Citizens’ War Memorial nearer to being restored to Cathedral Square

29 Nov 2022

On Saturday, 26 November, a major milestone in the restoration and reinstatement of the Citizens’ War Memorial was achieved with the installation of the refurbished cross on the top of the memorial. 

After sitting vigil over the people of Christchurch for more than 80 years, the Citizens’ War Memorial — also known as the Cenotaph — was carefully disassembled throughout April 2021 before being placed in temporary storage, prior to being restored. 

Designed by renowned Christchurch sculptor William Trethewey and architect George Hart, the memorial was unveiled in a ceremony on Wednesday, 9 June, 1937. Damage sustained during the Christchurch earthquakes necessitated repair, and the rebuild of the Cathedral required its relocation. Citycare Property’s Structures and Landscape Construction team has been tasked with managing the reconstruction of the Memorial, to ensure it returns to a place of honour in Cathedral Square.

After months of painstaking work, the restored cross is lowered the final few inches onto the top of the memorial.

Project management experience and expertise

“We are the main contractor, contracted by Christchurch City Council to manage the full reconstruction of the memorial,” says Chris Pinion, Project Manager – Structures. “We are working closely with some key specialist subcontractors to ensure the successful delivery of the project.”

Project Manager Chris Pinion talks us through the intricacies of the project

A site blessing for the memorial’s new position was held on 30, November 2021, with earthworks commencing in December. Since then, the central concrete foundation and structure, up to 3.5m tall, has been constructed, and scaffolding, including overhead gantries and a hoist to facilitate stonemasonry works, was erected in June 2022. Stonemasonry works also began on site in June at the base of the central structure. Offsite works have been taking place over the past few months to assess, repair and replace stone that was unsuitable for reuse.

The covered scaffold structure provides protection to the memorial during construction, while also allowing works to progress during wet and windy conditions. The overhead gantry system means cranage is kept to a minimum, increasing efficiency and reducing costs to the project.

After months of painstaking work, the restored cross is lowered the final few inches onto the top of the memorial.

Facing a certain future

“Installation of the cross marks the culmination of many months’ work and is a pivotal moment in terms of bolstering the whole team’s morale,” says Chris. “The next installation is that of the six bronze sculptures, which will bring the project one step closer to the memorial’s scheduled completion in early 2023.”

Following its reinstatement, Christchurch City Council has agreed to take ownership of the memorial — through a deed of gift from Church Property Trustees, which owns and administers property on behalf of the Anglican Diocese — and will be fully responsible for its continuing maintenance and care.

Set within an approximate 10 x 10 metre paved area, the memorial stands 15 metres high and features a 4.5m-wide, stone-clad octagonal base. The symbolism of the six bronze figures is as follows:

  • The seated figure, with arms outstretched in an attitude of resignation, symbolic of the mothers of the Empire grieving for their sons, is “Sacrifice”
  • To the right of this figure, dressed in the armour of St George, is “Valour”
  • To the left, holding a torch, is “Youth”
  • Above Valour, holding an olive branch and a dove, is “Peace”
  • Above Youth, with veiled eyes and holding the sword and scales of justice, is “Justice”
  • The winged figure at the top, shown in the process of breaking the sword of battle, was originally to be called “Victory”, but the War Memorial Committee decided against this and, as such, it has no official name

An artist's impression of the fully restored Citizens War Memorial in its new position, slightly forward of Christ Church Cathedral.