Citizens' War Memorial

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Citizens' War Memorial
New Zealand
Flickr - Roger T Wong - 20100130-21-War Memorial.jpg
Citizens' War Memorial in Christchurch's Cathedral Square
For New Zealand dead of World War I
Unveiled9 June 1937
Location43°31′50″S 172°38′13″E / 43.5306°S 172.6369°E / -43.5306; 172.6369Coordinates: 43°31′50″S 172°38′13″E / 43.5306°S 172.6369°E / -43.5306; 172.6369
Designed byWilliam Trethewey (stonemason)
George Hart (architect)
In grateful remembrance of the sons and daughters of Canterbury who fell in the Great War 1914–1918 Give peace in our time o Lord.

The Citizens' War Memorial (alternate: Soldiers' War Memorial) in Cathedral Square, Christchurch, is one of the two major memorials in the city to World War I. It is located immediately north of ChristChurch Cathedral. The annual Anzac Day service is held there. It is a Category I heritage structure registered with Heritage New Zealand.


The Citizens' War Memorial is located in Cathedral Square in Christchurch immediately north of ChristChurch Cathedral. The land on which it is built is owned by the Anglican Church.[1] The heritage tram passes the memorial on the road that goes behind and around the Cathedral.[2]


George Gould in ca 1923

George Gould (1865–1941) was a successful businessman, farmer and stock breeder. He was a director of The Press from 1903 until his death with one brief interruption. He chaired the board through the years of the Christchurch newspaper war in 1934–1935.[3] His company, Pyne Gould Corporation Limited, is these days listed on the New Zealand Stock Market.

After World War I, many ideas for a war memorial were put forward. Gould proposed a column opposite of ChristChurch Cathedral and by 1920, this was one of the three dominant proposals. The Bridge of Remembrance was adopted, while the hall of memories idea disappeared due to lack of support.[3][4] Gould's idea received the support of the Canterbury Anglican elite. While the Bridge of Remembrance was unveiled in 1924, the Christchurch City Council opposed the Cathedral Square proposal and stopped it from going ahead. The argument was that the Cathedral would dwarf the memorial, and that the bustling nature of the Square was an inappropriate setting for a place of reflection.[5] In 1933, the Godley Statue was relocated from its position just north of the Cathedral to its original location opposite it. Gould seized the opportunity and proposed the vacated site for the memorial, and the Anglican Church as the owner of the land agreed under the condition that a cross be incorporated into the design. Gould promoted the memorial as "an emblem of peace rather than ... war". While the original intention was to import statuary from England, the manufacturers' association wanted the work to be done locally and put Trethewey's name forward, but the Returned Services' Association opposed this as he had not gone to war.[1]

The Citizens' War Memorial in front of the Cathedral
Part of the large memorial where a bronze angel bends the sword of war

The design was to be of peace not war; a cross should be included, as well as an expression of high ideals.[5] The memorial was designed by the architect George Hart and the Christchurch sculptor William Trethewey (1892–1956).[5] According to Trethewey's son, the sculptor took out a pencil one lunch and sketched a possible war memorial. He took the sketch to Hart and from this, they produced the design.[6] The design was accepted in 1933, after which Trethewey refined it before carving the figures in clay, boxing them up, and forwarding them for casting to the Arthur Bryan Burton Foundry in London. Trethewey travelled to London and supervised the casting of the bronze figures.[5]

The Citizens' War Memorial (or Soldiers' War Memorial)[7] was unveiled on 9 June 1937 by Colonel S C P Nicholls, with Archbishop Julius conducting the service.[8] It was erected next to the Cathedral on a site which had been occupied by the statue of John Robert Godley, which was moved back to its original location.[4] According to MacLean and Phillips in The sorrow and the pride: New Zealand war memorials, it is possible to make 'a good case...for it being the finest public monument in the country'.[4][9]

Each year on Anzac Day, services are held at the memorial with thousands of Cantabrians in attendance.[10] In 2011, with the Christchurch Central City cordoned off following the earthquake in February, the service was held in Hagley Park instead.[11] In subsequent years, the annual service went to Cranmer Square. Just prior to the 2017 Anzac Day service, the Christchurch branch of the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association (RSA) asked for the memorial to be relocated to Cranmer Square, as the protracted negotiations between the government and the Anglican Church about the restoration of the adjacent Cathedral deny the public access.[12]


The bronze memorial stands 16 metres (52 ft) in height.[13] The compilation of bronzes were cast in London and are characterised as classicising idealism.[14] The allegorical figures included Youth, Sacrifice, Justice, Valour, and Peace.[4] They were based on Trethewey's family and friends, such as Trethewey's daughter Pauline,[6] his workman, Bob Hampton who modelled for Youth,[1] as well as the religious figure of Saint George.[5][13] An engraving at the base of the memorial states:[4]

In grateful remembrance of the sons and daughters of Canterbury who fell in the Great War 1914–1918 Give peace in our time o Lord.

Heritage registration[edit]

The memorial is registered with Heritage New Zealand as a Category I heritage structure. Originally registered in 1984 by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, its category was changed in 1995.[4]


  1. ^ a b c Greenaway, Richard L. N. (June 2007). "Bromley Cemetery Guide" (PDF). Christchurch City Libraries. pp. 24–27. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  2. ^ "Tram Tour". Tram Christchurch. Retrieved 22 May 2011.
  3. ^ a b Rice, Geoffrey W. "George Gould". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Citizens' War Memorial". Register of Historic Places. Heritage New Zealand.
  5. ^ a b c d e Phillips, Jock. "William Thomas Trethewey". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 24 May 2011.
  6. ^ a b "Christchurch war memorial". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 28 February 2011. Retrieved 23 May 2011.
  7. ^ The New Zealand guide. 1 January 1969. p. 39. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  8. ^ "The Citizens' War Memorial". Christchurch City Libraries. Retrieved 23 May 2011.
  9. ^ Maclean, Chris; Phillips, Jock (1990). The sorrow and the pride: New Zealand war memorials. Historical Branch, GP Books. ISBN 978-0-477-01475-5. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  10. ^ Sachdeva, Sam (April 25, 2010). "Thousands turn out for Anzac dawn service". The Press. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  11. ^ "Anzac Day still raw as thousands gather". 25 April 2011. Retrieved 1 June 2011.
  12. ^ Spink, Emily (18 April 2017). "Call for cenotaph relocation". The Press (in A3). Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  13. ^ a b Dunn, Michael (2002). New Zealand sculpture: a history. Auckland University Press. pp. 46–47. ISBN 978-1-86940-277-8. Retrieved 26 May 2011.
  14. ^ Harper, Jenny; Lister, Aaron; Connew, Bruce (1 April 2008). Wellington, A City for Sculpture. Victoria University Press. pp. 58–. ISBN 978-0-86473-570-6. Retrieved 26 May 2011.