Churton Memorial

Emily Place And Shortland Street, Emily Place Reserve, Auckland

  • Churton Memorial. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: craigsyd - flickr. Taken By: craigsyd - flickr. Date: 10/04/2007.
  • Churton Memorial.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 563 Date Entered 24th June 2005 Date of Effect 24th June 2005


Extent of List Entry

The registration includes part of the land in RT NA24B/1307 (as shown on Map C in Appendix 4) and the memorial, its fixtures and fittings, thereon. The area of registration extends one metre beyond the edge of the lowermost step in all directions.

City/District Council

Auckland Council


Auckland Council

Legal description

Part of Crown Grant 287A (1G.441) (RT NA24B/1307)


The Churton Memorial was built in 1908-1909 to the memory of the Reverend J.F. Churton (1797-1853), the first vicar of St Paul's Anglican Church. It lies close to both the site of an earlier monument to Churton, and the demolished church. Construction of the current memorial occurred as part of a broader trend of monument-building in early twentieth-century Auckland, commemorating significant members of early colonial society. Other memorials erected at this time included a statue to the former Governor and Premier, Sir George Grey (erected 1904) and a monument to the New Zealand Wars (commissioned 1912, erected 1920), located at opposite ends of Wakefield Street.

The first Churton Memorial:

The first Churton Memorial was built in Emily Place in circa 1855, immediately to the west of St Paul's Church. St Paul's was a major centrepiece of religious life in early colonial Auckland, erected in the same year that the town was established (1841). The church and the first monument occupied a prominent ridge-top site in a prestigious part of the settlement, close to the town's main administrative and military buildings, including the first barracks on Britomart Point. As the formal religion of British royalty, the Anglican faith was closely linked to the exercise of colonial power.

John Frederick Churton was the first minister of St Paul's, occupying that role for fourteen years. Born in London in 1797, he completed a law degree before taking holy orders. Churton arrived in Wellington in 1840 to take up an appointment as chaplain for the Church of England Society, but within a few months was appointed to Christ Church at Russell in the Bay of Islands (currently the earliest surviving church in New Zealand). Under Governor William Hobson, Churton became colonial chaplain, also serving as the first minister of St Paul's after the foundation of Auckland as colonial capital. He ministered to the imperial troops stationed in New Zealand, hospital patients and prisoners. He died in January 1853, at which time the New Zealander reported that: 'the death of Mr. Churton cannot be regarded as less than a calamity.'

The idea of a memorial was raised within a few days of Churton's death, and in mid March 1853 a public meeting was called at the Mechanics' Institute. Subscriptions had already been collected and though a limit of five shillings per subscriber had been set, the sum of £68 had been raised, including £25 from the 58th Regiment stationed at Auckland. Further funds were expected from the Bay of Islands. The meeting discussed possible forms that the memorial might take including the erection of a free hospital named for Churton or a tablet to be installed in St Paul's church. The meeting decided that a public monument should be erected. A committee was then elected to take charge of finding a suitable site and having the monument built. This included Reverend F. Thatcher, architect and clergyman, Captain Balneavis of the 58th Regiment and C.W. Ligar, the surveyor general. The Reverend Thatcher may have been responsible for designing the monument, having been the successor to Churton at St Paul's, and having designed numerous churches for Bishop Selwyn and structures for Governor George Grey. Construction of the monument incurred greater expense than was initially anticipated, but it appears likely that it was completed after March 1855.

The memorial stood alongside St Paul's church until 1885 when the Auckland Harbour Board began cutting down Emily Place. This was part of a large reclamation project begun in 1879 whereby Point Britomart, which had separated Commercial and Official Bays, was cut away to provide material for the infilling of a large part of Commercial Bay. St Paul's Church was demolished after careful removal of the marble and brass memorial tablets inside. These had been erected to some of the city's founding fathers including Captain William Hobson, first Governor of New Zealand; Major General Geo. Dean Pitt, Lieutenant Governor of the Northern Province and Commander of the colonial forces; Felton Matthew, first Surveyor General; John James Coates, Private Secretary to Hobson; and numerous military officers.

The church authorities were approached regarding the fate of the Churton Memorial but it was reported in the New Zealand Herald that they took the view that as it was on public land, they held no responsibility. Meanwhile, a relative of Churton suggested to the Auckland City Council that the memorial be re-erected in Albert Park. With no firm proposal on the future of the monument the council requested that the contractor carefully dismantle the structure. However, the contractor evidently had some difficulty with his task. The obelisk toppled over and fell down the bank but the slate tablet was preserved.

The current Churton Memorial:

While the 1855 memorial had been dismantled it was not entirely forgotten. In July 1894 the Town Clerk wrote to W.H. Churton, son of the late Reverend Churton, enquiring after the memorial tablet. In early 1895 plans were drawn up for the laying out the Emily Place Reserve. The plans were subsequently adopted and the superintendent of parks was instructed to have the ground prepared and planted and call tenders for fencing.

In 1900 the issue of the memorial was raised again and the Council expressed the opinion that they did not consider the Emily Place Reserve a suitable site for its re-erection. The following year Messrs R.R. Hunt and J.J. Craig took the matter up with council. They intended to have the original slate tablet set into the base of a memorial drinking fountain at the Emily Place Reserve. By early 1908 the Council had elected to allow the re-erection of the memorial in the park. The sum of £20 was gifted by the council while the remaining £78 was raised through public subscription. The erection of the memorial was completed in 1908.

On 7 February 1909 a ceremony was held at which Mr R.R. Hunt, Secretary of the Churton Memorial Fund, handed over the Churton Memorial to the city of Auckland. The Mayor, Arthur Myers received the memorial on behalf of the city and Mr Hunt thanked Mr J.J. Craig and Mr E. Holm Biss for their respective services as treasurer and auditor of the Churton Memorial Fund. Mr Myers noted that it must surely have been the first public monument erected to an Aucklander by his fellow citizens.

The new memorial featured the slate inscribed tablet from the original memorial with a new stand and obelisk of Coromandel granite in a similar design to the original monument. The eastern and western sides of the memorial were adorned with drinking fountains. It was erected to the east of its original site above a set of steps, where it was surveyed as lying in a similar position to the southern transept of St Paul's Church. At the time of the memorial's construction, other structures dedicated to historical events lay in the vicinity, including the Auckland Museum in Princes Street. The desire to re-erect and replicate an early colonial monument can be seen, in part, as reflecting the strength of bonds between New Zealand and Britain, at a time when the importance of belonging to the British Empire was particularly promoted.

The memorial had an ongoing role as a place of commemoration. On 27 July 1941 a week long celebration of the centenary of St Paul's Church was held. On the first day of the celebrations a bronze memorial tablet was unveiled by the Governor General, Sir Cyril Newman, on the site of the church. It was placed on the obelisk of the Churton Memorial. This event occurred while both New Zealand and Britain were fighting in the Second World War (1939-1945). The century-long link between the two countries was emphasised by references to the foundation stone of St Paul's being laid by the first Governor of New Zealand, while the military nature of contemporary events was alluded to in the title of the Governor General as Marshall of the Royal Air Force.

The memorial remained undisturbed in the park until 1968 when the obelisk became unstable and had to be temporarily removed. At some stage during the twentieth century the drinking fountains were put out of service and filled.

Today the Churton Memorial can be found amongst the mature pohutukawa trees that have grown up around it in the Emily Place Reserve.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The memorial has historical importance for marking the site of the first Anglican church in colonial Auckland, and for reflecting twentieth-century commemoration of colonial history and religion.

The Churton Memorial has cultural significance as a long-standing public monument, maintained for approximately 100 years.

The place can be considered to have some spiritual significance as the site of early Anglican services in Auckland.

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

The Churton Memorial reflects past attitudes to monument-building, the use of public space and history. It also reflects the prominence of the Anglican Church in early colonial society and the presence of a military garrison in Auckland.

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

The monument is associated with the Reverend John Churton, a colonial chaplain and prominent member of early colonial society.

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

The monument has a long history of association with the local community, having been raised by public subscription and maintained as a public monument for approximately 100 years.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

The Churton Memorial has considerable potential for public education about nineteenth and early twentieth-century history, being located in a public park in Auckland city centre.

(h)The symbolic or commemorative value of the place

The monument has high commemorative value as a monument to a prominent member of the Anglican clergy in New Zealand, and to the foundation of St Paul's Church, the first Anglican church in the colonial capital of Auckland.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape

The Churton Memorial is part of a broader historical and cultural landscape, being located in a reserve created at the same date as the memorial, and close to several notable historic buildings in both Shortland Street and Princes Street. These include the Northern Club (NZHPT registration # 663, Category I historic place), the former Synagogue (NZHPT registration # 578, Category I historic place), the Old Arts Building, University of Auckland (NZHPT registration # 25, Category I historic place) and the former Television New Zealand Studios (NZHPT registration # 660, Category I historic place). Albert Park in Princes Street also contains several commemorative monuments created at a similar time to the Churton Memorial, including the Sir George Grey Statue (NZHPT registration # 109, Category I historic place) and the Queen Victoria Statue (NZHPT Registration # 633, Category II historic place).


Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

The Churton Memorial lies in a small public reserve in Emily Place, in the eastern part of the central business district of Auckland. The reserve is located at the northern end of Princes Street, at the top of a long slope running down towards what had been the colonial foreshore. The memorial is situated on a flat terrace in the southern part of the reserve, with a flight of steps leading down from its base towards the northern apex of the park. The monument is surrounded by mature pohutukawa, which are among several large trees in the reserve.

The memorial is approximately seven metres high, and consists of a tall obelisk and rectangular base, sitting on top of three shallow steps. All of these elements are constructed of Coromandel granite. The obelisk is rectangular in profile, tapering to a point at the top. The base has semi-circular basins on its eastern and western faces, which were originally used as drinking fountains but which have since been infilled with concrete. A slate tablet in the northern face of the base has been salvaged from an earlier monument on the same site and dates to circa 1855. This reads:








As a Christian Pastor, he was earnest, vigilant and laborious, uniting uncompromising firmness and fidelity with affectionate gentleness and kindness. As a Citizen, he was active and benevolent ready to every good work. In him the Poor, the Afflicted, and the Bereaved ever found a sympathising Comforter and an energetic Friend.


Was raised by the free-will Subscriptions of all classes and denominations of the community of Auckland, who knew his worth and mourn his loss.


In the final line of the inscription the word 'WORKS' was initially spelled 'WORS'. The 'K' has been added above with a caret between the 'R' and 'S'.

The northern face of the monument also contains a brass plaque, which has been added at a later date. This commemorates the centenary of the laying of the foundation stone of St Paul's Church, which occupied the site during the early colonial period, and states:





ON THIS SITE, 28 JULY, 1841,










It is thought unlikely that there are surviving buried archaeological deposits associated with the church or earlier monument on the site as the land was levelled down during the creation of Emily Place Reserve.

Construction Dates

Site of St Paul's Church (1841), and first Churton Memorial (circa 1855), both demolished in 1885

Original Construction
1908 - 1909
Incorporating slate inscription from the circa1855 memorial

1941 -
Brass plaque attached to obelisk

1968 -
Obelisk temporarily removed

Drinking fountains decommissioned and filled in

Construction Details

Coromandel granite obelisk, base and steps, with inscribed slate tablet and brass plaque.

Information Sources

Auckland Star

Auckland Star

28 July 1941

New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1932, p. 6; 28 September 1933, p. 6.

8 February 1909

Scholefield, 1940

G. H. Scholefield, A Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington, 1940

Weekly News

Weekly News

5 September 1901, 19 March 1908

Auckland City Council

Auckland City Council

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Northern 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.