Memorial Square, High Street North (State Highway 2), Memorial Square And Park Road, Carterton
Historical Significance or Value
Carterton’s Memorial Square and War Memorial has historical significance because it is a physical reminder of New Zealand’s war effort, and the suffering and grief it engendered. This commemorative space represents the widespread effects of war – from the battlefields of Europe to a small town in the Wairarapa. Each made sacrifices in the ‘War to end all others’ and represents the universality of that sacrifice. Like other New Zealand memorials, Memorial Square and War Memorial is unique to its community within the national commemorative landscape. It has historic significance because it was initiated and erected by local people, local effort and local funds; yet it is also part of a collective of over 500 public memorials to the soldiers of the First World War. This commemorative purpose was later expanded to include those local people who died while on Second World War service.
Aesthetic Significance or Value
Carterton’s War Memorial rises proudly in its specially-designed space within Memorial Square, which is a landmark within the town. The formal nature of Alfred Buxton’s landscaping and the subsequent alterations, and the placement of structures, has aesthetic value because the design conveys a dignified and restrained atmosphere appropriate to the purposes of commemoration and contemplation. This generous space around the War Memorial provides poignant emphasis for the memorial structures and communicates a sense of the importance locals placed on memorialising war service.
Social Significance or Value
The Memorial Square and War Memorial in Carterton has held local social significance since its completion in the early 1920s – only the depth of personal sorrow has diminished over time. While those lost in the First and Second World Wars may only be distant ancestors to today’s residents, the commemoration of Anzac Day remains an important day in Carterton’s calendar. This ceremony involves residents marching to Memorial Square for a wreath-laying ceremony around the War Memorial. Memorial Square also has local social significance as an esteemed park in the centre of Carterton’s shopping area.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
New Zealand's First World War memorials are part of the fabric of our lives – there is a memorial in most of our towns and cities. Carterton’s Memorial Square and War Memorial is an excellent example of a small rural town’s response to global events. Memorialising the dead was expensive; it could have been left to more populous centres. Yet Carterton, like any number of small rural towns throughout the county, worked hard to raise a memorial to their own fallen soldiers. The importance placed upon appropriately recognising war service is also reflected by the town commissioning a top landscape architect, Alfred Buxton, to design the space. Fundraising was onerous yet they successfully raised thousands of pounds from the community. The names of Carterton and South Wairarapa’s own sons were honoured in the inscriptions. The significance placed on memorialising the fallen, in even the smallest communities, is an important theme in New Zealand’s twentieth century history.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
Carterton’s Memorial Square and War Memorial has a strong association with defining events in New Zealand’s history. The First and Second World Wars were among the most significant international events of the twentieth century, and had a deep and lingering impact on New Zealand. Like others around the country, this place is a marker of a seismic shift in New Zealand and our culture.
Memorial Square and War Memorial is also associated with one of New Zealand’s foremost landscape architects, Alfred Buxton. He has been hailed as the most significant landscape gardener in New Zealand in the first half of the twentieth century. Over the course of his remarkable career, Buxton only designed three memorial parks – in Gisborne, Masterton and Memorial Square in Carterton.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place
The Carterton community continues to have respect for its Memorial Square and War Memorial. This esteem is demonstrated by it being kept in neat and picturesque condition by the Council. Young and old join the Anzac Day marches to lay wreathes at the base of the War Memorial and the high profile location of the Memorial Square and War Memorial means there is a close community association with this place.
(f) The potential of the place for public education
Memorial Square and War Memorial provides potential for education about New Zealand history in connection with the First and Second World Wars. Most directly, it lists the names of soldiers connected with Carterton and its surrounding district who died in those wars. Indirectly, it speaks to the sacrifices made by individuals, families and communities; the communal efforts that saw people uniting to fundraise; the importance of non-utilitarian memorialisation; and New Zealand’s coming of age on the world stage.
(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place
Although a pleasant leisure space, the main purpose of the Carterton’s Memorial Square and War Memorial is symbolic and commemorative. War memorials are a focal point for individual and collective contemplation, respect and patriotism. They symbolise grief for those lost, respect for common sacrifice, and recognise an important turning point in New Zealand’s national identity.
Around the 1600s Rangitāne, Ngāti Ira and Ngāti Kahungunu tribes settled in the Wairarapa, all migrating from further north. Rangitāne and Ngāti Kahungunu intermarried extensively. In 1821 a northern war party entered the Wairarapa, and further invasions from Taranaki tribes followed with Ngāti Tama settling on the western shore of Lake Wairarapa. In the early 1840s a peace treaty between the Wairarapa iwi and the occupying Te Ātiawa chief Te Wharepouri saw the return of the local iwi to the Wairarapa.
European settlement of the Wairarapa began in 1844 when a small number of Wellington settlers arranged pastoral leases with local Māori. In 1853 Charles Rooking Carter (1822-1896), one of Wellington’s leading lights in the building trade, worked with Joseph Masters to persuade the Crown to buy land in the Wairarapa for settlement purposes. Greytown (named for Governor George Grey) and Masterton were the resulting settlements. Carter, however, acquired a large block of land south of Masterton. In 1857 he was selected to represent the Wairarapa District in Wellington’s Provincial Council. That same year, a small settlement named Three Mile Bush was founded to provide a base for men working on the road between Greytown and Masterton – ‘men whose capital chiefly, if not solely, consisted of stout hearts and strong arms’. Carter took such a ‘lively interest’ in the district and ‘its purchase from the natives - its settlement by small farmers – and its general prosperity’ that in July 1859 Three Mile Bush was renamed Carterton.
A sawmilling industry grew up in the bush surrounding Carterton, proving not only additional employment but more ground for settlement and farming. The development of the dairying industry in particular, combined with sawmilling, helped give Carterton a strong economic base. By 1897 the township had ‘rapidly grown into a place of considerable importance’.
A world away from Carterton, on 28 July 1914 Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, effectively beginning World War One. On 4 August 1914 the United Kingdom joined the war and ‘[t]here was a rush when the [New Zealand] Government asked men to volunteer for an expeditionary force’. The first New Zealand troops left to support the Mother Country on 16 October 1914. Over the next four years, nearly 17,000 New Zealanders died as a result of the fighting and about 543 were the Wairarapa’s own. This was a considerable proportion of the area’s population and of the estimated 2000 Wairarapa people who served in the war.
‘I hope the townships will not fritter away this Memorial matter into banality…’
In New Zealand, memorials began being created during the First World War and they appear to have been on everyone’s mind after the war ended, especially throughout the Wairarapa. By early 1919, neighbouring Masterton had a sportsground ‘as a lasting Memorial to Fallen Wairarapa Solders’ created by notable landscape designer, Alfred William Buxton (1872-1950). Martinborough proposed an improved town square as a memorial. Greytown’s Chamber of Commerce intended to secure O’Connor’s Bush as a memorial. Featherston was thinking of bathing sheds.
Carterton locals were also intensely interested in commemorating the service of their soldiers. The Wairarapa Agricultural and Pastoral Society proposed a memorial cattle pen for their show. Yet many felt this was not the ultimate solution. As Borough Councillor Callister argued:
‘Let us be done with stupid schemes of trees, cowsheds and pig-sties as memorials for fallen soldiers. Get something good, solid, substantial and beautiful in marble and erect it right in the heart of the town, so that it shall be a reminder to all of what our gallant soldiers have sacrifices and a constant reproach to the shirker, who gave nothing.’
And so they did.
In September 1919 a public meeting agreed ‘[t]hat a memorial square be established in Carterton on the site of the old garden on the Parkes estate, situated on the corner of High Street and Park Road, and for this purpose the whole frontage of the property facing High Street be acquired, to a depth of 365 feet facing Park Road…at an estimated cost of £3650’. The financial goal was set at £5000, a considerable sum at the time, and £665 was promised at the meeting. A Memorial Square Committee was also created. A monument was not specifically mentioned as part of this early thinking.
The proposed memorial square was to be ‘an attractive pleasure park, containing side-walks, garden plots, etc’. For such an enterprise a ‘landscape artist’ was required and foremost in the field was Alfred Buxton. Buxton was born in England and around 1886 the family arrived in Christchurch. Buxton was apprenticed to Canterbury’s leading nurseryman. Acquiring three nurseries over the course of his career, he also formed A. W. Buxton Limited, landscape gardeners. Buxton became ‘the most significant landscape gardener in New Zealand in the first half of the twentieth century’. He worked throughout the South Island and the lower half of the North Island, where his clients ‘were predominantly members of the rural élite… The First World War period was one of pastoral affluence and a Buxton landscape became a symbol of that affluence’. Buxton also designed a number of urban parks, including Tīmaru’s Caroline Bay and Temuka Domain, as well as memorial parks for Masterton and Gisborne and ‘landscaped memorials’ in Cheviot and Leeston. Therefore, Buxton was the obvious choice for Carterton’s memorial park.
By November subscriptions for Memorial Square were still well short of the target. The ‘Memorial plot’ had been established and working bees were held to clear it, but the site still remained in ‘primitive condition’. In mid-January the Secretary of the Soldiers’ Memorial Committee reported that a deposit of £400 had been paid on the land and donations stood at just over £2961. A canvas of outer districts was planned and there was also prospective income from the sale of building sites around the Square. Perhaps to widen the appeal of donating even further, spin-offs from the scheme to memorialise fallen soldiers were emphasised:
‘The Soldiers Memorial proposal will make a decided improvement to Carterton. Two unsightly buildings on High Street will be demolished in the reconstructive scheme; Park Road is to be widened and the approach to High Street rounded off; a new street is to be created…and sections along this have been disposed of, on which it is proposed to erect business premises, residences, and a club.’
In February 1920 the Committee rejected a modified scheme Buxton submitted as too expensive and they asked him to submit a third scheme. However, they accept tenders for the removal of ‘old landmark’ buildings on site.
By the beginning of March £3000 had been promised and £1200 was in hand. The Committee, however, were of the opinion ‘that the response has not been what it should be in view of the object – It was thought sufficient funds would be forthcoming to complete the scheme without resorting to socials, entertainments, etc….the committee is consequently disappointed’. A newspaper, which gave weekly updates on the fundraising, termed it ‘a poor compliment to those who sacrificed their all to save this country from Hun domination’. The Committee’s disappointment had the desired effect and donations increased. Canvassers to the country district also found encouraging support. At the same time the Fund ceased to be called the ‘Fallen Soldiers Memorial Fund’ and was renamed the ‘District Soldiers Memorial’.
In April the Committee decided to establish a £2000 fund for the Memorial’s upkeep. The purchase of the land for Memorial Square was also completed. The total cost of the land was £3775. Buxton’s estimate for laying out the grounds was £2500, but the Committee decided that they could only afford £1800 and would ask if he still would undertake the work. In mid-April Buxton arrived in Carterton. During May the Committee and Buxton reached an agreement – the project would amount to around £1800 and, most significantly, included the erection of a war memorial. An eight-foot pathway from each corner of the Square would lead to a centre piece 36 feet wide. In the centre of this would rise a ‘grey Nelson stone set up on a concrete base 15ft across’. A tablet on the monument would contain the names of the fallen from the Carterton Borough and the Wairarapa South County. The memorial was perhaps designed by Buxton or the local monumental mason. Financial restraints often saw small towns like Carterton turn to monumental masons rather than architects. Again the commemorative intent was somewhat tempered by the description of the town improvements that would be gained on the completion of the Square.
Workmen were soon on the site and by mid-June all was looking ‘spruce and bright’. In August the Committee asked the public to supply the names of soldiers who fell, together with their rank, so their names could be inscribed on the memorial. Within a month almost 100 names had been gathered by the Committee. The Square was almost ready for planting too. Funding shortfalls saw the Committee consider holding a fete – but ‘some parents of the fallen feel that festivities and merriment are inconsistent with the purport and sacredness of the monument’. In desperation the Committee enlisted ‘the support of ladies’. The first ‘enthusiastic meeting of the ladies’ was held in October – by November they had held a social and handed over £12 for the Upkeep Fund. Next on the list was a ‘Baby Carnival’ involving various functions throughout the district. The contest raised £754.
In September the Carterton District Fallen Soldiers’ Memorial Committee approached the Wairarapa South County Council and asked for a donation of £500, or a grant of £50 per year towards upkeep and maintenance. The Council noted that it not been consulted about the memorial and was now asked to contribute, on top of the £500 spent on providing gas and water services to the Square. The decision was delayed for the incoming Council. In the meantime pupils of the Carterton District High School guaranteed they would each contribute one penny per quarter towards the upkeep of the Square.
On 19 November Masterton’s monumental mason began to erect the stone containing the names of the fallen soldiers in the Square. By the end of December Memorial Square was ‘a perfect picture’ and it appears to be the first of the Wairarapa’s permanent civic memorials to be completed. The unveiling of the War Memorial was scheduled for 13 February 1921. The Committee had retained the services of the Prime Minister to unveil the memorial but in early February he indicated his unavailability. The ceremony was instead performed by the Hon G. J. Anderson, Minister of Internal Affairs. The Mayor of Carterton, W. Howard Booth, also spoke as did Member of Parliament A. D. McLeod and Brigadier General Hart. A large number attended from Masterton and the Wairarapa district at large. The monument, at the centre of the Square’s ‘neatly laid out in Garden, [and]…asphalt paths’, was wrapped in flags for the ceremony and when unveiled was seen to be polished red granite rather than Nelson grey stone.
In honour of the war dead, approximately 500 First World War memorials were erected throughout New Zealand. These memorials symbolised two contradictory messages: pride and sorrow at the death of young men cut off in their prime. Over 16,600 men were buried in foreign lands. War memorials functioned as surrogate graves where relatives could visit and grieve. Yet there was also ‘pride [in] the way “our boys” had given identity to a nation’. A new ‘Kiwi’ sense of identity was honoured and commemorated.
New Zealand’s First World War memorials did not usually serve a useful purpose. A memorial with a functional use, albeit a community one, was generally held to be disrespectful to the sacrifice of those who had died. However, Carterton was not alone in having an additional motive of beautifying the streetscape of the town by placing a memorial in an improved space. Memorials were often located in an open space to provide easy access and the position was usually central and prominent. Open grounds also enabled the monument to be used in public ceremonies, especially Anzac Day.
Into the future
With an eye to the future the Committee appointed R. Priest caretaker and gardener for Memorial Square and fundraising continued. In November 1921, the Committee still had a debt of £2462 on the general account. In 1922 the Committee again decided ‘to convene a meeting of ladies’ to take charge of fundraising efforts. By July 1924 the memorial account was only £1337 in debt, while the upkeep account was £2009 in credit. Memorial Square, the Committee’s upkeep fund and unsold sections were eventually transferred to the local council. Under the Carterton and District Memorial Square Act 1932, the council was entrusted with the space, for ‘use of the public for the purpose of a public park and recreation ground for all time as a memorial to the soldiers from the district who lost their lives in the late European War’.
Upon completion Memorial Square became the focal point for many civic events and activities, including Anzac Day services. In the succeeding years returned soldiers, veterans and the public gathered round the monument while the band played the ‘Garland of Flowers’ in the Square. The memorial was surrounded by wreathes laid by friends and family in remembrance. There is a tradition in Carterton of residents marching to Memorial Square to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the War Memorial. The Square was also used for public occasions. For example, Governor-General and Lady Bledisloe were officially welcomed in Memorial Square in 1933.
Unfortunately, additions to the War Memorial were still to come. After the Second World War, the memorial was raised and a black granite base inserted below the original red granite sections. The addition carried the names of the soldiers from the area who lost their lives in that conflict. Again the names were ordered alphabetically and their ranks were included. This approach to commemorating the Second World War dead was decided upon at a public meeting in 1947 and the addition was unveiled on Anzac Day 1949. Despite rainy weather some of the ceremony took place in the Square and the mayor, other local politicians, dignitaries and citizens were in attendance.
Memorial Square has been described by the Carterton District Council as ‘an integral part of the town’. The Council undertook a rejuvenation project in 2006. As well as continuing to play a significant part in annual Anzac Day commemorations, the Square hosts other community and public events, including farmers’ markets. As a central open space, the park is also used as a leisure spot which was reflected in the addition of a more seating in 2018. The ‘love seat’ was a community project using timber from a large oak, donated by its private owner after the tree was brought down in a 2013 storm. Local tradespeople and the Lions Club members donated their time to craft and install the seat, which was unveiled by Mayor John Booth. This is not a new concept in regards to the Square, for example the local Farmers’ Union donated a seat and funds to the park in 1925. concept in regards to the Square, for example the local Farmers’ Union donated a seat and funds to the park in 1925.
Memorial Square is a park in central Carterton, on the town’s main road. It inhabits a small block, bordered by High Street, Park Road, and a road also known as Memorial Square. The Square is laid out in grass with tall trees lining some edges. Park benches are dotted around the neatly manicured lawns.
Originally the Square was laid out with paths providing access from each corner, leading to the War Memorial in the centre of a circular concreted area. Between these pathways were garden beds adjoining the curved central space. Garden beds were also situated along the Square’s boundaries. This original landscape design was retained until the early 1960s, but most of the garden beds appear to have been gradually phased out and planted in grass from then on. Initially the Square was also surrounded with a fence.
Memorial Square’s layout was altered during 2006 rejuvenation work: from High Street an asphalt path was created down the middle of the block, flanked with small flower beds and lawns, and the original paths in this half of the Square were removed. The 2006 path leads to the centre of the Square, as do two other paths in their original position – one from each rear corner (south and south-east). The pathway positioning has kept an element of formal symmetry to the overall design and the curve of the 2006 colonnade in the Square’s north east quadrant echoes that of the earlier garden beds and the circular path around the War Memorial. In the southeast, one of the original curved garden beds adjoining the central section appears to have been reinstated or recreated.
There was a severe storm in 1934 which uprooted many of the Square’s original trees. Formerly quite an enclosed space, as part of the 2006 work several large trees and shrubs were removed from the perimeter, opening up views of the Square especially from Park Road. However, several original or early trees seem to remain in the Square, including two elm trees which have been recognised for their heritage value.
On the Park Road edge of Memorial Square is a relatively large convex shaped colonnade, with some associated plantings in planter boxing. This decorative structure was constructed in concrete block in 2006 and has a slightly raised platform between it and the War Memorial, designed as staging for events such as the annual Anzac Day commemorations. Two existing metal plaques were relocated to the colonnade in 2018 to acknowledge, in a high profile place, the contributions of Gordon Callister and Arthur Lindop to Carterton.
In the centre of Memorial Square is Carterton’s War Memorial. It sits on the original concrete platform/steps, which are now painted grey. At the base of the monument’s plinth is a black granite base inserted into the original structure in 1949. On the face looking toward High Street is inscribed ‘World War II 1939-1945’ and six names. Names of the dead, alphabetically organised with their rank, wrap round the granite base in an anti-clockwise direction.
Above this, the War Memorial also lists 114 names of those who lost their lives in the Frist World War. Their names are listed on all four sides of the plinth. The order is alphabetical; a common format for memorials in the belief that this expressed an equality of honour. The ranks of some solders were submitted as part of the information gathering from family when the memorial was created. However, three-quarters of respondents did not include this in the belief that ‘all were equal in sacrificing their lives’.
The narrowest block of polished red granite, and the original the base when the structure was only a First World War memorial, is inscribed: ‘We lie dead in many lands that you may live here in peace’. Memorial inscriptions varied – some were in Latin, some quoted from the Bible or from war poets like Rupert Brooke. Carterton’s choice of epitaph is thought to be an uncommon one, although it was used in Australia and England. Seemingly composed in the immediate post-war era it has an echo of Simonides as reflected in 'Our British Dead' a 1917 poem by Joseph Lee which has the lines:
Here do we lie, dead but not discontent,
That which we found to do has had accomplishment.
That accomplishment? - that we, the survivors, may live in peace.
Above this original base is a less wide but slightly taller section of granite. The front face is engraved with eight solders names, beginning alphabetically with ‘A’. More names wrap around the remaining three sides in a clockwise direction. Above this is the tallest of the plinth’s granite blocks. The front face is inscribed ‘Memorial Square established and stone erected in honour to “Our Glorious Dead” in the Great War 1014 – 1919 by residents of Carterton and South Wairarapa County’. A small cross sits above and below the text. The other three sides contain names of fallen soldiers.
Above this tallest block is a curved ‘cap’ to the plinth. All four sides of the cap have engravings of two native plants. This section just below the obelisk references the Victorian language of flowers, and fern leaves were used on New Zealand memorials.
Rising above the plinth’s cap is a column or obelisk, also of polished red granite. It is broken off on an angled slope and is about the length of the original plinth. It is not inscribed nor decorated, given the symbolism of the broken column. While historian Jock Phillips notes that no two war monuments are exactly the same, the obelisk was the most common form of all First World War memorials in New Zealand, comprising 30 per cent of the total. It was a traditional symbol found in cemeteries – perhaps the reason for its popularity. The obelisk either took the form of a tall stately column, or ‘a broken pillar representing lives cut off too soon’ - Carterton’s choice of symbolism. The memorial has been described as ‘…arresting in its simplicity, a monument to victims rather than heroes, tragic not celebratory’.
Close to the War Memorial is a white flag pole with a similar stepped base as the memorial. This does not appear to have been an original feature, but was erected by, or in, the 1930s presumably to take a central role in commemorative ceremonies. This was moved from north of the War Memorial to the eastern side during the 2006 works.
Construction of monument and memorial square laid out
New layer of black granite added to the base, with names of soldiers who died in World War Two
Colonnade and central pathway constructed
19th September 2019
Report Written By
Susan Irvine and Karen Astwood
A. Bagnall, A History of Carterton, Carterton, 1957
D. Kernohan, Wairarapa Buildings: Two centuries of New Zealand architecture, Wairarapa Archive, Masterton, 2003
Chris MacLean and Jock Phillips, The Sorrow and the Pride: New Zealand War Memorials, Wellington, 1990
Ministry for Culture and Heritage
'Interpreting First World War memorials', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/interpreting-first-world-war-memorials, accessed 25 Apr 2019.
Rupert Tipples, Colonial Landscape Gardener: Alfred Buxton of Christchurch, New Zealand 1872-1950, Lincoln, 1989
Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand
Jock Phillips, 'Memorials and monuments - Memorials to the First World War', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, 2012, URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/memorials-and-monuments/page-4, accessed 10 September 2013.
A fully referenced proposal summary report is available on request from Central Regional Office of the NZHPT