Christchurch’s historic Nurses Memorial Chapel will be restored and strengthened.

Christchurch Central Electorate
Thursday, November 24, 2016

Christchurch’s historic Nurses Memorial Chapel will be restored and strengthened, in time for its reopening as part of the country’s WWI centenary commemorations.

The announcement was made by Mayor Lianne Dalziel on the 23 November.  I attended the event and in the photo I am  flanked by two Christchurch Hospital nurses wearing vintage WWI and WWII-era uniforms as a tribute to the Chapel’s memorial significance. About 70 Friends of the Chapel gathered on the lawn of the Chapel’s memorial garden to hear the announcement.

“Nurses Memorial Chapel is New Zealand’s only memorial chapel to our nurses who died in the First and Second World Wars and the 1918 flu epidemic – which gives it a unique national significance,” Mayor Dalziel says.

The late Gothic Revival building was originally built to commemorate the loss of 10 New Zealand nurses who died in the sinking of the British troop-ship Marquette on 23 October 1915 in the Aegean after it was torpedoed by a German submarine. Three of the nurses who died were trained at Christchurch Hospital. The Chapel opened in 1928 and now serves as a tribute to all New Zealand nurses who died in WWI, WWII and in the influenza epidemic in 1918.

Adding to its significance are the Chapel’s beautiful stained glass windows, some of which commemorate important peacetime nursing pioneers, including Sibylla Maude, the visionary pioneer of district nursing.

“It’s a building that has survived against the odds,” Mayor Dalziel says. “The Chapel survived proposals by two previous hospital boards to demolish it in the 1970s and 80s, after which a heritage protection order was signed. Then, shortly after it came into Christchurch City Council ownership with the Council/hospital land-swap in 2009, it survived a major earthquake – and every shake since. It is a very special building and it deserves a full, vibrant future.”

Richie Moyle, the Council’s Heritage Rebuild Programme Manager, says that intrusive investigation work on the Chapel is currently underway.

“Contractors are expected to be onsite to carry out repairs and strengthening in early 2017,” Mr Moyle says. “It’s anticipated that work will conclude in early 2018 – and then we’ll celebrate the official reopening.”