On 25th May 1903, the term of ‘Market Place’ for the once busy inner city trading area became a part of our history as it was renamed Victoria Square with the unveiling of the Queen Victoria Statue.
As early as Canterbury’s 50th anniversary celebrations in December 1900, talk was made about the erection of a new statue for Christchurch. The public were informed about all future projects (including a revamp of Hagley Park and a new public hospital to name a few) and a statue of Queen Victoria received the highest votes.
Sculptor Francis John Williamson (known for the Bishop Harper Tomb in the Cathedral) was commissioned for the job and he came back with a design worth £2000. With the C.C.C. also wanting to acknowledge the city’s history and her fallen troops, Christchurch’s artists were invited to submit designs for bonze pictured panelling that would be placed around the statue’s pedestal. Art teacher, Charles Kidson, proudly won this competition.
Market Place was not the only place thought of to house the new project – Latimer Square and the reserve beside the Worchester Street Bridge were also considered. When Market Place was chosen, it was suggested that the statue should face North West, towards the Victoria Street Bridge. This never came to pass – the statue ended up being placed on the Armagh Street side of the square facing the city. The statue was moved to its current position during a revamp in the late 1980’s.
With the death of Queen Victoria on 22nd January 1901, new urgency was needed. Due to the sudden high demand for statues of the late Queen, Christchurch remained on the waiting list for two years.
A large crowd gathered for the unveiling with the honours being done by Mayoress Agnes Wigram. The ceremony took just over an hour. Unfortunately, the bronze panels were not ready in time but had their own unveiling in 1904.
*photo courtesy of Annette Bulovic*