Sarjeant Gallery

Cameron Tce, Queens Park, Whanganui

  • Sarjeant Gallery.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Date: 22/08/2002.
  • Sarjeant Gallery. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Steve Parker – Spark-Photo. Taken By: Steve Parker – Spark-Photo. Date: 27/12/2013.
  • Sarjeant Gallery.
    Copyright: Leigh Mitchell-Anyon. Taken By: Leigh Mitchell-Anyon.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 167 Date Entered 24th November 1983 Date of Effect 24th November 1983


City/District Council

Whanganui District


Horizons (Manawatū-Whanganui) Region

Legal description

Secs 558, 559, 549 Pt 548 Twn of Wanganui - Queens Park


Widely regarded as among the finest provincial art galleries in New Zealand, the Sarjeant Gallery was established from the bequest of Henry Sarjeant (1830-1912) and the efforts of Sarjeant's widow, Ellen Agnes Stewart, both of whom were inspired by their love of art and of the Wanganui region. It was decided to place the new gallery on a prominent site overlooking the town that had been reserved for public buildings since 1875. The Wanganui Borough Council called a national competition to design the gallery in what was to be the new civic centre. The competition was run under the auspices of the New Zealand Institute of Architects with Samuel Hurst Seager, a notable Christchurch-based architect, adjudicating. The winner was Donald Hosie, a young architect articled to the Dunedin-based firm of Edmund Anscombe and Associates. Hosie, just 21, was conscripted in 1916 to fight in World War One and died in France at the battle of Passchendaele in 1917. Edmund Anscombe took over supervision of the construction and the Governor-General, Lord Liverpool, laid the foundation stone in September 1917. The building was officially opened by Prime Minister William Massey in September 1919.

The final design of the gallery, based on a Greek cross, was a reflection of both the architect's vision and the conditions attached to the competition. The latter required that the building be designed in a Classical style, 'drawn in a quiet, dignified simple manner', but with some originality. In Hosie's design, the brick masonry construction faced with Oamaru stone, reinforced concrete floor, and concrete partitions and ceilings helped promote the strength, stability and order, characteristic of the Classical style. The competitors were also asked to incorporate the 'Top-Side-Lighted' method of lighting galleries newly developed by Seager.

The only work of Donald Hosie, the gallery's design reflects the ideas surrounding the way in which art was to be displayed at the beginning of the twentieth century. This includes new ideas for lighting gallery spaces, which were later studied by other architects and incorporated into similar buildings around New Zealand. It is a prominent and distinguished building, which engenders a degree of provincial pride not only for its design but also for its renowned collection of New Zealand art. The building is also significant as it commemorates a notable Wanganui settler, Henry Sarjeant.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Anscombe, Edmund

Anscombe (1874-1948) was born in Sussex and came to New Zealand as a child. He began work as a builder's apprentice in Dunedin and in 1901 went to America to study architecture. He returned to Dunedin in 1907 and designed the School of Mines building for the University of Otago. The success of this design gained him the position of architect to the University. Five of the main University buildings were designed by Anscombe, as well as Otago Girls' High School and several of Dunedin's finest commercial buildings including the Lindo Ferguson Building (1927) and the Haynes building.

Anscombe moved to Wellington about 1928 and was known for his work as the designer of the Centennial Exhibition (1939-1940). Anscombe had travelled extensively and had visited major exhibitions in Australia, Germany and America. The practice of Edmund Anscombe and Associates, Architects, had offices in the Dunedin, Wellington and Hawkes Bay districts, and Anscombe's buildings include the Vocational Centre for Disabled Servicemen, Wellington (1943), Sargent Art Gallery, Wanganui, and several blocks of flats including Anscombe Flats, 212 Oriental Parade (1937) and Franconia, 136 The Terrace (1938), both in Wellington. As well as being interested in the housing problem, Anscombe held strong views concerning the industrial advancement of New Zealand.

(See also )

Hosie, Donald


Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

The building is in the shape of a Greek cross with a central sculpture hall and a dome. Pedimented entrance directly off the uppermost landing of the veterans' steps.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1917 - 1919
Foundation stone laid September 1917, opened September 1919

1967 -
Opening between the gallery and the stairs at the north end of the building filled in and glazed doors installed. (Doors from the old Wanganui Council Chambers.)

1977 -
Basement space extended

1978 -
New public toilet and service lift installed in north-western part of the building. Removal of one of the two symmetrical flights of stairs and the original women's locker room

1980 -
Curator's room made into two offices

1984 - 1985
Loading bay and workshop built in the north-west corner of the building

1985 -
Original men's locker room converted to an office

1987 -
Stair built from the basement up to the extreme west end of the central wing.

1992 -
Major refurbishment.

1996 -
Library established in what was once the miniature gallery.

Completion Date

24th September 2001

Report Written By

Helen McCracken

Information Sources

Cochran, 1998

Chris Cochran, 'Sarjeant Gallery, Queen's Park, Wanganui; Cultural Heritage Assessment', unpublished report prepared for the Sarjeant Gallery Trust Board, December 1998. Copy held at NZHPT.

New Zealand Historic Places

New Zealand Historic Places

Julia Gatley, 'An Expression of Pride', No. 43, September 1993, pp. 18-20

Other Information

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.