Saturday, September 3, 2011

Seddon's memorials

Portrait of Richard John Seddon, Reference Number: 1/2-005255-F, Alexander Turnbull Library.

New Zealand is in tears today. From Sydney comes the news that. Mr Seddon died yesterday white on his return to New Zealand. It has long been common knowledge that Mr Seddon's health was unsatisfactory. Some years ago, indeed, it created the gravest anxiety among his friends, and it rendered it necessary for him to abandon work for a time. But to a man of his active temperament, rest was always more arduous than labour, and it was only with the greatest difficulty that he could be persuaded to lay aside his work. Of late years his health had appeared to be improving, and even the wear and tear of the last general election imposed little apparent strain on it. The mere fact that Mr Seddon appeared to have regained much of his earlier vigour intensified the shock caused by the news of his death. There is not a man, woman or child in New Zealand to whom the news will not bring the bitterest sorrow. Not only has the country lost a leader of unexampled popularity, but the people have been robbed of one who to many was a close and dear friend.
Christchurch Star 11 June 1906

The death of Richard Seddon began the first flurry of memorial-making in the country since Queen Victoria's jubilees, and only surpassed by those linked with the coming of the Great War in 1914, and our later conflicts. The following are just some of the ones around the country -- some still existing, others not.

Here in Auckland, we were quick off the mark.


Employees at Auckland's railway workshops at Newmarket fashioned a simple, ornamented curved lamp, with a brass heart-shaped plate attached, bearing the inscription: “Erected as a tribute of respect to the memory of the Right Hon. R. J. Seddon, P.C., L.L.D., Premier of New Zealand, by the employees of the Newmarket Railway Workshops, June 1906, at St Helen’s Hospital, Auckland, N.Z.”St Helen's was supposed yo have been opened officially in June 1906 (it did open to patients then), but Seddon's death prevented that, as Sir Joseph Ward ordered the hospital to forego the occasion. The unveiling of the lamp, though, in a way made up for the June cancellation.

The memorial lamp was relocated onto the grounds of National Women’s at Greenlane possibly either after St Helens Hospital closed in Pitt Street (1968) or the succeeding Western Springs hospital closed in 1990. It was still there, at the back of the hospital, in 2008.

Pulpit commemorating Richard John Seddon, inside Wellington Cathedral of St Paul, Mulgrave St, Wellington, [ca Oct 1958] Reference Number: PAColl-8163-79, Alexander Turnbull Library

Mrs Seddon has intimated her intention of presenting an oak pulpit to St. Paul's Pro-Cathedral, in memory of the late Premier. 
 Fielding Star 27 April 1907 

The memorial pulpit presented by Mrs Seddon to St. Paul's pro-Cathedral, Wellington, commemorative of the life of the Right Hon. R. J. Seddon was expected to arrive at Wellington yesterday. A service, at which the pulpit will be dedicated, will be held in the pro- Cathedral on June 22nd, which is the birth anniversary of the late Mr Seddon. 
 Ohinemuri Gazette 17 June 1908 

Seddon memorial, Waihi, ca 1910 Reference Number: 1/2-057516-F Memorial to Richard John Seddon with street lamp and drinking fountains, Waihi, circa 1910. A branch of the National Bank of New Zealand is in the background. Photographer unidentified. Alexander Turnbull Library

"Looking along Seddon Street, Waihi showing a memorial drinking fountain and gas street lamp dedicated to the Prime Minister of New Zealand (foreground),", reference 35-R2201, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries

The Waihi Borough Council are thinking of erecting a Seddon Memorial somewhat after the style of the Watt Memorial Fountain, which formerly stood in the Avenue, and was later on shifted to Cook's Gardens. 
 Wanganui Herald 6 July 1907 

The Waihi Memorial, in July 1912, was where a public meeting was held, protesting against compulsory military training.

AWNS-19080102-10-2, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

Richard John Seddon memorial, Bolton Street Cemetery, Wellington, ca 1933 Reference Number: PAColl-7796-07 Richard John Seddon memorial, Bolton Street Cemetery, Wellington, photographed circa 1935 for the Evening Post. Photographer unidentified. The memorial was designed by Government Architect John Campbell.
Alexander Turnbull Library.

The Seddon Memorial column which is being erected over the late Premier's grave in the Bolton Street Cemetery is gradually rising above the bush. When completed and surmounted by a marble figure, life size, the column will be far and away the most prominent object to greet the eye of passengers on the incoming steamers.
Marlborough Express 9 June 1909

A correspondent ("Northlander") writes to "The Post" 'inquiring what was done after Mr. Seddon died in the way of providing a memorial. The position is that a monument was erected over Mr. Seddon's grave in the Bolton Street Cemetery, the cost being defrayed from the Consolidated Fund. A statue of Mr. Seddon was also placed in the Parliamentary Grounds, but the funds for this were contributed by members of the Liberal Party and public. 
Evening Post 20 May 1925 

Sir Thomas Brock's statue of Richard John Seddon in Parliament grounds, Wellington. Reference Number: 1/4-016851-G Sir Thomas Brock's statue of Richard John Seddon in parliament grounds, Wellington. Old government house is in the background. Photograph taken by Leslie Hinge between 1915 and 1942. Alexander Turnbull Library.

"Showing the exterior of the Seddon Memorial Technical College, Wellesley Street East and the Teachers Training College (far right) with horse and carts in Wellesley Street," reference 35-R122, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

Auckland's largest memorial to Seddon would be the Seddon Memorial Technical College, first suggested as a memorial to the late premier in 1906, completed in 1911, and officially opened in 1913. The building still stands on Wellesley Street -- but is, of course, today part of AUT.

St James' Presbyterian Church (Pukekohe), [ca 1915] Reference Number: 1/2-001335-G View of the St James' Presbyterian Church situated on the corner of Queen and Seddon streets, Pukekohe. In the foreground is the gas lampstand erected in honour of Rt Hon Richard Seddon, Prime Minister. 
Photograph taken by William Archer Price, ca 1915. Alexander Turnbull Library.

Does this memorial still exist in some way at Seddon Park in Pukekohe? If any readers know, I'd love to find out. Might be a while before I head back down that way again.

 "Looking down Symonds Street showing a stereoscopic view of the Seddon Memorial lamp, drinking fountain and shelter, Royal Oak, opened in 1909, at junction of Manukau, Auckland (later the continuation of Manukau) Mt Albert, Campbell, Mt Smart Roads and Symonds Street, with man crossing road (right) person standing in memorial,(centre) dogs on road (left) tramlines (foregound); the architect of the memorial was Mr J Park, Onehunga and it was suggested by the Onehunga Liberal and Labour Association; it was erected at Royal Oak, the boundary of three boroughs, Mount Roskill, Onehunga and One Tree Hill, who all paid towards the cost; with Royal Oak Store (left) advertising Standard Tea." Reference 4-8624, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

The best-known of the stand-alone memorials to isthmus Aucklanders, though, was the one at Royal Oak. The Mt Roskill Road Board were apparently the original instigators, contemplating “the erection of a shelter shed” and sending a deputation to the Onehunga Borough Council on 10 June 1907 requesting their co-operation in providing a combined tram shelter, lighting standard and drinking fountain at the Royal Oak intersection. It was decided to organise a conference of the local bodies who would be involved in such a project, at the boundary of Onehunga, One Tree Hill and Mt Roskill territorial authorities. At that conference, a letter was presented from the Onehunga Liberal and Labour Federation, “suggesting that the shelter should be erected in memory of the late Mr. Seddon, and promising to subscribe a share of the cost if this was done.” The Onehunga Council raised £40, and with others contributing, including a government grant, £630 was raised.

Work began in 1908, and it was unveiled on 7 July 1909. According to the NZ Herald, 8 July 1909:

“The memorial takes the form of a hexagonal shelter, which is constructed of white stone and marble, and is surmounted by five lamps, which provide an excellent light at night time. It has six Gothic archways, two of which are open, thus affording means of access, while the other four are built in with beautiful slabs of grey marble, about 7ft high and 4ft 6in wide.

On the weather side of one of these marble slabs appears the following inscription: -

“In memory of the Right Honourable Richard John Seddon, P.C., L.L.D., the great Premier, friend, statesman, humanitarian, 1845-1906. ‘He loved, he served.’ Erected by the people of the surrounding districts.

“He passed, but his memory is power
Behind him lives the good that none stay
His name remains a beacon light, a tower,
By which all lower lights may guide their way.”

“In the marble slab under the next arch a small aperture has been cut for the purposes of a postal box, which is placed inside, with a writing desk on top. The next slab has been left blank, while on the next appears a dolphin’s mouth, with water running into a marble basin below. Seats are fitted around the interior for the convenience of persons waiting for tramcars, while overhead is an ornamental dome and a lamp.

“The general design, which was executed by Mr. J. Park, architect, is a copy of the lower portion of one of the 13 memorial crosses erected by King Edward I, in memory of Queen Eleanor, the one referred to being still in evidence at Waltham, England.”

Reference 4-8625, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

Another tablet was fixed to the memorial in 1916, in honour of Sir Maurice O’Rourke who died that year after representing Onehunga in Parliament for 39 years. 

In 1946, the Onehunga Borough Council and Mt Roskill Road Board received notification from the Main Highways Board that changes needed to be made to the Royal Oak intersection. On 12 August that year, the Streets and Works Committee of the Onehunga Borough Council resolved to conduct experiments at the intersection, to see whether traffic islands would be of use there, and whether or not the Seddon Memorial would have to be removed. By 26 August it was determined that the memorial was indeed impeding traffic, but further action was delayed while costs of installing traffic islands was investigated, and enquiries made, at the request of one of the borough’s councillors, that another site be found for the memorial. Mt Roskill Road Board advised Onehunga Borough in November 1946 that they were only prepared to pay toward the cost of removing the memorial and painting white lines. The Onehunga Streets and Works Committee went ahead. 

On 15 September 1947 they approved the final Scheme Plan to install “an island” at the intersection, and to remove the Seddon Memorial. Mt Roskill finally agreed to contribute toward the cost of installing the islands the following month, and by the end of October the Borough Engineer reported that “the monument is partly demolished, and within another week should be completely removed.” He further reported, in February 1948, that all work on the new intersection had been completed. (Sources: Streets and Works Committee minutes, Onehunga Borough Council records, OHB 106/3; Onehunga Borough Council minutes, OHB 100/23; R. D. Baker, Borough Engineer, Report to the Streets and Works Committee, 31 October 1947, p. 2, Auckland Council Archives)

Thus, we lost the memorial forever, in favour of the Royal Oak roundabout.

Postcard. The Right Hon Richard Seddon; his farewell message - "Leaving tonight for God's own country". "Kia ora and Aroha". [ca 1906] Reference Number: Eph-A-PEOPLE-Seddon-1906-01, Alexander Turnbull Library


  1. Hi there,

    Great post! I've been following your blog for quite some time now and your blog gave me the inspiration to start my own. I've just made a couple of posts (one on the Auckland Town Hall and the other on the newly opened art gallery). It would be great if you could check it out and leave a comment! :)

  2. Hi there! I've popped across to your blog just now -- great to see another Auckland blog out there in the field. I'll add it to my side list as soon as I've had a cuppa coffee this morning ...