Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The shifting story of Auckland's memorial beacon

Updated 30 June 2021: ten years after I published this article, the memorial has shifted yet again! More at the end, with the re-creation of the metalwork on top in 2022.
Updated 22 June 2023. Added image of the miniature golf course, 1930.

While heading toward the Wynyard Quarter earlier this month, I stopped to take some photos of the waterfront between Albert Street and Te Wero. The Red Fence walk is an interesting heritage walk in the area, for a bit of a taste of the history of Auckland's Waitemata dockland.

I also photographed the Auckland Harbour Board's war memorial beacon. I knew already that this wasn't the original site. But I had a feeling there was more to the story behind the monument.

The story goes back to the 1870s. The Auckland Harbour Board, intent on progressively adding to the facilities of the docklands under their administration, settled on the idea of establishing a graving, or dry, dock for repairs to boats and ships visiting or based on the harbour.
Captain Casey has given notice at a meeting of the Harbour Board held yesterday that at next sitting of the Board he will move that the Clerk of Works be instructed to draw up a plan of a graving dock to be cut out of the solid rock near Smales' Point.
Auckland Star 9 July 1872

Smale's Point wasn't to be the site eventually chosen, however. The plan headed west, to what was then called College Point, on the other side of lower Albert Street, beside an area already reclaimed from the sea by the Board. They approached Edward Orpen Moriarty in 1873, then Engineer of Harbours and Rivers in New South Wales, to put together plans for the proposed dry dock.
The plans and estimates of the proposed graving dock, were laid upon the table, and the report of the Engineer was read. This stated that the cost of constructing the dock would be £78,000 ...
AS 23 September 1873

All well and good -- but the lowest tender received far out-stripped the Harbour Board's available budget. The Moriarty plan was set aside, and a local, William Errington, fresh from success with the design of the pumphouse at Western Springs, was brought in instead.

We have received from the Works Committee of the Harbour Board the following resolutions adopted at a meeting held yesterday afternoon, which will come before the Board at the next meeting to be held on Tuesday next : — 1. That your committee recommend to the Board the necessity of providing for this port a graving dock of the following dimensions, not less that 300ft. long, or 12ft. on the sill at ordinary tides, and that a wing be added if deemed expedient. 2. In order that no time may be lost in completing this dock, it is desirable that it should be carried out as a special work. 3. That Mr. W. Errington, City Waterworks Engineer, be requested to furnish without delay, the necessary plans and particulars, to be submitted in draft form for the Works Committee's consideration. 4. That a sub-committee be appointed to see the foregoing resolutions ...
SC 8 December 1875

The report of Mr. Errington, in reference to the proposed dock at College Point, was read to the meeting. The report concluded with the following remarks : — 
1st. That deep water can be reached at a short; distance from the bluff. 
2nd. That the site is fairly sheltered. 
3rd. That the foundations are apparently good. 
4th. That ample earth for filling reclamations are at hand. 
5th. That there is little possibility of the entrance silting up, or a necessity for dredging. 
6th. That independent of other considerations outside purely professional ones, it is not my province to enter upon...

AS 6 January 1876

After all the fuss, the meetings, the agonising over budgets and last minute alterations -- Auckland's graving dock was opened for business in August 1878 without any fanfare at all, charging boat and ship owners from £1 to £3 per day for the use of the facility.

Opening of the Auckland Graving Dock.
The rumour that the Graving Dock would be opened this morning, and the s.s. Iona taken in, caused a large number of persons to assemble at the dock to witness the docking of the first vessel in Auckland. The owners of the steamer were successful in their endeavours to obtain the use of the dock, and therefore all due and necessary arrangements were made by the Harbour Board. The steamer was floated in at high tide by Captain Burgess, Dock-master, without any difficulty, and the dock was then pumped out, the machinery working smoothly. There was no ceremony of any kind on the occasion. The Iona is to undergo a thorough overhaul, and on completion of the same, several other vessels will be taken in rotation. Amongst these will probably be the Rotomahaua, the Wellington, and others.

AS 20 August 1878

"Auckland waterfront showing Customs Street West (foreground), Queen Street Wharf, Graving Dock and J Blaney's premises, Mount Victoria and Rangitoto (far right distance)." Reference 4-582, 1880s, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

"Graving docks showing the interior of dock with SS Young Bungaree on stocks and Customs Street West and Hobson Street Viaduct ( right background)", 1890. Reference 4-583, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

"Looking west over the Auckland waterfront showing Graving dock, part of Hobson Wharf and St Marys Bay with Ponsonby in the background", 1908. Reference 4-645, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

Swimming competitions were even held in the dock, a vast artificial pool formed there once filled. One of the last of these was in 1912.

The final swimming carnival in connection with the Sydney team's visit to the Waitemata Club was held in the Auckland Graving Dock yesterday afternoon, before about 2500 spectators. The swimming was of a high standard, and several records were broken.

Evening Post 5 Dec 1912

But, times move on. The old dock wasn't all that big, and ships were getting bigger. As well, the Harbour Board had the Calliope Dock on the North Shore, and they wanted to extend their docklands in the vicinity of Hobson Street (ultimately creating Princes Wharf). Despite some grizzles in the press, and a bit of a protest from the NZ Shipowners' Federation, demolition of the old dock, retrieval of the valuable bluestone sides and base for sale by tender, and filling in of the remaining hole proceeded in 1915. It was all over by the end of September that year. The project was one of a number at the time under the direction of W H Hamer.

William Henry Hamer (1869-1940) was appointed engineer-in-chief at the Auckland Harbour Board's engineer in 1903. Born 5 September 1869 in Darwen, Lancashire, he worked as assistant to the chief engineer of the Hull docks and railways, also carrying out surveys and soundings for the Humber Conservancy from 1889-1894. He was appointed resident engineer at Tilbury Docks in 1895, then resident engineer at the Victoria and Albert Docks in London in 1898. His career in Auckland lasted from his appointment in 1903 until his retirement in 1925. Several Australian harbour authorities used him as a consultant, and during the First World War he served on a mission regarding bulk oil and coal supplies to Australasia from the United States and Canada. He died at Bridlington, 14 May 1940. (Obituary, Journal of the ICE - Institution of Civil Engineers - Vol. 15, Issue 1)

Aucklanders by 1914 were demanding more convenient access to launch landings on the city side of the harbour. Excursions around the Hauraki Gulf gained popularity from the 1870s, but their heyday was from the early 20th century. In response to public demand, the Harbour Board erected five launch landings off Quay Street by June 1915, and then added two shelter buildings, completed at the same time.

The eastern shelter is dwarfed today by the bulk of its neighbour, the Auckland Ferry Building.

The western shelter seems to be a favourite with the feathered crowd.

At the same time the Harbour Board decided that, instead of displaying a roll of honour in the public room of their offices, they would arrange to have a memorial erected, and place the names of those Harbour Board employees who went off to serve in the war on it for posterity. (NZ Herald, 15 September 1915)  Monumental mason John Bouskill prepared the beacon to Hamer's design, described thus by the Auckland Star, 18 December 1915:

Auckland Sailors Home, 1921, on the corner of Albert Street (left), and Sturdee Street (right), reference 1-W1770, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries; image of the memorial beacon pre-1969, taken from photo published in NZ Herald 24 April 1999.

"The beacon takes the form of an obelisk erected on a base of five tiers of steps of unpolished Coromandel granite. This is surmounted by a square solid block of granite, polished, and above is a shaft of the same material beautifully finished. Above this is an artistic twisted metal support, on top of which is a red globe, which at night time will show a light. Under the regulations of the Harbour Board, launches coming to the landings have to sight this beacon and get in line with a white diamond affixed to the front of the Sailors' Home before they turn to run in. At night time there will be a red light on the beacon, and a green one above the diamond. The object of this regulation is to ensure the launches being well clear of the course of the ferry boats as they come out from the jetties.

"The new beacon, which is a really artistic piece of work, has the additional merit of being all of local manufacture. On the face of the column fronting Quay Street is a long copper plate, bearing the names of forty of the employees of the Board who have gone to the front. Beneath this, on the solid block of granite, is a copper shield on which is the following inscription:

Replica shield, installed 1999-2000. Original lost.

"This beacon was erected by the Auckland Harbour Board to record the services of those members of its staff whose names are inscribed above, who voluntarily gave their all in the cause of liberty and freedom at the call of the Mother Country in the Great World War of 1914."

"Underneath this is the quotation: "A country which defends its liberties in the face of tyranny, commands the respect of all; such a country does not perish." (King Albert of Belgium to his people).

"Around the top of the solid block of granite is inscribed the following: - "Qui moruit ferat palmam." (Let him bear the palm who has deserved it.)"
From between the two landing shelters, the beacon was first lit up on 17 December 1915, according to Hamer's annual report to the Harbour Board the following year. But there was no fanfare or official unveiling. Like the graving dock back in 1878 -- this was not just a piece of streetscape added for public memory and adulation. It was a working part of the port's regulatory operations.

The five-tiered steps at the base are now gone -- today's version of the memorial beacon seems to have a modern stone alternative as a simple base. The twisted metal support is also missing, disappearing sometime between 1969 and 2000 when the memorial was resurrected (see below). The 1915 article refers to 40 names on a single long copper plate facing Quay Street. There are three there today, the other two probably added during 1916-1918. Two of the plates have 40 names each, the third 36. Out of these 116 names, 15 have the additional notation "Killed", while one shows "Died".

Other bits were added, most likely c.1919 after the conclusion of the war. A similar bronze shield, listing the places New Zealand soldiers fought or were stationed during the war (this one is a replica, the original lost after 1969):

This shield (another 1999-2000 replica) must have been added after the end of the war: one of very few monuments in the country, if there are any others, noting the signing of the Treaty of Versailles of 28 June 1919. Except -- the date on the shield is wrong, reading 26th instead of 28th.

Beneath the ball installed in 1999-2000 to replace the lost metalwork, it looks like the numerals "1918" on the left face in the above cropped shot may have been removed. If they had existed (but there are four marks in the stone in line, so -- something may have been there).

Observer 5 February 1916

Back to 1916. Auckland City now realised that it had a potential treasure on its front doorstep, in the form of the old dock site. The Town Planning League held meetings, calling for the site to be transformed into a public reserve. Mayor C J Parr appeared to back them strongly -- you'll see him in the above cartoon from the Observer as a municipal Pied Piper, while figures representing the Star and the Herald newspapers harangue the hen-pecked "husband", the Auckland Harbour Board.

Nothing more was done at that point, but another idea came to mind at the end of the war. It involved the old dock site, a proposed peace memorial, and three captured German field guns.
A proposal is before the Auckland Harbour Board that the triangular site lately occupied by the Auckland dock should be offered to the city and suburban bodies at a cost of £20,000 for the purposes of a peace memorial, the board to receive some compensation for the loss of the property. A condition, in the event of the proposal being approved, would be that the site should be made a rest place for the public, with a stand of captured guns at the apex of each triangle, and an obelisk with the fountain in the centre, having inscribed thereon the history of the reservation of the site, and the rest of the plot to be generally beautified, supplied with seats, and made an inviting air-space for the city. 
 Ashburton Guardian 20 December 1918
The Observer was quite scathing of the idea.
A Scrap Iron Suggestion.
A section of Auckland officials hope to fritter away £20,000 by erecting a "peace memorial" on the site once occupied for a useful purpose—a dock. Just when the dock was most useful it was destroyed for reasons no one yet has been able to ascertain, and shipping of the type for which the dock was a boon has been inconvenienced ever since. It is now proposed to make this dock site a park for decayed German guns, which, according to custom, will be in the way for fifty years, and will fall to pieces bit by bit. There is nothing significant in the display of captured guns. All nations engaged in the war have shiploads of them, and they will clutter up parks and museums and open spaces for generations to come.

One of the quaintest suggestions about this proposed gun park and "breathing space"—there is a mile and a half of windswept breathing space alongside this proposed scrap heap—is, "the Harbour Board would certainly be entitled to some compensation for the cost of reclamation and the loss of the dock"— Just as if the Harbour Board had been cruelly robbed of a dock it earnestly desired to keep instead of, as was the case, deliberately destroying a highly useful convenience for no reason that has been since discovered. The only reasonable use for the dock site is a dock. If the Harbour Board is entitled to compensation for having its own dock, a citizen who burns his own house down deliberately is entitled to be paid for it out of public funds. The misuse of the dock site as a storing place for lethal ironmongery—which everybody wants to forget—will at least give the Harbour Board a new chance to get its roll of members carved on something else.

The Harbour Board already has a war memorial on which is immortalised under the word "merit" the names of a transitory Board, together with a perfectly incomplete and relatively valueless roll of soldiers—a secondary matter. The idea of destroying something useful in order that something perfectly useless shall occupy its place will only appeal to the official mind, and the casting of twenty thousand pounds into the hole in order to make an official holiday is an absurdity. The waste of twenty thousand pounds in a city shrieking out for real human improvement is a crime. Let us cure the slums by sticking some old German guns on the waterfront; let us eradicate crowded conditions in Freeman's Bay by planting a bit of grass a mile away from it; let us fight poverty and help soldiers, care for influenza orphans, and teach maimed men new trades by gazing on a destroyed dock. Let us make way for the increase of shipping by placarding a Hun gun with the name of the place it was captured at; let us, in fact, be as silly as possible because there is plenty of official precedents for being as silly as possible.

You can't eat doves of peace or breakfast off statuary or dine on German guns, or bind up the brokenhearted with a list of names. The real things you can do with twenty thousand pounds are the things that will reduce the sum of misery—and Heaven knows there is misery to spare in any town of any size throughout the world.

The city has innumerable air spaces, and none of them is adequately used. The assumption that a tiny piece of ground that never ought to have been made solid is a necessity as a breathing space is unsound. There is real human work for every kind of body, philanthropic or business, in the streets of the city and the homes of the people. On the whole the memorials that are usually daubed about cities are not artistically beautiful. Relief to sufferers by the war, the care of the fatherless and the widow, the helping hand to the afflicted and distressed, the fight against dirt and disease and domestic airlessness, are all more worthy peace monuments than dabbing a bunch of Krupp hardware on a trifle of ground to remind us of the most hideous period in the history of the world. 

We have 15,000 reminders buried in Egypt, in Palestine, in Gallipoli, and France. Thousands of families in New Zealand do not want to see rusty guns to remind them how they lost their sons, nor does any war widow wish to examine the mechanism that projected the missile that killed her husband. A park of guns for a Peace Memorial is as sensible as a park of doves for a war memorial. The authorities having achieved an absurdity in making a piece of level ground out of an expensively constructed dock, wish to perpetuate the absurdity by useless and expensive procedure. Should they achieve this further absurdity no doubt large and lustrous brass plates commemorating the names of the persons who used twenty thousand pounds of the people's cash, will be the chief exhibit, so that when the "Peace" guns have rotted on their carriages future generations may read with awe the names of people who celebrated peace, in such an extraordinary fashion.

Observer 21 December 1918

The Auckland Harbour Board, however, remained warm to the idea of the 1 acre site of the old dock becoming a peace memorial. In March 1919, the Board's secretary wrote to the Council's Town Clerk, formally offering the site, hoping that everything could be in place ready for the expected visit of the Prince of Wales in 1921, so that he could lay the foundation stone. (Letter from Council files, 13 March 1919)

Something of some interest to me is that, up until this point Auckland didn't have any clear ideas as to what to have as a war memorial for the whole city. Even in 1917, when Thomas Cheeseman wrote to the Council advising them that the museum's governing committee felt that a site on Observatory Hill in the Domain would be ideal for a permanent museum, there wasn't a mention of such a museum having the words "war memorial" tacked onto the title. (Letter, 12 December 1917) The war, of course, was still going at that point, but it was later in March 1919, after the Harbour Board proposal for a peace memorial, that Cheeseman wrote on behalf of the committee, affirming "suitability of a Modern Museum as the selected form of War Memorial for the Auckland District." (Letter to Town Clerk, 28 March 1919) I can't say whether or not the museum administrators felt that going with the war memorial idea while it was something fresh and new and brought into the public mind by the dock site proposal was a good move on their part towards realising the dream of an enlarged museum on the Domain. But -- timing, especially in terms of history, is everything.

The Harbour Board's proposal though wasn't simply just to shift the memorial beacon to the Peace Memorial reserve at all. 
A design has been submitted to the Mayor of a Corinthian column a hundred feet in height, surmounted by the figure of a lion rampant, and standing on a granite base twenty feet square containing bronze tablets bearing suitable inscriptions ... the remainder of the land surrounding it is to be laid out with gardens and seats, while war trophies are to be placed at the apex of each triangle. The idea of the board is that this column shall be a perpetual reminder to the growing generations of the greatest victory known to the world -- in other words a Peace memorial pure and simple.

Auckland Star, 11 March 1919

"A Suggested Peace Memorial: Monument on the Waterfront". Auckland Star 12 March 1919. Illustration prepared by Auckland Harbour Board's assistant-engineer, Drummond Holderness.

The newspaper editorials, with supporting letters from the likes of C J Parr, endorsed the joining together of both the old dock site Peace Memorial with a War Memorial Museum on the Domain, although the Star expressed reservations that the old dock site was suitably prominent enough for a proper memorial.

... the site is by no means the most suitable for a great war memorial. Auckland's two natural glories are the harbour and its hills, and we suggest that in looking for a site for our memorial we should keep these hills in mind.

Auckland Star, 20 March 1919

In April, the City Council set up a War Memorial Committee: Noel Bamford, H R MacKenzie, T W Leys, Mrs Jessie Gunson, Norman Wade, E Phelan and B Kent. By June, the combined plan to have both a Peace Memorial harbourside reserve and a War Memorial Museum was almost a done deal.

The erection of a museum on Observatory Hill, and a monument on a site offered by the Auckland Harbour Board was decided upon by the City Council tonight, as Auckland's memorial. It is proposed that the size of the museum should be 80,000 square feet, 50,000 square feet being for museum purposes, and 30,000 square feet for war exhibits. It is proposed to spend £80,000 on the museum and £20,000 on the monument.
Evening Post 27 June 1919

The reserve, at right of photo, c.1920, and the memorial beacon between the two Quay Street launch shelters (lower right corner) . Reference 4-652, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland City Libraries

But then in July 1919, the City Council wrote to every single territorial authority, both large and small, within the Auckland Province, seeking their help in funding such a project. The responses were neutral, but not really supportive. Avondale Road Board for example approved of the Domain idea, but not that of the dock: " ... the position of the site not being sufficiently prominent for any structure created thereon to be seen to advantage." (Letter, 24 July 1919) Others stated that they'd defer discussion, or advised that they already had their own war memorials in the planning stages.

Nothing further, until the Auckland Harbour Board asked the Council in February 1920 if they had come to a decision or not. (Letter to Town Clerk, 4 February 1920). The Council referred the matter to the War Memorial Committee -- and I couldn't find any further minutes from that committee at that time in the main records. I'd say that the old dock site Peace Memorial was simply an idea allowed to die a death and just fade away.

The memorial beacon (extreme right of photo) in December 1923, during work on straightening Quay Street. Reference            1-W614, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries

The Harbour Board's plans for improving their western port area continued. Quay Street was straightened during 1922-1923. The two launch landing shelters were shifted towards the north, and the memorial beacon, for a time, was sited in a fenced-in construction area which probably included the old dock site reserve. Princes Wharf was opened in 1924.

The old dock site, now including the memorial beacon and slightly enlarged due to the realigning of Quay Street, became like a number of other cleared empty spaces in and around Auckland's CBD, in that it became the site for a number of transitory amusement operators, such as circuses and, around 1930, a miniature golf course run by Pastimes Ltd.

The former graving dock site as a miniature golf course. 
From Auckland Weekly News 3 December 1930, AWNS-19301203-47-12, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections

March 1933. The memorial beacon has shifted once again, now surrounded by a garden at the eastern apex of the reserve triangle (right of centre of photo), beside the service station. Reference 4-5327, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

A wooden service station at the Sturdee-Quay Street corner flourished from c.1929, first owned by W E Johns, then leased to C W Swales, according to Council's valuation records. The valuers described it as a building "in a prominent position at the entrance to the City from the Harbour." So, the site wasn't prominent enough for a memorial park, but it was for a service station ... By 1961, the building was a sales kiosk.

Detail from 1940 aerial, from Auckland Council website. The site of the memorial beacon at that time circled in yellow.

During World War II, the Public Works Department took over the majority of the old dock site reserve in 1943 and built large concrete warehouse there, to store supplies for the US forces and to house the United States Joint Purchasing Board staff stationed in Auckland. The Harbour Board purchased the buildings from the Crown after March 1946 for £4400. These appear to have remained right down to the Downtown Centre redevelopment in the late 1960s.

Detail from 1959-1960 aerial, from Auckland Council website. The site of the memorial beacon at that time circled in yellow.

Quay Street West, November 1968. The memorial beacon can only just be seen, still at the corner of Sturdee and Quay Streets (left of photo). Reference 7-A5240, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

Then, in 1969, the memorial beacon disappeared from public view.

In April 1999, following a tip-off, the NZ Herald tracked down the remains of the memorial in a secure Customs storage area in Shed 51 on Bledisloe Wharf.

The obelisk was lying on its side among piles of scrap metal, its large granite base sitting on an old packing crate. Four rolls of honour had broken off, but in the half-light of the shed the names of the soldiers could still be made out. An iron railing, which held in place an orb which burned bright red at night, was missing, as were bronze shields once attached to the base.
NZ Herald, 24 April 1999

An anonymous benefactor came forward in June 1999, concerned over the "sacrilege" of leaving the memorial beacon in pieces as it was in the storage shed, and offered to fund its restoration.
He said he was outraged when he read of the monument's fate, and was determined to see it returned to its full glory. The man said his mother had met a New Zealand soldier in 1918 while the New Zealand Division was occupying Cologne.He wrote his name in her autograph book. Seventeen years later, as Nazi persecution of German Jews intensified, his desperate mother wrote to the soldier in Auckland. The soldier arranged visas for the family to come to New Zealand. He was in the Home Guard during the Second World War and has since died.

The benefactor said he owed not just the soldier but the city of Auckland a debt of gratitude. "We certainly came to the right place -- it's a beautiful city." He said he was old fashioned and believed historical objects such as the Anzac monument should be preserved.

NZ Herald 20 April 2000

Detail from 2006 aerial, from Auckland Council website. The former site of the memorial beacon circled in yellow, 2011 site in red.

So, today a diminished version of the 1915 Auckland Harbour Board memorial beacon stands close to the entrance to the Maritime Museum. If the 1918-1919 proposal to have a Peace Memorial had succeeded, perhaps the beacon wouldn't have been so badly damaged. Perhaps we would have had an attractive civic park, right next to the Viaduct Harbour, and a short stroll away from the revamped Wynyard Quarter? Perhaps there would have been no need to shift the memorial at all, and it would still have been a beacon across the harbour?

Imagine: an intact memorial beacon, a civic resting spot among gardens and seats on the harbourside, and possibly something to mark the spot where there once was Auckland's first dry dock.

A pity the Peace Memorial idea was shelved in 1920 -- because it would have been nice.

30 June 2021: A photo sent to me by Jan Ramp today shows the memorial has now shifted east to be near the eastern launch shelter closest to the Ferry Building. Probably part of the Te Ngau o Horotiu waterfront development this year. 

Update, 30 November 2022: An article from "Our Auckland."
Today (29 November) Auckland Council and Auckland Transport will oversee the return of the re-made ironwork spire and glass orb to their position at the top of the Beacon. “The opportunity to restore an important part of the city’s history, as part of Quay Street’s upgrade, has been an honour for the team,” says Eric van Essen who was Director of Auckland Council’s Downtown Programme and is now a Programme Director at Auckland Transport. Recreating the 500mm-diameter hand-blown red glass orb to scale and form, a team of craftspeople from Taupo deftly manoeuvred two colours of liquid glass, too hot to touch. And the spire was re-made using the craftsmanship of the era, supported by current 3D modelling technology. Brent Withers from DPA Architects oversaw the intricate bronze turning and casting process for the contractors commissioned by the council group. With steel artisans from Devonport, the team re-created the original spire. “First, we 3D-modelled the steelwork to scale, and then superimposed heritage photos, juxtaposing this beautiful historical element with today’s technology. We are in awe of what they could do a century ago. We’ve used all the technology available to us today. At times we were scratching our heads to achieve the same result,” he says. “To honour those who fought, those who were injured, and those who died, it’s really important it’s back in a prominent position very near to where it first stood. Auckland Council has secured the Beacon’s future by returning it to Quay Street, inclusive of the missing spire and orb,” says Withers.

Sources (other than those already referenced)
Auckland Council Archives: File ACC 275/19-200; valuation field sheet files for Sturdee Street (ACC 213/169a) and Quay Street (ACC 213/126h).
Auckland Harbour Board annual reports
Papers Past


  1. This a great article Lisa fascinating history of the Beacon Memorial. I have my concerns about the aesthetics of the monument. Half of it is missing. The iron work was a master piece of engineering. From what I've observed from the images of the original monument it was an essential part of the overall entirety with the Beacon supported by the frame work. It wasn't an afterthought. It was the age of iron ships and of course its use by then was fully integrated into the construction of vessels of the era. With new technology comes a new approach to the design of a public artwork such as the memorial truly is.

    I'm pleased it is back together, however, Auckland Council should seriously consider finding additional funding for this important heritage landmark and commission a reproduction of the supporting framework with a copy of the beacon on top of it.

    Right now it looks like it's been added merely as an after thought, with a ball dumped on top of it to make it somehow 'close to the original, detracting from the overall beauty of the designer's intention.

    In my view it's the same as cutting apart an old master painting in half and only showing a part of a figure in a frame - thus detracting from the meaning of what the scene might have been.

  2. Thanks Liz. You're absolutely right -- and add to that the loss of the five-tiered pedastal, which added to the overall height and effect of the beacon. All rather a shame.

  3. Fantastic article, really enjoying your blog. Found it via The Wade Hotel Facebook page link they posted of your photo. Good to see another person passionate about Auckland history

  4. Thanks Rob, and welcome. I'll pop across to the Wade Hotel's page to take a look! Cheers!

  5. What a great piece of research! I came across it in my research for a registration by NZHPT of the wonderful 'Angel' memorial in Kaitaia, credited by Jock Phillips and Chris McLean as being the first in NZ for WWI. But the Auckland Harbour Board one must surely be able to lay claim to being the oldest.

    Stuart Park
    NZ Historic Places Trust, Northland

  6. Thanks, Stuart. I'll keep watch for that "Angel" memorial registration. Cheers.