Scots Memorial Church

Scots Memorial Church at 56 Abel Smith Street, Wellington, was New Zealand’s only South African War memorial church. It was the inspiration of a radical Presbyterian parson, Rev. William Thomson. Reverend Thomson fell out with the Wanganui Presbytery over doctrinal matters and with the Wellington Presbytery over his methods of fundraising for the church, but also had powerful supporters: Prime Minister Richard Seddon laid the church’s foundation stone on 11 August 1901, and General Sir Hector Macdonald unveiled the troopers’ memorial inside it on 1 November 1901.

These words were displayed above the church door: “This church is erected to the Glory of God, the good of man, and in memory of those brave New Zealanders who, obedient to their country’s call, died in South Africa.”

Scots Memorial Church did not last long. Reverend Thomson announced both his resignation as a minister and the sale of the heavily mortgaged building on 28 March 1904. A local publican bought the property and reopened it as a social hall. As the Alexandra Hall, this became a well-known venue for dances, social occasions and political meetings. The original building is long gone, and it is not known what happened to the troopers’ memorial that it once contained.

Sources: ‘A Memorial Church’, West Coast Times, 12/8/1901, p. 3; ‘Sir Hector Macdonald’, NZ Herald, 2/11/1901, p. 5; ‘The Scots Memorial Church’, Marlborough Express, 3/1/1902, p. 3; ‘The Rev. W. Thomson’, Wanganui Herald, 17/2/1902, p. 2; ‘A Church Sold to a Publican’, Otago Daily Times, 31/3/1904, p. 4; ‘Alexandra Hall’ [advertisement], Evening Post, 26/5/1904, p. 6, col. 4.


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