War Memorial

Makara Road And South Makara Road, Makara, Wellington

  • War Memorial. August 2011.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Phillipa Hamilton.
  • August 2011.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Phillipa Hamilton.
  • Decorative detail on front of memorial.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Phillipa Hamilton.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 1442 Date Entered 28th June 2012 Date of Effect 28th June 2012


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Legal Road, Wellington Land District and the structure known as the War Memorial thereon. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Wellington City


Wellington Region

Legal description

Legal Road, Wellington Land District

Location description

When driving down Makara Road from Karori in a northerly direction, the War Memorial is located on the left side of the road, at the intersection of Makara Road and South Makara Road. The War Memorial is located at the bottom corner of St Matthias’ churchyard.


The War Memorial at Makara was unveiled on 23 May 1921, on a portion of road fronting St Matthias’ Anglican Church. Every War Memorial in New Zealand is different and unique to the district it represents, and Makara’s War Memorial is a simple yet striking monument representing a time in New Zealand’s history which will never be forgotten.

The erection of World War One memorials caused a great amount of debate in New Zealand. In March 1919, the government confirmed that they would not offer subsidies for the construction of memorials, and by the end of that same year it also became widely accepted that memorials should be ornamental in form rather than a utilitarian structure. The War Memorial was funded and chosen by the community, making it a unique and valuable insight into the Makara community of the early twentieth century. A second plaque was added following World War Two. The structure is still the site of ANZAC Day commemorations for the current Makara community.

The memorial is located at the prominent intersection of Makara Road and South Makara Road, adjacent to a cemetery. In addition, it is located in front of St Matthias’ Anglican Church, which contains another memorial associated with World War One, a commemorative stained glass window in memory of John Howard Jervis who was the first of Makara’s men to be killed in the war during the Gallipoli campaign. Jervis is also recorded on the War Memorial.

The four-sided obelisk form used for the War Memorial was one of the most popular forms used for war memorials, with over 30 percent of World War One memorials in New Zealand being of this style. What makes each of these memorials different is the decoration and iconography that is used. Makara’s War Memorial uses military iconography of a crossed sword and rifle surmounted by a ‘lemon squeezer’ hat, a typical symbol of New Zealand identity.

This depiction of New Zealand identity is one of the Memorial’s significant features. References to national identity are rare, as at the time of the construction of these memorials New Zealand wanted to be associated with Empire, rather than promote depictions of its own identity. The War Memorial, Makara is of aesthetic, architectural, historical, and social significance as a commemoration of the lives lost in war and as the focus of a community’s grief.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

World War One was a major event in New Zealand’s history, so too was the on-going debate and decision making that occurred regarding World War One war memorials in New Zealand. The War Memorial, Makara has historical significance and value, as it is located at a historically significant site, commemorates a major historical event, and represents a significant part of Makara’s history, and indeed New Zealand’s history.

Aesthetic Significance or Value

The site of the War Memorial is a very appropriate one. It is located on the corner of Makara and South Makara Roads, the two main roads in the district, which have played a fundamental role in the history of Makara. The prominent location of the Memorial and its close proximity to the road also ensures that every passer-by sees this important piece of Makara’s history. The Memorial is located at the bottom corner of St Matthias’ churchyard, which also gives the War Memorial an extra sense of being near a sacred area dedicated to the memory of those who have died. Standing in front of the War Memorial, St Matthias’ Church and churchyard makes an aesthetically pleasing backdrop. Two kowhai trees have been planted behind the memorial, which form a sort of guard of honour for the memorial.

Architectural Significance or Value

Although the War Memorial does not have an elaborate architectural design, it does represent the architectural features common to World War One war memorials. Every war memorial is unique to the district or area it represents. Although the four-sided tapering obelisk is one of the more common forms, what makes this memorial unique is the iconography chosen to decorate it. Although only a small feature of the memorial, the crossed sword and rifle, surmounted by the ‘lemon squeezer’ hat, is the most significant architectural feature. The presence of New Zealand iconography or nationalist symbols was very rare on World War One memorials. The presence of the lemon squeezer hat on Makara’s War Memorial is one of only a few examples of a recognisable New Zealand icon on a memorial in New Zealand, making it a significant feature.

Social Significance or Value

In March 1919, the government of the day confirmed that they would not be offering subsidies for the construction of World War One memorials. With this, Makara set about funding and organising their community war memorial. The community managed to fund and construct their memorial at great speed, considering they were at that time in the process of completing a new church near the site of the Memorial. The social significance of the memorial is evident in the speed by which it was erected. The Memorial was constructed just over three years after the war ended, and unveiled only five months after permission was granted for its construction. The War Memorial is a symbol of the dedication of the Makara community towards commemorating their war dead. It is still socially significant today, as the site of Makara’s ANZAC Day commemorations.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

The War Memorial, Makara is an important representation of the response of New Zealanders to the tragedy and loss caused by World War One. Almost every district, no matter how small, built a war memorial honouring their dead, as all districts of New Zealand were directly affected. The question of commemoration was an important one in the years after World War One and caused much debate throughout New Zealand.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

The War Memorial is directly associated with World War One. It was built to commemorate the men of Makara killed during the conflict. As with many memorials, the name of a local killed during World War Two was added later. Both World Wars were major events in New Zealand history and are commemorated at annual ANZAC Day services across the country.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place

The War Memorial was an important part of the community in the early 1920s, and the community was responsible for funding and erecting the memorial. The Makara community were able to fund and erect the memorial at the same time as they were in the final stages of funding and erecting a new church. War memorials became important sites for those who had lost loved ones, but had no gravesite to visit. In many cases the local war memorial was the only site that New Zealanders had to mourn loved ones who had been lost in battlefields on the other side of the world. The Memorial is just as important to the Makara community today, and ANZAC Day services are now being held again after several years of absence.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

War memorials are a good foundation tool for research, as they give names of men who fought and died during the war. The War Memorial also indicates families who were living in the area at the time, which makes it a useful tool for genealogical research. The study of war memorials can give an insight into the area or district they represent. War memorials are important sites for public education about the significant and personal impact that New Zealand’s participation in the conflicts had on the nation.

(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place

The War Memorial has a number of symbolic and commemorative values. The concrete border enclosing the memorial gives the impression of the Memorial standing on sacred ground. The iconography present on the memorial is also significant. It was unusual for World War One Memorials to have specific ‘New Zealand icons’, this makes the presence of the lemon squeezer hat, an important New Zealand symbol, somewhat rare. The symbolism of the actual Memorial is also important, with the four-sided obelisk being closely aligned with the concept of eternal life. The War Memorial is a special site for the community of Makara, as a place to commemorate the sacrifices made by the men of Makara during World Wars One and Two.

Summary of Significance or Values

This place was assessed against, and found to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, e, f and h.


It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Glover, H

Monumental mason, Kent Terrace, Wellington

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Early History

The land around Makara was very important to early Māori, especially the coastline; a number of different tribes were associated with the area at different times during pre-European settlement. Cape Terawhiti, on the coast, was an important site for Māori, as it guarded the whole of the northern entrance into Whanga-nui-a-Tara (Wellington Harbour), controlling those who wished to cross the strait. There were Māori settlements located all along the coastline, with the westernmost range of Terawhiti being used by Māori to observe the weather and sea conditions before any decision was made about crossing the strait. Furthermore, it has been said that the discoverer Kupe dried his sails on Makara Beach during his voyages in the tenth century. To live along this coastline in the bays around Terawhiti meant control over one of the most important waterways in New Zealand.

European Settlement

The survey of the Wellington land district began in 1839 with the arrival of the New Zealand Company. The first surveyor general, Captain William Mein Smith, was ordered to find rural areas that would be divided into 100-acre sections for selection by holders of land orders. Smith laid out the Makara area in this fashion where there were initially 39 sections surveyed, of which four sections were designated as Native Reserves.

One of the first sections selected under the New Zealand Land Order No. 349 was at the junction of the Makara and South Makara Roads recorded as Section 23. One of Section 23’s joint owners, Samuel Revans was publisher of Wellington’s first newspaper, and his section became known as ‘Printers section’. One surveyor noted the section as having a house and two fenced gardens, one of which he recorded as ‘printers garden’. In 1847, some of Revans’ publishing colleagues took up neighbouring land on section 20, unsurprisingly with the influx of printers and publishers to the area, the land at the junction of South Makara and Makara Road became known as ‘Printers Flat’, a name that stuck for the next fifty years.

At first, European settlement at Makara was slow. The New Zealand Company had an ongoing struggle with the access to Makara; however, with the completion of a road via Karori in February 1858, settlement began to take place. By the 1860s, Makara was becoming a thriving little district. As with many new settlements in New Zealand, the first settlers cleared the bush before land was converted for farming. In Makara a number of the early settlers survived by selling timber for new houses being built in Wellington. There was a rush to the district when gold was discovered in 1862, however, it was not as prosperous as had been hoped and by 1883, many claims had been abandoned. Initially forestry and sawmilling was very productive, but as land was cleared farming became the main form of income.

Military Background

A lot of the land surveyed at Makara was available for military men to take up as their land grants. During 1860, individual men from Makara were called up to serve in the Militia. The first Militia Ordinance had been passed by the Legislative Council on 25 March 1845, after the threat of Hone Heke’s rebellion in Auckland. The Militia Ordinance required that all able-bodied men were to be available for annual training and ready for active service whenever there was any sort of conflict, in particular a conflict over land.

In 1861, Militia Notices printed in the papers stated that all men between the ages of 16 and 55 were liable to serve under the Militia Act Amendment Act 1860; all eligible men were to be enrolled to serve in the militia for the Wellington District of the City of Wellington including Karori and Makara. Men from Makara answered this call and drills were set up. Drills for the men from Makara were held on Tuesdays at 2pm, and later the second Tuesday of the month.

It was not long before men from Makara were going overseas to war - the South African War. Premier Richard Seddon offered to send troops to South Africa in September 1899 and there was a great response from New Zealand men, however only members of the New Zealand permanent forces and the part-time volunteer forces were eligible to serve. Men were required to meet physical requirements such as height and age, as well as possess the ability to ride and shoot. While most men readily met the first two requirements many were rejected due to poor horsemanship.

World War One

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June 1914, and England’s subsequent declaration of war on Germany on 4 August 1914 would have a lasting effect on New Zealand. Prime Minister W.F. Massey declared that New Zealand’s main contribution would be the supply of troops to fight, and accordingly New Zealand sent over 100,000 men overseas to the war, with the main body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force leaving on 16 October 1914. New Zealand became involved to not only support ‘Mother England’, but also because it was dependent on the British market: anything that threatened this market directly threatened New Zealand. New Zealand quickly began preparations for war.

Makara also quickly became involved in the war effort and the subsequent preparations. Makara was the location of a ‘war training’ exercise between the Canterbury and Otago Regiments, who represented attacking and defending forces respectively. On 8 October 1914, the Evening Post reported on an ‘infantry engagement in the direction of Makara’. Troops left for Karori early in the morning; it was expected that manoeuvres would be completed in time for men to return to the troopships for dinner in the evening.

Records indicate that the first of the Makara men, William Gray Ramsay and John Howard Jervis, departed for war on 16 October 1914. At least 13 other Makara men departed at various times throughout the duration of the war. As the War Memorial indicates, seven men never returned home. Indeed, Percy Jervis might have found it difficult to leave for war on 5 April 1917, three years after his brother John Howard Jervis had departed and been killed in action at Gallipoli.

Makara also had a unique connection with a soldier who was not actually from the community. On 2 February 1916, the Evening Post reported that Mr H. Mills of Ohariu Valley picked up a toffee tin while walking along Makara Beach. Inside the tin was a message written by Private A. T. Bird of the 8th Platoon, B Company, 9th Reinforcements. The message indicated that the tin had been dropped from a troop ship 140 miles out from Wellington, and the letter requested that whoever found the tin might communicate with Bird while he was at the front. Records indicate that Arthur Thomas Bird left Wellington on 8 January 1916 aboard the Maunganui, bound for Egypt, and he appears to have survived the war.

War Memorial

Of the 120,000 New Zealanders who enlisted during World War One, 103,000 served overseas, 18,500 were killed and almost 50,000 were wounded. The War Memorial, Makara is one of nearly 500 World War One memorials throughout New Zealand, erected to commemorate those who lost their lives. There was much discussion around war memorials and how best to commemorate the dead. Some people wanted utilitarian forms such as libraries or town halls, while others wanted more ornamental forms such as statues or similar. By the end of 1919, it was generally agreed that memorials should be ornamental rather than for a utilitarian purpose. Agreement on the location of war memorials caused some of the most heated debates. Generally, it was agreed that memorials should be in a prominent position, that there should be room for people to gather around them and that they should be in a relatively central spot within the community.

The next debate that arose regarded subsidies. In December 1918, the Prime Minister hinted at the possibility of the government offering subsidies for local memorials, however on 21 March 1919, the government decided they would not offer any sort of funding. With this, the government lost any sort of jurisdiction over memorials. Decisions about the memorials and the funding of them were now up to the communities charged with erecting them. This has meant that every war memorial in New Zealand is unique, and a direct representation of the community that erected it.

War Memorial, Makara

On 10 December 1920, it was reported that no reply had been received from the Minister of Internal Affairs regarding an application for the erection of a war memorial at Makara, and it was agreed that a second application should be made. On 23 December 1920, the Makara County Council was given permission to erect a war memorial ‘on that portion of the Makara road, fronting the Anglican Church’. During that time, the location would have been the focus of much work as the nearby St Matthias’ Anglican Church was also in the middle of a building upgrade. The original building had been demolished in 1920, and a more permanent church was under construction. The foundation stone of the building was laid on 12 February 1921, and the church was consecrated in August of that year. This was in addition to the plans being made for the erection of the war memorial.

Five months after permission was granted to erect a war memorial at Makara, plans for its unveiling were underway. On the afternoon of Sunday 23 May 1921, Brigadier-General Richardson unveiled the memorial. The Brigadier-General commented on how glad he was to see the monument placed in such a conspicuous position, and gave a poignant speech which concluded with a hope that the monument ‘should be an inspiration to the children of future generations, a constant reminder to them of those who died for us and posterity’. Upon his conclusion, he unveiled the memorial and the Last Post sounded.

Unfortunately, there is very little information regarding the plans or design for the memorial, and there is no inscription or marking on the memorial to indicate who the mason may have been. However, there is a very similar memorial located at Aro Street (Mitchelltown) in Wellington. Aro Valley’s War Memorial is a lot larger than Makara’s, and is in poorer condition. It was erected by the ‘Mitchelltown Welcome Home Association and Friends’ in 1920, only a year before the erection of Makara’s War Memorial. The Aro Memorial has a small plaque at the bottom right corner that reads ‘H. Glover, Kent Terrace’.

H. Glover was a monumental mason. It is uncertain when he began working in Wellington, however there is an advertisement in the Evening Post in 1912 advertising an available position for a ‘strong boy’ - wages would be £1 a week, and applications should be made to H. Glover, Monumental Mason, Molesworth Street. Then on 15 July 1913, notice is given in the Evening Post, that H. Glover is moving from Molesworth Street to 59 Kent Terrace, and that estimates are given for all classes of work. Later, from 1914 onwards there are frequent advertisements by H. Glover ‘Monumental Sculptor’, advertising ‘all kinds of cemetery work executed. Granite and marble curbs, reinforced concrete walls. Direct importer Granite and marble memorials.’ Due to the similarity of the two memorials and the fact that they were erected within one year of each other, there is a very high possibility that the same sculptor worked on both memorials.

Some years later, in 1964, the location of the War Memorial at Makara came into question. The Deputy Town Clerk of Wellington City Corporation wrote to the City Engineer of Hutt County Council stating that at some stage a stonewall would be erected on the road frontage of the Makara Cemetery, which would be an ideal site for the War Memorial. However, some confusion over road boundaries meant he was unable to recommend a suitable permanent site in the meantime and he requested that Hutt County Council undertake appropriate surveys. On 11 March 1965, Mr Donelley, the Hutt County Council Engineer, replied that survey work was up to date and pegs had been pointed out to a Mr Tucker from the Reserves Department of Wellington City Corporation. In regards to a site for the memorial, it was proposed that the Memorial could be moved to opposite the Makara Community Hall where appropriate work could be done to make the Memorial a feature. This was the last letter of correspondence on the subject, and it is possible that agreement could not be reached. As a result, the War Memorial remains in its original location, where it was unveiled in 1921.

Makara’s War Memorial was not utilised during ANZAC Day services and commemorations for some years, but it is, now once again the site of annual ANZAC Day commemoration ceremonies.

Physical Description


The War Memorial is located at the intersection of Makara Road and South Makara Road. This location meets most of the specified criteria of where memorials should be situated. This central location within an area known as ‘Printers Flat’ or Makara Junction was described in 1873 as a ‘most convenient location in regards to the scattered community of Makara’. Its close proximity to both the churches in Makara, especially St Matthias’ Anglican Church, makes it an obvious location for commemoration. St Matthias’ Church also has a memorial stained glass window of Saint George, which was donated by the community in 1917, commemorating John Howard Jervis who was killed at Gallipoli. It is fitting that the War Memorial is situated within a close proximity to this other memorial.


The War Memorial is located at the bottom corner of the St Matthias’ churchyard, which includes a cemetery where many of the area’s early settlers and residents are buried. There has been a lot of work done in maintaining the churchyard, and it is a beautiful and peaceful setting. Standing in front of the War Memorial, St Matthias’ Church and churchyard make an aesthetically striking backdrop. Two kowhai trees have been planted behind the memorial, which form a sort of guard of honour for the structure, and a garden to the left contains, quite appropriately, rosemary (the herb of remembrance). While the Memorial’s close proximity to Makara Road is not ideal for practical reasons, the importance of the road in Makara’s history makes the location all the more relevant.


The War Memorial is a concrete four-sided tapering obelisk, enclosed by a concrete surround and rail. War memorials were often enclosed to give the memorial a sense of being on sacred ground. The fence around the War Memorial fits the architecture of the memorial; it is a concrete wall, with small obelisks spaced around it with a metal pipe rail running through the tops. Inside the enclosure, the War Memorial stands upon two concrete steps, which fulfil one of the criteria for memorials, which is to have steps on which wreathes can be placed. The base of the monument has a marble plaque that was added commemorating J.C. Nielsen, who was killed during World War Two. Above that, on the main part of the memorial is the marble plaque which reads ‘Erected by the Settlers of Makara, In Memory of the Boys of this district who fell in the Great War 1914- 1918’. The names of the fallen are listed in alphabetical order, all except the last name – J. E. Bryant. It is possible that the name was a later addition or that he was from the neighbouring Ohariu Valley, rather than Makara. Most communities chose to list the names in alphabetical order as this was seen as expressing an equality of honour.

Above the main plaque is a triangle with the only decoration on the memorial. Within the triangle is a crossed sword and rifle, which are surmounted by a ‘lemon squeezer’ hat, a symbol commonly associated with New Zealand identity. The memorial then tapers upwards to a point.

The four-sided tapering obelisk was the most popular design for World War One memorials, comprising 30 percent of the memorials erected in New Zealand. What made them popular was that they were cheap, easy to make and practical. The four flat sides were ideal for listing names, while the stepped base made them ideal for ANZAC Day commemorations and the laying of wreaths.


The obelisk, as was chosen for the War Memorial at Makara has very powerful symbolic meaning. The obelisk originated in Egypt where it symbolised the rays of the sun and therefore fertility and life to sun worshippers. In more recent times it has come to symbolise eternal life, pointing towards the heavens. Some of the larger examples give a towering impression and a representation of triumph, victory and military success.

Although the obelisk is a simple form, it has powerful meaning. The War Memorial uses military iconography as a form of decoration: a sword and a rifle surmounted by a lemon squeezer hat - a distinctive New Zealand feature. New Zealand icons such as ferns, flags or anything regarding nation are rare on World War One memorials. This is due to New Zealand’s desire, at that time, to be associated with the Empire. The War Memorial’s representation of the lemon squeezer, a distinctive New Zealand symbol, is therefore unusual.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1921 -
Memorial erected and unveiled

Second memorial plaque added after World War Two

Construction Details

Concrete, marble, metal rail

Completion Date

4th May 2012

Report Written By

Phillipa Hamilton

Information Sources

MacLean, 1990

Chris MacLean and Jock Phillips, The Sorrow and the Pride: New Zealand War Memorials, Wellington, 1990

Karori News

Karori News

‘More Makara History told to society’ Karori News, 10 Sep 1983

Morrison, 2003 (2)

Morrison, Catherine, Terawhiti, Arty Bee Books, Wellington, 2003.

Other Information

A fully referenced report is available from the Central Region Office of NZHPT.

This place is identified as being included in other heritage listings. The reference is Memorials Register: Makara war memorial http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/photo/makara-war-memorial, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 23-Jun-2011.

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.