his role as 'shelter of the Maori race' - 'te whakaruru hau o te iwi maori i nga ra i mua'. Originally erected at the busy junction between Queen Street and Grey's Avenue, it was unveiled at a public ceremony attended by a number of national figures. Its location became more prominent after the adjacent town hall was completed in 1911, when many Aucklanders used its base as a meeting point. The monument was transferred to its current position in Albert Park in 1922, partly because it was an impediment to traffic. The park contained other public sculpture, such as a statue of Queen Victoria, as well as several trees that had been donated by Grey when the grounds were laid out in 1882. Retaining its symbolic power, the statue's head was removed by Maori rights protestors in 1986 and replaced with a likeness the following year.
The monument is historically significant for its commemoration of Sir George Grey, who was a major figure in the colonial history of New Zealand and the British Empire. Its creation reflects a number of attitudes in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century New Zealand, including a respect for founding fathers and representatives of British authority. It is of value for demonstrating the strength of British imperial sentiment within the Seddon government, as well as the general population. The statue is particularly important for reflecting late colonial attitudes towards Maori, including both paternalism and an acknowledgement of separate cultural identity through the employment of Maori-based motifs and te reo Maori/the Maori language. It demonstrates the strength of political feeling during the 1980s, when the nearby university was a focus of land rights protest. Artistically, the monument has been considered less distinguished than other works of the period, but exemplifies a move towards greater realism in public sculpture. Its current location reflects the 1920s 'modernisation' of urban streets in Auckland and the employment of parks as places of public education. The monument has aesthetic value for its parkland setting, and is associated with a number of other historic statues and structures within the park and the surrounding area.
The Grey Statue is one of a number of sculptures commissioned from English sculptors during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, usually financed by public subscriptions to commemorate notable individuals.
Sir George Grey (1812-1898) was the Governor of New Zealand 1845-1853 and 1861-1868. He also served as Superintendent of Auckland province, 1875-1876, a Member of the House of Representatives, and Prime Minister, 1877-1879. When he died in 1898, Auckland's Mayor Peter Wignam formed a committee to erect a memorial. Subscriptions were called for and a $1000 subsidy obtained from Parliament, a rare event for sculpture. In April 1902 the commission was given to F.J. Williamson, at a fee of 1200 guineas, and he was instructed to depict the statesman as he appeared in 1868,
Messrs Trayes Bros were contracted to dress and erect the pedestal and place the statue, an a site at the apex of the Town Hall, at the intersection of Grey's Avenue and Queen Street. The total expenditure was about £1825.
In 1922 the statue was moved to its present site in Albert Park.
On Waitangi Day 1987 the head of the statue was removed as part of a protest against the Treaty of Waitangi. Its replacement was designed and sculpted by Roderick Burgess at a cost of about $9000, and was described by the sculptor as a compromise owing to the wide shoulder span, proportionally, and the difficulty of finding adequate photographic details.
Albert Park was originally the site of a Maori settlement, then part of Albert Barracks, but in 1870 was set aside as a public reserve and by the early 1880s the present layout was begun.
ARCHITECT/ENGINEER OR DESIGNER:
Francis John WILLIAMSON (1833-1920)
John Henry FOLEY (1818-1874) (Design of pedestal)
Roderick BURGESS (b.1952) (Replacement head)
ARCHITECTURAL DESCRIPTION (STYLE):
The monument has a rusticated, moulded base with a Classical pedestal based on the Corinthian order. The statue which stands on a plinth is full length, in contemporary morning dress. The work exemplifies the use of realistic depiction in late nineteenth century English sculpture.
1922 Re-erected in Albert Park from the Town Hall apex, Queen Street
February 1987 Head removed by protestors
April 1988 New head fitted
Registration covers the statue, its plinth and foundations. It also includes recent alterations. The structure lies on or near the site of the nineteenth-century military magazine inside Albert Barracks.
Erection of statue in Queen Street, Auckland
Moved to Albert Park
Head removed by protestors
New head fitted
The statue is marble; its base and pedestal are of local stone, the steps are made of Tamaki scoria and the pedestal from Coromandel tonolite. The new head is reinforced with a brass rod and filled with cement.
12th November 2001
Report Written By
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Keith Sinclair, 'George Grey', Vol.1: 1769-1869, Wellington, 1990; David Hamer, 'Richard Seddon', Vol.2 1870-1900, Wellington, 1993
Robin Woodward, 'Public Sculptures in Auckland, 1895 - 1971', MA Thesis, University of Auckland, 1972
An Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Government Printer, Wellington, 1966
New Zealand Herald
New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1932, p. 6; 28 September 1933, p. 6.
New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)
New Zealand Historic Places Trust
'Sir George Grey Statue, Albert Park, Auckland', Buildings Classification Committee Report, Wellington, 1989 (held by NZHPT, Auckland)
G. H. Scholefield, A Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington, 1940
Graves, 1970 (reprint)
A Graves, The Royal Academy of Fine Arts Exhibitions 1769-1904, London, 1970 (reprint)
R Gummer. Dictionary of British Sculpture, 1660-1851, London 1954
G M Waters. Dictionary of British Artists: Working 1900-1950, Eastbourne 1975
Auckland City Council
Auckland City Council
Albert Park Environmental Trail, Auckland City Council 1983
File 70/10: 'Statues and Monuments'
Minutes of Auckland City Council Meetings: 1903-4; 1921-2
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.
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.