World War One Memorial
Thames Street, Oamaru
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 2
Able to Visit
2nd July 1982
Date of Effect
2nd July 1982
Extent of List Entry
Extent includes part of the land described as Legal Road, Otago Land District, and the structure known as the World War One Memorial, thereon. (Refer to the extent map tabled at the Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero Committee meeting on 8 October 2015.)
Legal Road, Otago Land District
Oamaru’s World War One Memorial stands sentinel in the middle of Thames Street. Against the backdrop pf a 13-metre tall tapering column of Sicilian marble (set on a base of granite), T.J. Clapperton's bronze soldier consoles a small child (who symbolises the ideals of humanity for which the war was believed to have been fought). The memorial has historical and symbolic significance as a reminder of the sacrifice of the people of Oamaru during the 1914-18 conflict.
North Otago people fought their own battles over this memorial. For months they argued whether it should be utilitarian or inspirational. Then they argued about where it should be placed. Even more vigorously, they argued about whether it should carry the names of the fallen. The people first chose to plant oak trees on certain streets in Oamaru, and at mile intervals along country roads, each with a plate with the name of a fallen soldier. After further debate, this more conventional memorial was chosen for the centre of Thames Street, in a prime site outside the Chief Post Office.
Dunedin architect Eric Miller won the competition to design the memorial. Governor-General Jellicoe laid the foundation stone on 14 October 1924. On Anzac Day 1926, Lieutenant-Colonel J. Hargest unveiled the memorial and placed in a locked receptacle a bronze casket containing the names of the district's soldiers who had served overseas.
In 2003, the beautifully illustrated face plate and hand-written roll-of-honour was removed for safe-keeping to the North Otago Museum Archive after damp and mould were discovered to be causing severe damage in the 1990s. The Roll of Honour has since been conserved. In 2015, the World War One Memorial remains a landmark on Thames Street.
Eric Miller was a Dunedin architect. With James White, he established the architectural firm of Miller & White in 1927. Both architects had practiced in the city for some years previously, White in partnership with Leslie Coombs from 1922 to 1927. Miller & White almost immediately took over the Dunedin practice of Edmund Anscombe, who left the city for Wellington in 1928. The most significant client inherited from Anscombe was the University of Otago and Miller & White remained architects to the university for many years. Eric Miller died in 1948.
Thomas Clapperton (1879-1962) was a Scottish sculptor trained at the Galashiels Mechanics Institute, the Glasgow School of Art and the Kennington School of Art. After receiving a travelling scholarship he returned to London where he set up studios. Among his commission were war memorials, including in Canobie, Minto, Galashiels and Selkirk. His work abroad included Oamaru’s war memorial, sculpture in Canada, and a fountain in California. His most well known work in Scotland is the statue of Robert the Bruce at the entrance to Edinburgh Castle (1929). He completed other public monuments and friezes in Scotland and England.
Foundation stone laid, 14 October
Memorial unveiled, 25 April
24th September 2015
Report Written By
Gavin McLean and Heather Bauchop
K C McDonald, 'White Stone Country', Oamaru, 1962
Ministry for Culture and Heritage
'Oamaru war memorial ', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/photo/oamaru-war-memorial, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 15-Jul-2013
Nisbet, N. D.
Glasgow - City of Sculpture website
T.J. Clapperton – Biography http://www.glasgowsculpture.com/pg_biography.php?sub=clapperton_tj accessed 6 August 2015.
Maclean and Phillips, 1990
Chris Maclean and Jock Phillips, The Sorrow and the Pride: New Zealand War Memorials, Historical Branch, Department of Internal Affairs, 1990
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.
A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Otago/Southland Office of Heritage New Zealand