hall of memories

The interior of the Hall of Memories, with Lyndon Smith's statue, Mother and Children, in the sanctuary at the far end.

Credit: Photograph by Andy Palmer, Manatū Taonga

At the base of the National War Memorial Carillon tower is the Hall of Memories, which serves as the commemorative chapel of the National War Memorial.

Original plans

The original 1929 plans for the National War Memorial, designed by architectural firm Gummer and Ford, included both the Hall of Memories and the carillon tower. However, after the carillon was built, construction of the Hall of Memories was put on hold because of the economic depression of the 1930s, and then because of the Second World War.

New design

In 1955 the government hired Gummer and Ford to redesign a ‘simple but dignified’ building as a memorial for New Zealand’s war dead. This was seen as increasingly important following the Second World War and the Korean War.

Construction and opening

The Hall of Memories was constructed by builders P. Graham & Sons (who also built the carillon) for a total £113,800.

Following several construction setbacks, it was finally unveiled by Governor-General Sir Bernard Fergusson and Prime Minister Keith Holyoake on 5 April 1964.

hall of memories under construction

The interior of the Hall of Memories in September 1962, nearing completion.

Credit: Alexander Turnbull Library, Evening Post Collection. Reference: EP/1962/2586/20a-F. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

Features of the Hall of Memories

Interior and exterior walls

The interior walls were built in stone from the Mount Somers district near Ashburton. The exterior is clad with concrete slabs cast to resemble blocks of Putaruru stone. Soaring columns give a commanding impression of height and beauty.

Stained-glass windows

The stained-glass windows, which create an attractive effect of colour and light, were designed by Pierre Fourmaintraux, an accomplished exponent of unpainted dalle de verre (thick chunks of glass faceted roughly by hammer and set in concrete). They were made by Whitefriars Glass, one of Britain’s oldest window makers.

Recesses

Six recesses, or mini-chapels, flank each side of the hall. Each has its own dedicated plaque of remembrance to armed services in which New Zealanders served. The flags of each service hang immediately above.

Also within the recesses are four mounted wall plaques commemorating the conflicts in South Africa, Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam.

The recess commemorating the Second World War Expeditionary Force contains a three-panelled Māori carving known as Tāhiwi. This was presented by Gallipoli veterans in honour of the Māori Pioneer Battalion.

The sanctuary

The focal point of the hall, sculptor Lyndon Smith's statue Mother and Children, stands within the sanctuary. The statue depicts a wartime family giving one another comfort and hope in the absence of loved ones overseas.

The coats of arms of the nine New Zealand provinces flank the walls above the books. The Lamp of the Brotherhood, dedicated to preserving remembrance and unity, is mounted on the back wall.

Carved in stone above the sanctuary are doves of peace and verses from Psalm 139 in the Bible.

Two large columns flank the steps to the sanctuary, each bearing engravings of members of the Commonwealth who fought in the two world wars, their coats of arms linked by stylised branches to the Tree of the Commonwealth.

Word's from Laurence Binyon's poem‘ For the Fallen’ are set within bronze on the rear wall of the sanctuary.

Age shall not weary them
Nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We will remember them.

The Hall of Memories houses the nation's roll of honour. Within these books are the names of the nearly 30,000 New Zealand war dead.

Wreath-laying ceremonies

Wreath-laying ceremonies are regularly held in the hall to commemorate the wars and campaigns in which New Zealand has participated. Many heads of state and members of royal families have attended and laid wreaths to the fallen.

Hours of operation

The Hall of Memories is open seven days a week, from 10 am to 5 pm.

The Hall of Memories is closed on Good Friday and Christmas Day.

Further information

Read more detailed information about the alcoves of the Hall of Memories on NZHistory.