Dunedin Cenotaph

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Dunedin Cenotaph, with Toitu Otago Settlers Museum in the background. Cenotaph, Dunedin, New Zealand1.JPG
Dunedin Cenotaph, with Toitū Otago Settlers Museum in the background.
Detail of the top of the Cenotaph Cenotaph, Dunedin, New Zealand detail top.JPG
Detail of the top of the Cenotaph

The Cenotaph in the southern New Zealand city of Dunedin stands in the centre of Queen's Gardens, close to the city centre. It is the city's main war memorial.

Dunedin City in Otago, New Zealand

Dunedin is the second-largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the principal city of the Otago region. Its name comes from Dùn Èideann, the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.

War memorial Type of memorial

A war memorial is a building, monument, statue or other edifice to celebrate a war or victory, or to commemorate those who died or were injured in a war.


Location and dedication

The cenotaph stands in Queen's Gardens, an open park lying between The Exchange and the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum. This location is close to the heart of the city, some 400 metres (440 yd) south of the city centre, The Octagon. Dunedin's renovated Warehouse Precinct lies immediately to the south. The monument commemorates Dunedin members of New Zealand's armed forces who perished in the First and Second World Wars.

Toitū Otago Settlers Museum museum in Dunedin, New Zealand

The Toitū Otago Settlers Museum is a regional history museum in Dunedin, New Zealand. Its brief covers the territory of the old Otago Province, that is, New Zealand from the Waitaki River south, though its main focus is the city of Dunedin. It is New Zealand's oldest history museum.

The Octagon, Dunedin

The Octagon is the city centre of Dunedin, in the South Island of New Zealand. It is an eight-sided plaza with a circular one-way carriageway, bisected by the city's main street, and is also the central terminus of two other main thoroughfares. The Octagon is predominantly a pedestrian reserve, with grass and paved features, and is surmounted by a statue of the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Several of Dunedin's significant buildings and institutions adjoin the plaza, which is also a major hub for public transport in Dunedin.

Warehouse Precinct Dunedin suburb

The Warehouse Precinct is an urban area of the New Zealand city of Dunedin. Sited on reclaimed land at the northernmost tip of the Southern Endowment, it lies between 1 and 2 kilometres south of The Octagon, the city's centre.

A separate standing plaque (formerly situated close to Dunedin Railway Station in Anzac Square) stands close to the cenotaph and lists the names of all of New Zealand's Victoria Cross recipients. Several of the trees surrounding the perimeter of Queen's Gardens were planted to remember various war anniversaries, and are accompanied by plaques commemorating these events, [1] and a section of the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum dedicated to New Zealand's participation in the two world wars is also located nearby.

Victoria Cross Highest military decoration awarded for valour in armed forces of various Commonwealth countries

The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest and most prestigious award of the British honours system. It is awarded for gallantry "in the presence of the enemy" to members of the British Armed Forces. It may be awarded posthumously. It was previously awarded to Commonwealth countries, most of which have established their own honours systems and no longer recommend British honours. It may be awarded to a person of any military rank in any service and to civilians under military command although no civilian has received the award since 1879. Since the first awards were presented by Queen Victoria in 1857, two-thirds of all awards have been personally presented by the British monarch. These investitures are usually held at Buckingham Palace.


The monument's design was chosen from 63 entries in a public competition. [2] The winning entry was designed by Aucklander William Gummer (of the firm of Gummer and Ford), who also designed several other memorials, most notably the Bridge of Remembrance in Christchurch. [3]

Gummer and Ford

Gummer and Ford was an architectural firm founded in 1923 in Auckland, New Zealand, by William Henry Gummer and Charles Reginald Ford. It was among the country's best-regarded architectural firm of the first half of the 20th century, designing numerous iconic buildings, including the former National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum in Wellington and the old Auckland Railway Station. Eighteen of the company's buildings have been registered as significant historic places by Heritage New Zealand. In 2006 an exhibition of their work was staged at The University of Auckland's Gus Fisher Gallery, and in 2007 the firm was described as 'the best architectural practice of all time in New Zealand'.

Bridge of Remembrance New Zealand bridge and war memorial

The Bridge of Remembrance is one of two main war memorials in Christchurch, New Zealand. It is dedicated to those who died in World War I, and serves as a memorial for those who participated in two World Wars as well as subsequent conflicts in Borneo, Korea, Malaya, and Vietnam. Owned by Christchurch City Council, it is located on the Cashel Street Bridge at the head of City Mall. The Bridge of Remembrance was repaired and strengthened following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake and was reopened with a rededication ceremony held on Anzac Day in 2016.

Christchurch City in South Island, New Zealand

Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand and the seat of the Canterbury Region. The Christchurch urban area lies on the South Island's east coast, just north of Banks Peninsula. It is home to 404,500 residents, making it New Zealand's third-most populous city behind Auckland and Wellington. The Avon River flows through the centre of the city, with an urban park located along its banks.

The monument is built from concrete with a facing of Carrara marble, and was conceived by Gummer as a 28-metre (92 ft) tall eight-sided column, this design reflecting Dunedin's octagonal city centre and being appropriate for an irregularly shaped site, and is topped by a symbolic beacon. From the central column, a sacrificial urn and four crosses emerge, representing sacrifice. These, along with a relief frieze on the base featuring a lion, torches, laurel wreathes, and fasces, were designed by sculptor Richard Oliver Gross. [4] The original intention was for a bronze frieze to surround the base, but a funding shortfall forced this to be abandoned. [2]

Carrara marble type of white or blue-grey marble popular for use in sculpture and building decor

Carrara marble is a type of white or blue-grey marble popular for use in sculpture and building decor. It is quarried in the city of Carrara in the province of Massa and Carrara in the Lunigiana, the northernmost tip of modern-day Tuscany, Italy.

Fasces is a bound bundle of wooden rods, sometimes including an axe with its blade emerging. The fasces had its origin in the Etruscan civilization and was passed on to ancient Rome, where it symbolized a magistrate's power and jurisdiction. The axe originally associated with the symbol, the Labrys the double-bitted axe, originally from Crete, is one of the oldest symbols of Greek civilization. To the Romans, it was known as a bipennis. Commonly, the symbol was associated with female deities, from prehistoric through historic times.

Richard Oliver Gross British born New Zealand sculptor and farmer (1882-1964)

Richard Oliver Gross was a New Zealand farmer and sculptor. He was born in Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire, England on 10 January 1882.

The foundation stone was laid by Dunedin mayor Harold Livingstone Tapley in 1924. Several historic documents were placed in a capsule under the stone, including histories of the military in Otago and copies of current newspapers. The finished memorial was unveiled on 17 March 1927 by Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI) [3] in a ceremony attended by 1,000 relatives of the fallen and 800 returned servicemen, along with many members of the general public. Initially known as "The Citizens' Memorial", it rapidly became known as The Cenotaph (echoing the name of Sir Edwin Lutyens' monument in Whitehall, London) despite not being of the classic "empty tomb" design normally used for structures of this name. A plaque commemorating the fallen of World War Two was added to the memorial at the conclusion of that conflict. [4]

Harold Livingstone Tapley was a New Zealand politician of the Reform Party.

Edwin Lutyens British architect

Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens, was an English architect known for imaginatively adapting traditional architectural styles to the requirements of his era. He designed many English country houses, war memorials and public buildings. In his biography, the writer Christopher Hussey wrote, "In his lifetime (Lutyens) was widely held to be our greatest architect since Wren if not, as many maintained, his superior". The architectural historian Gavin Stamp described him as "surely the greatest British architect of the twentieth century".

Use and recent history

The cenotaph is the regular venue of Dunedin's Anzac Day commemorations, which often attract several thousand members of the public. On 25 April 2015, the centennial commemoration of Anzac Day, a record crowd estimated at close to 20,000 people attended the dawn commemoration service at the cenotaph. [5]

The cenotaph has a New Zealand Historic Places Trust Category II classification. [4] In the wake of the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, seismic assessments have been made of many New Zealand buildings and monuments. Assessment of the cenotaph has recommended several measures to strengthen the memorial's structure, and the Dunedin City Council plans to accompany these measures with an assessment of other possible improvements to the Queen's Gardens area. [6]

Related Research Articles

Anzac Day National day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand on 25 April

Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders "who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations" and "the contribution and suffering of all those who have served". Observed on 25 April each year, Anzac Day was originally devised to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who served in the Gallipoli Campaign, their first engagement in the First World War (1914–1918).

Remembrance Day memorial day on 11 November

Remembrance Day is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth member states since the end of the First World War to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. Following a tradition inaugurated by King George V in 1919, the day is also marked by war remembrances in many non-Commonwealth countries. Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November in most countries to recall the end of hostilities of First World War on that date in 1918. Hostilities formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month", in accordance with the armistice signed by representatives of Germany and the Entente between 5:12 and 5:20 that morning. The First World War officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919.

Cenotaph "empty tomb" or monument erected in honor of a person whose remains are elsewhere

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Australian War Memorial historic national heritage site in Campbell ACT

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The Cenotaph (Hong Kong) war memorial in Hong Kong

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Sydney Cenotaph war memorial in Martin Place, Sydney

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Wellington Cenotaph

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Dunedin Law Courts

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World War I Cenotaph, Mackay

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Sir Laurie Justice Francis was a New Zealand lawyer and diplomat. He served as the New Zealand High Commissioner to Australia from 1976 to 1984.


  1. Dunedin Cenotaph, nzhistory.net, 20 December 2012. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  2. 1 2 Dingwall, Richard "The Cenotaph, Queens Gardens (1927)", Otago Sculpture Trust. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  3. 1 2 Cenotaph in Queen's Gardens", Dunedin City Council. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  4. 1 2 3 "Cenotaph". Register of Historic Places. Heritage New Zealand.
  5. Video: Dunedin's 'record' Anzac Day turnout, 3news.co.nz, 25 April 2015. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
  6. "Dunedin Queen's Gardens and Cenotaph Renovation", ww100.govt.nz, 11 May 2015. Retrieved 12 November 2015.

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Cenotaph, Dunedin at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 45°52′39″S170°30′16″E / 45.8776°S 170.5044°E / -45.8776; 170.5044