St Paul's Church memorials, Auckland

St Paul's Church memorials, Auckland

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For some years Saint Paul’s Anglican Church in Symonds Street boasted an unusual memorial outside the church: a First World War memorial tram shelter. This was demolished in 1971, but there remain a number of other memorials associated with death in war or by accident inside the church: a Field Ambulance memorial plaque, a parish roll of honour, several New Zealand Wars memorial plaques, and a memorial to victims of the wreck of the HMS Wairarapa in 1894.

First World War memorial tram shelter

After the First World War, the St Paul’s congregation decided to build a tram shelter outside the church in memory of the men of the parish who had died on active service. Bishop W.A. Averill laid the foundation stone on 20 July 1919. Acting Minister of Defence Gordon Coates unveiled the completed building on 28 March 1920.

The architect D.B. Patterson had designed the shelter in a compatible style with the church behind it. It was solidly constructed of Rangitoto and Melbourne bluestone, with dressings of Oamaru stone. The words ‘Remembering these dead, let the living be humble’ were carved into the Tudor arch surmounting the entrance. To the left of the entrance was a tablet inscribed with the names of the First World War campaigns; to the right a tablet with a memorial inscription to the fallen. Inside was an Oamaru stone frieze inscribed with the names of 26 battles and a series of polished stone tablets inscribed with the names of 50 fallen (nine more names were added after the unveiling).

Four stained glass windows were later installed in the windows on the back wall.

When trams were replaced by buses in 1956, the building continued for a while in use as a bus shelter. However, after the bus stop was moved, it became a haunt for tramps and target for vandals. The parish demolished the building in December 1971. It is not known what happened to the stained glass windows and the stone tablets. The names of the fallen, at least, were preserved, since there is a roll of honour in the church’s Requiem Chapel. This polished wooden tablet lists in alphabetical order a total of 72 men connected with the church who died in the two world wars.

Field Ambulance memorial plaque

The tram shelter was not St Paul’s only First World War memorial: on 8 May 1921 Lady Jellicoe, wife of the Governor-General, unveiled a brass tablet inside the church in memory of officers and men of No. 3 Rifle Brigade Field Ambulance who fell during the war. This is headed: ‘Erected by No. 3 / (Rifle Brigade) / Field Ambulance / In memory of the / officers & men of the / unit who fell in France / in the Great War’ The names of nine officers are listed in order of rank; the place and date of death are also given. Two NCOs and 24 men are listed by name only. For some years the unit’s flag was displayed above the tablet.

New Zealand Wars memorial plaques

The Requiem Chapel also houses several brass New Zealand Wars memorial plaques. These are relics of the first St Paul’s church, which stood in Emily Place between 1841 and 1885, and which in its early years served as the city’s proto-cathedral and its garrison church. The plaques were transferred to the new St Paul’s when it was opened on the present site in 1895.

One of the tablets was erected in memory of Captain Thomas George Strange, who had been killed at Waitara in 1861. It reads: “To the memory / of  / Thomas George Strange / Captain in Her Majesty’s / 65th Regiment. / Born A.D. 1827. / Killed in action at Waitara, / in the / northern island of New Zealand. / February the 10th 1861. / ‘The trumpet shall sound and the / dead shall be raised incorruptible / and we shall be changed.’ / This tablet was erected by his / sorrowing widow.”

Another was funded by members of the 1st Waikato Regiment to honour fellow soldiers who had been killed at the Battle of Titi Hill, Mauku, on 23 October 1863: “Sacred / to the / memory / of / Lieutenants Thomas Norman / and William Percival / & of / Corporal Michael Power & / Privates / William Beswick, George Oborne /  Farqr. McGilvray and Wm. Williamson / of the 1st Waikato Regt. / who fell in action on the 23rd October 1863 at Mauku / This tablet is erected by the / Officers Non Commisnd [sic] Officers & Privates / of the / Regiment.”

Yet another was erected in memory of Captain John Shaw Phelps: “To the memory of / John Shaw Phelps / Captain in H.M. 14th Regiment of Foot, / only son of J.C. Phelps Esqr. / of Gostwyck, Paterson River, N.S.W. / Born in Sydney 21st May, 1829. / Died, 25th Nov. 1863. / At the Queen’s Redoubt, New Zealand. / From wounds received while gallantly / leading his company against the hostile / Maoris at Rangariri [sic] on the 20th Nov. / An affectionate son, a loving brother, / and a true friend.”

Finally, there is a substantial brass tablet that evidently was once accompanied by memorial windows, and honours soldiers and sailors who were buried in the Symonds Street cemetery. It is inscribed as follows: “H.M.D.G. / These windows were re-erected in honoured memory of / [followed by names in five columns] [first column] Commodore Wm. F. Burnett C.B. / H.M.S. Orpheus / Lieutenant Wm. E. Mitchell / H.M.S. Esk / Assistant Surgeon / Geo. R. Pickthorn M.B. / H.M.S. Challenger / Midshipman Thomas A. Watkins / H.M.S. Curacoa / [second column] Colonel Chas. W. Austen / 2nd Battn. 16th Reg. / Colonel Marmaduke G. Nixon / Col. [?] Def. Force & Royal Caly. Vols. / Lieut Col John F. Kempt / 1st Battn. 12th Reg.  / Major Henry Cole / 1st Battn. 12th Reg / [third column] Major E. Withers 65th Reg.  / Major James Paul / 65th Reg. / Major Edward Cantrobus / 2nd Waikato Militia / Capt. and St Major James T. Ring / 18th Royal Irish / [fourth column] Capt. John S. Phelps / 14th Foot  / Capt. Henry Mercer / Royal Arty. / Capt. Richard Swift / 65th Reg. / Lieut. Coll McLeod / 43rd L.I. /  [fifth column] Lieut. Wm. L. Murphy 1st Battn. 12th Reg. / Lieut. G.G.S. Menteath 70th Reg. / Lieut. J.H. Wood Junr. / 2nd Waikato Militia / Ensign Andrew Ducrow 40th Reg. / Sergt. J.J. Hanson / Commt Staff Co. / Captain Geo. J. Dormer / 14th Reg. / And other officers and men who gave their lives in service of the Empire, especially during the Maori Wars. / And whose bodies lie in the Symonds St. Cemetery, Auckland. / R.I.P.”

SS Wairarapa memorial tablet

St Paul’s is also the home of an elaborately carved marble tablet commemorating victims of the wreck of the SS Wairarapa. A total of 121 passengers and crew or more died after the ship struck the cliffs at Miners Head on Great Barrier Island on 29th October 1894. The tablet in St Pauls was erected by the Steward Department of the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand in honour of the ten men, women and boys of the department who lost their lives: William H. Judd, Charlotte McDonald, Annie McQuaid, Lizzie Grindrod, Harry Vear, Alexander McLean, Richard Croucher, Hugh Monaghan, Alfred Holmes and John McDonald.

Sources: ‘St Paul’s Memorial Shelter’, NZ Herald, 19/7/1919, p. 11; ‘St Paul’s Tram Shelter’, NZ Herald, 26/3/1920, p. 4; ‘The Soldiers’ Part: Memorial to Fallen’, NZ Herald, 29/3/1920, p. 6; ‘War Ambulance Work: Memorial at St Paul’s’, NZ Herald, 9/5/1921, p. 6; ‘Modern Chivalry’, Auckland Star, 9/5/1921, p. 8; Jackie Eaglen, A Brief History of St Paul’s Symonds Street, Auckland, 1991, pp. 14, 17; ‘Old Memorial Stone Shelter To Be Demolished’, NZ Herald, 30/12/1971, p. 1.


Community contributions

3 comments have been posted about St Paul's Church memorials, Auckland

What do you know?

Simeon Hakwins

Posted: 07 Mar 2018

Thank you Bruce.
Further to my last comments on the memorial shelter, I have discovered (in the Auckland Anglican Archives), full scale architectural drawings for the memorial plaques with the Roll of Honour. So while the stones themselves remain missing, we now know what they looked like.

Jamie M

Posted: 25 Aug 2017

Hi Simeon - I contacted Bruce Ringer who wrote the original text. His response below: 'Thanks to Simeon for the additional details on the war memorial tram shelter and for correcting the material relating to the New Zealand Wars memorial plaque and windows. Regarding the Mason, Matthews and Coates plaques and the Hobson memorial, the Memorials Register to date includes only war memorials and rolls of honour and a few significant memorials relating to violent or accidental death. Bruce Ringer'

Simeon Hawkins

Posted: 15 Aug 2017

Some clarification to the above article:

The war memorial tram shelter erected in 1919/20 was done so in partnership with Auckland Council who granted $300 towards its cost of over $700. The 4 stained glass windows were situated 2 smaller ones in the rear wall, 2 larger ones in the sides. They were unique in that they included the military patch of the Auckland Infantry Battalions 1 & 2 and were each dedicated by inscription to a serving social body within St Paul's church. The 26 battles were listed on an Oamaru freize which ran high on the wall. Below that was a series of polished tablets with the names of the fallen and carvings of the military badges of the Auckland Rifles and Auckland Mounted Infantry to which the shelter was dedicated. On the flanks of the exterior wall was a dedication tablet which remains today in the church's Requiem Chapel. Sadly the shelter was vandalized- at least one window was destroyed by November 1939. Following the Second World War the hope was to complete the spire as a memorial, but funds were insufficient so the tram shelter was renovated instead in 1947. Improvements included a complete cleaning, replacing the windows with iron grilles, and adding 13 names of the WW2 fallen. It was re-dedicated by the Bishop on 8th June.
Sadly again however, it was a target for squatters, vandalism and used as a latrine. Buses replaced trams and the stops moved further up Symonds street where they remain today. The shelter became a financial burden, it stank and was a bit of an eyesore. Plans were submitted in 1968 to move the shelter further up the road to serve the buses, but this as declined. When Auckland Council approached the church regarding upgrades to Symonds Street frontage around the church, the decision was made to demolish it. According to Vestry minutes the consecrated stones with the names of the fallen were to be reinstalled within the church on the southern wall, but they no longer exist. In their place is a wooden plaque which hangs in the Requiem Chapel.

The 'substantial brass tablet' dedicated to the men of the New Zealand Wars did not come from the original St Paul's on Emily Place, but was erected in 1914. In that year Vicar Watson installed the four stained glass windows in the western wall, the two on the left of which (King Oswald & Bishop Theodore) were dedicated to these men & the plaque originally placed directly below them. The inscription actually says "these windows were erected" not 're-erected' (see image). After Watson's time the plaque was considered inappropriate- being pro-colonialism and anti-Maori- and it was removed from the wall and thrown into a skip! Fortunately a parishioner saw it there & rescued it, but it still has a damaged wooden backing and the term 'Maori wars' has been graffiti'ed 'New Zealand Wars' to be more politically correct. It now hangs in the Requiem Chapel.

There are several other plaques which hang in the church which are not mentioned here, including dedication plaques for the other 2 western wall windows. If the focus here was to concentrate on those original to the first church, then the most significant ones have been missed.
There are brass plaques to the memory of:
- William Mason, first Superintendent of Public Works in NZ and the architect & builder of the Emily Place church.
- Felton Matthews, the first Surveyor General of Auckland
- James Coates, private secretary to Gov. Hobson

Most significantly, St Paul's is home to two grand, carved marble memorials to Gov. William Hobson and Major General George Dean-Pitt, commander of all military forces in New Zealand. Both memorials are from the original building and were reinstalled at Symond's street's western wall when it was built in 1895.
The first reads, "In memory / of his excellency Major General / George Dean Pitt. K. H. / Lieut Governor of the Northern Provinces / of New Zealand. / and Commander of Her Majesty's Forces / in the colony. / He died January 8th 1851 / Aged 70 Years. / "Mark the perfect man and behold the upright / for the end of that man is peace." / Ps 37th .v 37th"

The second reads, "In memory of his excellency / Captn. William Hobson R. N. / First governor of New Zealand. / He was the third son of SamL. Hobson, ESQ. / of Waterford, Ireland, / and died on the 10th SeptR. 1842 / in the 49th year of his age. / We shall all stand before the judgement / seat of Christ. Rom XIV. 10"
This is then translated into Maori, with Hobson's family crest at the base.