Seddon Statue

Heritage object

Parliament Grounds, Molesworth Street, Pipitea
Map
  • Constructed

    1915

  • Heritage Area

    Parliament Grounds

  • Architect(s)

    Sir Thomas Brock

  • Builder(s)

  • The statue of Richard Seddon has architectural value for the quality of its sculpting and craftsmanship. It also admirably fills the space, dominating Parliament’s forecourt and interacting well with the grounds.

    The statue of Richard Seddon has historical importance, as it commemorates one of New Zealand’s most important Prime Ministers. The statue’s maker, Sir Thomas Brock, was an important sculptor of considerable renown. The connection with Thomas Brock gives the statue added historical importance.

    The statue of Richard Seddon makes a strong contribution to a sense of place for Parliament. Structurally, the Parliamentary precinct is dominated, and very much defined, by the Beehive, Parliament House, and the Parliamentary library. However, the statue, along with that of John Ballance, importantly injects a degree of humanity into the grounds, reinforcing the idea that Government is made of the people.

    The statue of Richard Seddon is held in very high public esteem. Seddon is still thought of as one of New Zealand’s most important Prime Ministers, especially for the significant pieces of social legislation passed during his reign. The statue is an icon of New Zealand’s Parliament and its grounds, and often a prop for protests.

  • close History
    • Richard Seddon (1845-1906) was the fifteenth Prime Minister of New Zealand, and to date remains the longest serving Prime Minister in New Zealand’s history. He held the office from 27 April 1893 to 10 June 1906, winning a record five consecutive general elections. He is regarded by many, notably including the New Zealand historian Keith Sinclair, as New Zealand’s greatest Prime Minister. He was extroverted and popular with crowds. He emphasised the role of the Prime Minister, working long hours and taking on numerous, important portfolios such as education, immigration, labour, defence, and he was also native minister and colonial treasurer. He was known to reward loyalty above competence, which often found him having to compensate for his less capable Cabinet Ministers. His premiership saw the passing of many reforms that were initiated by his predecessor, John Ballance, including the Government Advances to Settlers Act 1894 and the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1894. Seddon is most closely associated with the Old-age Pensions Act 1898, partly because of his determination to see the legislation passed against stiff opposition, and partly because of his underlying concern for aging West Coast miners. Seddon’s time in power also saw women gain the right to vote, though Seddon himself initially opposed it. Seddon was imperialist in international politics – he sent troops to South Africa, and he unsuccessfully lobbied for the annexation of Samoa and Fiji, though he did see New Zealand annex the Cook Islands at his bequest. Along with his reforms and his outsized persona, his political legacy is the affirmation of state authority in New Zealand.

      Seddon’s high regard has not just been accumulated since his death: contemporary society held him in high esteem as well (his five consecutive electoral victories are testament to this). Which goes a long way to explaining both the statue’s creation and, perhaps more remarkably, its position at the centre of Parliament’s foreground. Located at the boundary between Parliament’s forecourt and grassed expanse, and directly in front of the Parliament buildings, the statue of Richard Seddon simultaneously greets visitors to Parliament and declares the importance of the grounds they have entered.

      The statue was built by Thomas Brock, an English sculptor of great note (see S1.5). The statue was unveiled in 1915 following the landscaping of the much more spacious Parliamentary grounds, developments brought around after the fire in 1907 destroyed much of the original Parliament House. The statue was funded half by public subscription and half by the Government. 

      The Richard Seddon statue inevitably features in political gatherings occurring at Parliament grounds. His outstretched right arm with partially open right-hand perfectly grasps a flag pole, meaning the statue has often been commandeered into supporting whatever cause is being brought to Parliament’s attention.

      The statue of Richard Seddon in Parliament’s grounds is an iconic piece of public art in Wellington. Parliament’s website says that it is one of the most photographed parts of the grounds.  The statue is a memorial of one of New Zealand’s highest regarded Prime Ministers, a politician who left his indelible mark on the country. Of the utmost prominence in Parliament grounds for almost a century, the statue has become a fixture of our governmental buildings.

  • close Architectural Information
    • Building Classification(s) close

      Not assessed

    • Architecture close

      The statue is cast in bronze and sits atop a base of Aberdeen granite. Seddon is positioned with his back to the Parliament buildings, facing Molesworth Street, and by extension, the New Zealand public. His right arm is outstretched in an act of oratorical gesticulation, while his left arm clutches a collection of papers to his chest. Seddon is wearing his trademark ‘frock-coat’.

    • Materials close
      Bronze, on an Aberdeen granite base.
    • Setting close

      The statue of Richard Seddon is located in the centre of Parliament’s foregrounds on Molesworth Street. It is an incredibly prominent position at the boundary between Parliament’s forecourt and grassed expanse, and directly in front of the Parliament buildings. The statue of Richard Seddon simultaneously greets visitors to Parliament and declares the importance of the grounds they have entered.

  • close Cultural Value
    • The statue of Richard Seddon has architectural value for the quality of its sculpting and craftsmanship. It also admirably fills the space, dominating Parliament’s forecourt and interacting well with the grounds.
    • The statue of Richard Seddon has historical importance, as it commemorates one of New Zealand’s most important Prime Ministers. The statue’s maker, Sir Thomas Brock, was an important sculptor of considerable renown. The connection with Thomas Brock gives the statue added historical importance.
    • The statue of Richard Seddon makes a strong contribution to a sense of place for Parliament. Structurally, the Parliamentary precinct is dominated, and very much defined, by the Beehive, Parliament House, and the Parliamentary library. However, the statue, along with that of John Ballance, importantly injects a degree of humanity into the grounds, reinforcing the idea that Government is made of the people.
    • The statue of Richard Seddon is held in very high public esteem. Seddon is still thought of as one of New Zealand’s most important Prime Ministers, especially for the significant pieces of social legislation passed during his reign. The statue is an icon of New Zealand’s Parliament and its grounds, and often a prop for protests.
    • 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 statue of Richard Seddon has architectural value for the quality of its sculpting and craftsmanship. It also admirably fills the space, dominating Parliament’s forecourt and interacting well with the grounds.

      • 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 statue of Richard Seddon can be considered as one half of a pair with the statue of John Ballance in front of the Parliamentary library. Together, ‘the two statues embody the importance of the Liberal government of the 1890s and 1900s in bringing in a wide range of social and labour reforms’ to New Zealand.

      • 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 statue of Richard Seddon has considerable townscape value. It is a very prominent structure in Parliament grounds, occupying centre stage between the Parliamentary buildings and Molesworth Street.

    • Historic Value close
      • Association

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

      • Association

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

        The statue of Richard Seddon has historical importance, as it commemorates one of New Zealand’s most important Prime Ministers. The statue’s maker, Sir Thomas Brock, was an important sculptor of considerable renown. The connection with Thomas Brock gives the statue added historical importance.

    • Scientific Value close

      Not assessed

    • Social Value close
      • Public Esteem

        Is the item held in high public esteem?

        The statue of Richard Seddon is held in very high public esteem. Seddon is still thought of as one of New Zealand’s most important Prime Ministers, especially for the significant pieces of social legislation passed during his reign. The statue is an icon of New Zealand’s Parliament and its grounds, and often a prop for protests. 

      • 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?

        Obviously, the statue has high commemorative value, built to memorialise one of New Zealand’s best remembered Prime Ministers, Richard Seddon.

      • 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 statue of Richard Seddon makes a strong contribution to a sense of place for Parliament. Structurally, the Parliamentary precinct is dominated, and very much defined, by the Beehive, Parliament House, and the Parliamentary library. However, the statue, along with that of John Ballance, importantly injects a degree of humanity into the grounds, reinforcing the idea that Government is made of the people.

      • Importance

        Is the item important at a local, regional, national, or international level?

        The statue of Richard Seddon in Parliament grounds is important at a national level.

    • Level of Cultural Heritage Significance close
      • Importance

        Is the item important at a local, regional, national, or international level?

        The statue of Richard Seddon in Parliament grounds is important at a national level.

    • Local / Regional / National / International Importance close

      Not assessed

  • close Site Detail
    • District Plan Number

      18/36

    • Legal Description

      Secs 1210 1211 SO 24133 Town of Wellington

    • Heritage New Zealand Listed

      1/Historic place 230

    • Archaeological Site

      NZAA Central City Archaeological Area R27/270

    • Current Uses

      unknown

    • Former Uses

      unknown

    • Has building been funded

      No

    • Funding Amount

      Not applicable

    • Earthquake Prone Status

      Unknown

  • close Additional Information

Last updated: 9/25/2017 8:34:37 PM