National War Memorial

Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, Puke Ahu (Mount Cook)

41 Buckle Street, Mount Cook, Wellington
Map
  • Constructed

    1931 - 1932

  • Architect(s)

    Gummer and Ford

  • Builder(s)

    Unknown

  • The Memorial includes the Carillon, Hall of Memories, Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, pool, steps and forecourt.

    It is a place of pilgrimage and ceremony, especially for families who lost people in overseas conflicts. 

    The Carillion is a distinctive landmark visible from many parts of the city. 

  • close History
    • In 1924 the Government decided to replace the Dominion Museum (1865) and, in 1928, it chose a site occupied by the Mt Cook gaol on Mt Cook. The Government had been considering the building of a National War Memorial since the end of World War I and it had even voted £100,000 for the purpose in 1919. It decided to incorporate such a structure with the Museum.

      Two years earlier the Wellington War Memorial Carillon Society was formed and in May that year they raised £10,000 to buy a 49 bell carillon. The bells were offered to the Wellington Citizen’s War Memorial Committee but they declined in favour of a silent memorial, the Cenotaph, on Lambton Quay. The bells were then offered to the Government to be included in the National War Memorial.

      The carillon bells were made at Gillet and Johnston in Croydon, England, with the tender being let in July 1927. While planning began on the memorial the bells were lent to the Newcastle-on-Tyne Exhibition. They were then temporarily hung in Hyde Park, before being shipped to New Zealand.

      A competition for the design of the National Museum and National War Memorial took place in 1929. The winner was the firm of Gummer and Ford. The permit to build the war memorial was granted on 30 March 1931 and work was completed in April the following year. The contractor was P. Graham and Sons of Christchurch and the estimated cost was £18,500. The structure was dedicated by the Rev. Dr T.H. Sprott on Anzac Day, 1932.

      The lower south face of the carillon, and its interior, were left unfinished to allow the building of the Hall of Memories later. The Depression and World War II intervened and it was not until 1949 that plans for the hall were completed, again by Gummer and Ford. Work did not start until 1960 and the building was not completed and opened until 1964. The contractors, 30 years on, were again P. Graham and Sons.

      The carillon tower was restored in 1981 and, in 1985 the bells were restored and augmented with 16 treble bells, to bring the total number to 65. The original specification was 69. The whole complex was rededicated by Queen Elizabeth II on 26 February 1986.

      On 11 November 2004 the remains of an unidentified New Zealander who died during the First World War were interred in the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior which was designed by Kingsley Baird.

      The War Memorial and Carillon continues to play an important role in New Zealand society. It stands as a permanent tribute to those New Zealanders who have been killed in overseas conflicts and therefore allows younger generations to reconnect with the past so that the fallen soldiers and the horrors of war are not forgotten.

      The area to the north of the Carillon and War Memorial is currently being redeveloped to form the National War Memorial Park. The park will be a large open space and has been designed to suit the commemorative ceremonies planned for the Centenary of the First World War. State Highway 1 will be diverted into a tunnel and the space above ground will be re-configured to form a park with views across the city. The park should be completed in time for the Anzac Day 2015 commemorations. The Carillon is currently scaffolded and is undergoing maintenance and repair work that includes some seismic strengthening of the tower (2013).


    • Modifications close
      • 1931
      • Wellington Memorial Carillon Tower 00056:119:B10786
      • 2004
      • Tomb of the Unknown Warrior 00078:1139:117186
      • 2004
      • Building upgrade with new draining and water services 00078:1502:115795
      • 2007
      • Replace existing mezzanine gallery floor in foyer to strengthen structure and install historic pipe organ 00078:2963:158465
      • 2012
      • Access stair and platform upgrades within the Bell Tower and some seismic strengthening SR 246963
      • 2013
      • Construction of the National War Memorial Park
    • Occupation History close
      • 1931
      • Crown
  • close Architectural Information
    • Building Classification(s) close

      Not assessed

    • Architecture close

      The National War Memorial and Carillon is New Zealand’s foremost symbolic and commemorative building. It consists, principally, of a campanile (bell tower), and a base below which holds the Hall of Memories, a shrine of remembrance commemorating the sacrifices of war. Although the Hall was completed almost 30 years after the Carillon, the two are similar in design terms.

      The Carillon is essentially an Art Deco design, with a Classical emphasis at the lower levels. It was designed as a sister to the Peace Tower Carillon in the Ottawa Parliament Buildings, Canada. It houses 65 bells and rises to a height of 50.6 metres. A lion-headed fountain carved by R.O. Gross forms part of a grand staircase which leads to the campanile on the north-facing slope of Mt Cook.

      The campanile itself consists of a marble base and a slightly tapering tower, with four almost identical facades of grey marble and buff-coloured cement plaster. Recessed precast concrete grills, three to each facade, allow music from the bells to pass through the upper tower. The abstract, zigzag pattern of these trellises becomes increasingly intricate as the tower rises and appears to accentuate the height of the structure. The capitals of the campanile are formed of five semi-circular copper louvres at each of the four chamfered corners, above which a dentilled pavilion roof is topped with the ‘lamp of remembrance.’

      The Hall of Memories is approached through an octagonal vestibule in the base of the carillon tower. On the east and west walls, the various battlefields of the two world wars are inscribed on panels of Hanmer marble. The hall itself is approached through bronze entry gates and has, as a focal point, a statuary group in bronze on a white pedestal in the apse at the south end. Six recesses on either side of the hall have been designed as small chapels to commemorate the different arms of the forces in which New Zealanders served.

      At the time the carillon was built it was the most prominent landmark in the city. It has lost some of this prominence but still makes a distinct contribution to the character of the city, particularly when viewed from the surrounding hills.

      Plans for the War Memorial carillon tower, 30 March 1931, 00056:119:B10786, Wellington City Archives.

    • Materials close

      Concrete

      Hanmer Marble

      Mount Summers limestone

      Canaan Marble

    • Setting close

      The War Memorial and Carillon is located on the northern slopes of Mount Cook, Wellington and over looks Buckle Street. From Buckle Street a series of steps lead up to the memorial while two access roads from Buckle Street loop around to the back of the memorial. Behind the memorial, stands the former National Museum and Art Gallery which is now part of Massey University. On both its western and eastern sides the memorial is surrounded by trees. These separate it from the former Mount Cook police barracks to the east and the grounds of the former Defence depot building to the west. Because of its height and its position on the slopes of Mount Cook, the tower of the memorial is visible from many parts of Wellington.

  • close Cultural Value

    The National War Memorial is New Zealand’s foremost symbolic and commemorative building and has high aesthetic value for the high-quality of its design, workmanship and materials.

    The building is a significant landmark that is sited on the northern slopes of Mount Cook (Puke Ahu) and is visible from many parts of the city and the hills around.

    The structure is associated with the First World War and successive wars in which the New Zealand armed forces have participated. It has been the focus of the nation’s remembrance and the location of the main Anzac Day Ceremonies since its completion in 1932.

    The National War Memorial is New Zealand’s foremost symbolic and commemorative building, a place of pilgrimage and ceremony, and of very high social value to the country. The structure has symbolic and commemorative value to members of the New Zealand Defence Force and the families of those who lost members while serving in overseas conflicts.

    • Aesthetic Value close
      • Architectural

        Does the item have architectural or artistic value for characteristics that may include its design, style, era, form, scale, materials, colour, texture, patina of age, quality of space, craftsmanship, smells, and sounds?

        The National War Memorial is New Zealand’s foremost symbolic and commemorative building and has high aesthetic value for the high-quality of its design, workmanship and materials.

      • Group

        Is the item part of a group of buildings, structures, or sites that taken together have coherence because of their age, history, style, scale, materials, or use?

        The structure was built in conjunction with the former National Museum and Art Gallery (1932-36). Together the two structures lie on a formal axis that was originally planned to extend into a tree lined boulevard to Courtenay Place.

      • Townscape

        Does the item have townscape value for the part it plays in defining a space or street; providing visual interest; its role as a landmark; or the contribution it makes to the character and sense of place of Wellington?

        The building is a significant landmark that is sited on the northern slopes of Mount Cook (Puke Ahu) and is visible from many parts of the city and the hills around.

    • Historic Value close
      • Association

        Is the item associated with an important person, group, or organisation?

        The structure is associated with the New Zealand Defence Force and the soldiers who died while serving in the First World War.

      • Association

        Is the item associated with an important historic event, theme, pattern, phase, or activity?

        The structure is associated with the First World War and successive wars in which the New Zealand armed forces have participated. It has been the focus of the nation’s remembrance and the location of the main Anzac Day Ceremonies since its completion in 1932.

    • Scientific Value close
      • Archaeological

        Does the item have archaeological value for its ability to provide scientific information about past human activity?

        There was pre-1900 human activity on this site.

    • Social Value close
      • Identity Sense Of Place Continuity

        Is the item a focus of community, regional, or national identity? Does the item contribute to sense of place or continuity?

        The structure is the site of New Zealand’s Anzac Day dawn service and the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. Therefore it is a place of national identity.

      • Public Esteem

        Is the item held in high public esteem?

        The structure is held in high public esteem.

      • Sentiment Connection

        Is the item a focus of community sentiment and connection?

        The building is the national memorial to those New Zealanders who died while serving in the armed forces, the structure has sentimental value to people on a national level.

      • Symbolic Commemorative Traditional Spiritual

        Does the item have symbolic, commemorative, traditional, spiritual or other cultural value for the community who has used and continues to use it?

        The National War Memorial is New Zealand’s foremost symbolic and commemorative building, a place of pilgrimage and ceremony, and of very high social value to the country. The structure has symbolic and commemorative value to members of the New Zealand Defence Force and the families of those who lost members while serving in overseas conflicts.

    • Level of Cultural Heritage Significance close
      • Authentic

        Does the item have authenticity or integrity because it retains significant fabric from the time of its construction or from later periods when important additions or modifications were carried out?

        The structure has retained a significant amount of its original fabric and therefore it has authenticity.

      • Rare

        Is the item rare, unique, unusual, seminal, influential, or outstanding?

        The building is the only National War Memorial for New Zealand.

      • Importance

        Is the item important for any of the above characteristics at a local, regional, national, or international level?

        The building has national significance as the national memorial to those New Zealanders who died while serving in the armed forces, and is the focus for the country’s remembrance services and for the Anzac Day commemorations. It also has some significance on an international level as it was built as a ‘sister’ to the Peace Tower Carillon in the Ottawa Parliament Buildings.

    • Local / Regional / National / International Importance close

      Not assessed

  • close Site Detail
    • District Plan Number

      16/ 40

    • Legal Description

      Pt Sec 1266 Town of Wellington, area A SO 36784

    • Heritage New Zealand Listed

      1/Historic Place 1410

    • Archaeological Site

      Maori site of significance

    • Current Uses

      unknown

    • Former Uses

      unknown

    • Has building been funded

      No

    • Funding Amount

      Not applicable

    • Earthquake Prone Status

      124 Notice

  • close Additional Information

Last updated: 2/2/2020 7:39:13 PM