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Know your town – Soldiers’ Memorial Park

October 14, 2019 October 2019, Regular Features No Comments

The Square in the 1890s

Originally the Square was called Martin Square and the North – South and East – West roads ran right through it. In 1897 a ‘few gentlemen’ organised an event to mark Martinborough’s Jubilee Day to be held on Tuesday  June 25th. It was reported as the ‘ biggest day since it’s Foundation’. A tree was planted, and fenced off, in each of the Square’s four corners.

The day’s events included the school children singing the National Anthem after which Mrs W J Martin gave each half a crown coin ( 2019 = $2.45) and a commemorative medal. Two wagons hitched to a traction engine gave rides along Valley Road. Mrs Stewart from the Martinborough Hotel proved afternoon teas, cakes, fruit and lollies.  The day ended with three cheers fro Mrs Martin and everybody went home happy. Sadly none of the trees survived. To mark Queen Victoria’s Coronation Jubilee in 1902 trees were replanted, again they did not survive.  

Over the ensuing years many meetings were held to discuss the fencing of the Square and closing of the roads dissecting it. However consensus was not reached until 1905 when the Martinborough Town Board along with W J and J Martins and A O Considine moved that the necessary Act of  Parliament be passed to close the roads through the Square. This Act , entitled  “MBA.T/BSquare Fencing and Road closing Act” was passed on April 27th with the Square being vested in the Town Board. 

A proposal in 1908 to have a light over the Trooper’s Memorial and paths formed around it received support with public donations from Martinborough, Lower Valley and Greytown making these  possible. 

In 1915 the government created a Patriotic Movement to ramp up public  support for the Great War.  The Martinborough Town Board’s response was to hold a special meeting o 16th October to have the main street, Otaraia Road, renamed after the  British Generals Jellicoe and Kitchener.  From Ferry Road to the Cenotaph was renamed Jellicoe Street and from the Cenotaph to the Catholic Church Kitchener street. 

With the end of the war proposals to erect a memorial to fallen soldiers and improve the Square were made. It was estimated that one thousand pounds ( 2019 = $ 101,952) would be needed for the project. A D McLeod donated  twenty five pounds (2019 = $2,629) with a promised further ten pounds a year for the next ten years. 

In October the Town Board received a letter from a L/TCol. Cook offering a captured German field gun for the Square, this was accepted. However by the following August it had not arrived. Enquiries were made with the reply that it would be sent the following week, it never arrived. 

Considerable progress was made with the Square, the ground was turned over, lawns and trees planted. ANZAC Memorial gate pillars were erected with the names of the fifty fallen soldiers inscribed. The story of this Memorial was told in the ‘Know Your Tow in the December 2010 edition of the Star. 

Mate Higginson 

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