Queens Gardens is a beautiful example of a classical Victorian ornamental park. Centrally located information panels placed around the garden reveal its history. The gardens are part of a designated Historic Places Trust precinct.
Queens Gardens formally opened in 1892 to celebrate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria. It was designed around the residual part of the Maitai River called the Eel Pond – a food gathering place for the Maori.
The first European settlers used the land where the Gardens now exist as a meat market (abattoir) until the 1880s. In 1887 the area was dedicated the 'Queens Gardens' and the following year a competition was held for its design. Mr Antequil Somerville won the competition and began design work right away. In the early 20th century, the Memorial Gates and the Boer War Memorial were added.
The Gardens are inspired by an intimate, Victorian garden. They reflect the growth and development of the city. Visitors will find a diverse plant and notable tree collection and also a place for social and civic gatherings, public relaxation and enjoyment.
The Queens Gardens are registered as a historic place with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.
Sights to see
Stroll around and enjoy the park’s sculptures, which include The Cupid Fountain, the Water Wheel, the Boer War memorial, Sentinel and fine memorial gates at both main entrances.
The Cupid Fountain was installed in 1894 by stonemason Johann Belcher. He imported the mould, with its four lions' heads, for £312.
The classically inspired fountain features Priapus, god of beekeepers, gardens herbs, fishermen, sailors and procreation. He captures the spirit of the formal Victorian layout and was donated to the city by a group of women led by former mayoress Mrs Emily Trask, whose husband Francis conceived the idea of the Queens Garden.
The Water Wheel was installed on the stream by the pond in 2005. It was a centenary project of the Nelson Rotary Club. A water wheel was chosen as a symbolic reference to the Rotary emblem. It is made from 50,000 year old kauri from Dargaville.
Boer War Memorial
The Boer War Memorial is another Victorian-colonial feature of the Queens Garden. Erected after the 1899 - 1902 war in Africa, it was ordered from Italy, along with 45 similar monuments for around New Zealand. Nelson sent a high number of volunteers to the Boer War. The statue enshrines the civic pride and emerging sense of nationhood from the turn of the century
The Boer War memorial commemorates the lives of Nelsonians who joined the many contingents of Mounted Rifles which sailed from these shores to uphold the British flag in South Africa and gave their lives during 1899 to 1902.
The soldier wears the uniform of the day when Khaki had just been introduced. Six thousand five hundred New Zealanders fought in this war, over half were volunteers.
The library research website www.theprow.org.nz has the stories of several Nelson soldiers who died in the Boer war including William Aubrey Jennings; and Gunner John Moeller and his fellow Nelson College old boy Trooper Poole who lie buried together in an African grave.
Sentinel sails in the Queens Garden pond. The steel sculpture was inspired by the base of the Nikau palm frond. It refers to the waka and ships which brought waves of people to Aotearoa New Zealand. The 1998 work by Dominique de Borrekens and Grant Scott honours the Nelson settlers who planted these beautiful gardens over 100 years ago.
Queens Gardens is located on Bridge Street east of Collingwood before reaching the new Normanby Bridge.
For more information
For more information on heritage walks and heritage sites please contact Arts and Heritage Team Leader.