Ward statue tipped for heritage list

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The statue of Sir Joseph George Ward in Bluff.

ONE of the three life-sized marble statues which formerly stood in the quadrangle of the former Invercargill Post Office on Dee St, opposite the former New South Wales building, is proposed to be included on the New Zealand Heritage list.

Architectural sculptor and monumental mason William Henry Feldon (16 June 1871-5 April 1945) was commissioned to carve the three in white Italian marble, which were erected in the quadrangle in 1931.

Born in England, and migrating to New Zealand in 1910, Feldon was also commissioned to produce a number of WW1 memorials throughout the country as well as the three statues.

Two of the statues for the Post Office reserve were of prominent British World War 1 personnel, (Lord) Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener, first Earl of Kitchener (famous for the World War 1 Britons Your Country Needs You posters) and (Lord) Admiral of the Fleet John Rushworth Jellicoe, first Earl of Jellicoe, who became Governor General of New Zealand in September 1920. These statues were eventually relocated to the Gala St Reserve (Memorial Park) circa 1930s and moved closer to the Invercargill Cenotaph in 1971.

The third, the statue of Sir Joseph George (JG) Ward, 1st Baronet, of Wellington, was relocated to the Gala St Reserve before being moved to the northern entrance of Bluff, on the reserve at the intersection of Blackwater, Shannon and Gore Sts in 1971.

The inscription on the statue says it was created in 1928 by Auckland sculptor Capt W H Feldon for William Handyside, who also commissioned the other two statues. However, the Heritage New Zealand report said the statue was commissioned after the death of Ward in 1930. Of note, Handyside had requested his commission remain anonymous, with the inscription on the statue “Erected by a citizen- 1930”.

Handyside, according to Heritage New Zealand, was a gentleman and prominent figure in Invercargill business in the 19th and 20th centuries. He started the Nightcaps Coal Company.

Ward was prime minister twice, from 1906 to 1912, (although the statue’s plaque states 1911), and again from 1928 to 1930.

His statue was now proposed to be included on the New Zealand Heritage List under the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 as a Category 2 (places of historical or cultural heritage significance or value).

Heritage New Zealand states “the statue is a significant tribute to one of the most significant historical figures to have come from Bluff reflecting Sir Joseph Ward’s importance and contribution to the history of the town and province. It is the only sculpture commemorating Ward”.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1956, Ward was the fifth of 10 children of William and Hannah Ward, who had immigrated from Ireland.

Following the death of his father, he moved with his mother and siblings to Bluff in 1863. His mother set up a store in Greenhills, then a boarding house in Gore St, Bluff. She bought more property and converted her boarding house into the Club Hotel, which she ran until her death in 1898.

Ward began his working life as a post office messenger boy at 13 years , where he learnt morse code.

His mother was credited with educating him in the way of business and, with her assistance, Ward also branched into business, founding the stock and station company J.G. Ward and Co, which eventually had its headquarters in The Crescent, Invercargill, where the Otago Daily Times and Southland Express now operate from.

In 1878, aged 21, he entered politics and was elected to the Campbelltown (Bluff) Borough Council.

Aged 25, he became mayor of Bluff, from 1881 to 1888, and again from 1897 to 1898.

He also served on the Bluff Harbour Board, eventually becoming chairman.

In 1887, he was elected to parliament as a member for Awarua, and became a cabinet minister.

His record of public service spanned 52 years, 23 of these he was a minister of the Crown. On June 19, 1901, during the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later King George V and Queen Mary), Ward was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George for overseeing the Penny Post throughout New Zealand.

Following Richard Seddon’s death, Ward became prime minister on August 6, 1906.

He was created a baronet by King George V on June 20, 1911, while on a visit to England.

In the New Year’s Honours list of 1930 he was promoted to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George.

He died on July 8, 1930, and was given a state funeral in Wellington and buried in the old Bluff cemetery.

  • For a copy of the report go to www.heritage.org.nz. Submissions for the Ward statue to be included in the New Zealand Heritage list were due by June 14.
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