War Memorial and Clock Tower
Seymour Square, Blenheim
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 1
Able to Visit
19th April 1990
Date of Effect
19th April 1990
Lot 1 DP 6917 (RT MBD/572), Marlborough Land District
Seymour Square is bounded by Alfred, Henry, High and Seymour Streets, Blenheim.
The War Memorial and Clock Tower was unveiled in Seymour Square, Blenheim in 1928 and serves as the Marlborough province's principal monument to residents killed during the First World War.
Following the war, memorials were erected in almost every town in New Zealand. As noted by historians Chris MacLean and Jock Phillips, the memorials served as surrogate tombs for families of the New Zealanders buried in overseas graves, and commemorated the achievements of all those who lost their lives.
The Marlborough memorial was the product of an agreement by its citizens to combine resources to erect a suitably imposing monument. Construction was delayed by years of heated debate over the appropriate location for a Marlborough memorial. The present, prominent site in Blenheim was finally selected in 1926. The memorial cost £4450 and was paid for entirely by public subscriptions. The stone used to construct the tower was collected from all over the Marlborough region to represent permanently the contributions of all its towns to the war effort. The only foreign stone is Australian sandstone, which symbolises the co-operation between New Zealand and Australian forces during the conflict.
The Baroque form and high quality workmanship of the War Memorial and Clock Tower give it a commanding appearance. Designed by New Zealand architect Roger Bacon as a visible and aural reminder of the fallen, the tower stands at 16 metres (54 feet) high and its clock chimes every hour on the hour. Set on a course of seven steps, the lower storey of the tower is built of stones from the Awatere River. It features a memorial chamber that shelters a plinth of grey granite on a floor of red stone. The plinth supports plates bearing the names of the 419 Marlburians who lost their lives in the First World War. Engraved below the names are the words 'Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends'. Above the chamber is a strong, symmetrical tower of hard Wharanui limestone. It culminates in a belfry with four arched portals, a sandstone cupola and wind vane. The tower's clock and bells were donated by George F. Watts and his wife Ethel, in memory of two nephews killed in action. The clock was made in Wellington and the bells were specially cast and inscribed for the Watts at Loughborough, England. For the unveiling, special trains were used to transport people from all over Marlborough to Seymour Park. Located adjacent to the fountain that commemorates those that served in the Second World War, the tower remains the centre of ANZAC Day celebrations. It is a landmark in Blenheim, and served as the focus of the city's centenary celebrations in 1969.
The War Memorial and Tower has important spiritual significance as the principal memorial to Marlborough residents who died in conflict. It is a symbol of the contribution made by the province during the First World War and testifies to the strength of local and national sentiment both during and after the war. Its construction of stone from Marlborough and Australia is an important symbol of the ANZAC spirit and the co-operative relationship between residents in the Marlborough Province. Sited in a prominent public park, the tower is an important feature in the Blenheim cityscape. It enjoys high public esteem and has local value as an important focus for civic activities.
Nothing is known of the early life or work of Roger Bacon. In 1908 he entered partnership in Wellington with Alfred Atkins. The firm also maintained a branch in Wanganui and designed buildings at Wanganui Collegiate School including School Block, House Block, Hall and the headmaster's residence between 1909-19. It undertook several hospital designs including Cook Hospital, Gisborne (1911), Wairoa Hospital (1912) and the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital for Children, Wellington (1912). Atkins and Bacon were also responsible for several branch buildings for the Bank of Australasia around New Zealand and for many residences in Wellington.
Owing to failing health Bacon left the firm and moved to Blenheim about 1918. He retained an interest in architecture and completed two further works while in Blenheim - the War Memorial Clock Tower for the Blenheim Borough Council and Holy Trinity Church at Tuamarina.
Garnham & Robertson
Gray & Waters
No biography is currently available for this construction professional
Marble dedication panel
Bells and clock face
Plinth in the Memorial Chamber and brass plaques bearing the names of those who died during the war
Names of those who died in the Second World War inscribed on copper plates attached to the inner walls of the memorial chamber
Lead canister placed at the base of the tower to commemorate the centennial of Blenheim
28th February 2003
Report Written By
K. Beery, 'Scrutiny on the County', Marlborough, 1986
A. Beverley, The First Hundred, Blenheim, 1969
Chris MacLean and Jock Phillips, The Sorrow and the Pride: New Zealand War Memorials, Wellington, 1990
A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Central Region Office
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.