Rolleston Statue

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Rolleston Statue outside the Canterbury Museum in November 2010

The Rolleston Statue is a white marble statue situated outside Canterbury Museum on Rolleston Avenue in Christchurch, New Zealand. It commemorates William Rolleston, who was Superintendent of the Canterbury Province from 1868 until 1877.

The statue was unveiled on 26 May 1906 by Sir John Hall KCMG, Mayor of Christchurch and personal friend, who writes the "City Council arrived in carriages to Statue".[1]

The Rolleston Statue fell off its plinth in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake but was repaired in 2016.


Toppled statue with the head broken off

Rolleston was the fourth and last Canterbury Superintendent. He was also a Member of Parliament, from 1868 to 1899 with two breaks in the later years.[2] Rolleston died in 1903.[3]

Rolleston was the politician who had been instrumental in the establishment of the Canterbury Museum and the Canterbury College, which now houses the Arts Centre. It was thus seen as appropriate to place the statue outside the museum, with Rolleston looking across Antigua Street (with this section since renamed to Rolleston Avenue[4]) at the Canterbury College.[5]

"My head is at Christ College"

The statue, by English sculptor Herbert Hampton, was unveiled in 1906, where it stood on a stone plinth.[6] The plinth reads: "William Rolleston Superintendent of Canterbury 1866–1876."[7]

At the time of its unveiling, the sculpture was regarded as a good likeness of Rolleston though has been criticised in more recent times as being "rigid" and "lacking surface interest" when compared to the other Christchurch statues sculpted by Thomas Woolner and George Lawson.[8] The statue toppled off its plinth during the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake and the head broke off.[9] During repairs, it was discovered that the statue had simply been mortared into place. An anchor was fitted so that the statue will not topple over again in future earthquakes. The repaired statue was unveiled, with many of Rolleston's descendants present, on 21 December 2016; almost six years after the earthquake.[10]

Heritage listing[edit]

On 26 November 1981, the statue was registered by Heritage New Zealand as a Category II historic place, with the registration number being 1946.[6] It is one of the three statues that commemorate superintendents of Canterbury (the other statues commemorate James FitzGerald and William Sefton Moorhouse) and they are all placed on Rolleston Avenue (Moorhouse's statue is some distance inside the Botanic Gardens). The three statues thus form an important historical setting.[6]


  1. ^ John Hall Diaries (1901–1906) Held by the estate of John Hall, Hall, John (Sir), 1824–1907 : Papers (Held by National Library of New Zealand)
  2. ^ Scholefield, Guy (1950) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1949 (3rd ed.). Wellington: Govt. Printer.
  3. ^ Gardner, Jim. "Rolleston, William". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 31 July 2011.
  4. ^ Harper, Margaret. "Christchurch Street Names R to S" (PDF). Christchurch City Libraries. pp. 51, 85, 171. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  5. ^ "Statues". Christchurch City Libraries. Retrieved 8 March 2011.
  6. ^ a b c "William Rolleston Statue". The Register. New Zealand Historic PlacesTrust. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  7. ^ "Rolleston Statue". Christchurch City Council. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  8. ^ Dunn, Michael (2002). New Zealand Sculpture: a history. Auckland University Press. p. 2 0. ISBN 1-86940-277-4.
  9. ^ Saunders, Kate (28 February 2011). "Broken City". Taranaki Daily News. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  10. ^ Gates, Charlie (22 December 2016). "Rolleston back where he belongs". The Press. p. A3. Retrieved 22 January 2017.

External links[edit]

Media related to Rolleston Statue at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 43°31′51″S 172°37′39″E / 43.5309°S 172.6275°E / -43.5309; 172.6275