Nurses' Memorial Chapel

The Nurses' Memorial Chapel at Christchurch Hospital, New Zealand, is registered as a Category I heritage building. The chapel is significant as New Zealand's first hospital chapel, and as the country's only World War I memorial solely dedicated to women,[1] and is worldwide the only chapel dedicated to nurses.[2]

Nurses' Memorial Chapel
Nurses Memorial Chapel 47.jpg
The Nurses Memorial Chapel following the February 2011 earthquake
Coordinates: 43°32′03″S 172°37′27″E / 43.53419°S 172.62429°E / -43.53419; 172.62429
LocationChristchurch Hospital, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch
CountryNew Zealand
Statusclosed due to damage sustained in the 2010 Canterbury earthquake
Designated20 July 1989[1]
Reference no.1851


The foundation stone shows the name of the Duchess of York, but her husband stood in for her as she was ill that day

Sibylla Maude and Mabel Thurston, both former matrons of Christchurch Hospital, first thought of a chapel at the hospital.[3] Rose Muir, the matron from 1919 to 1936, wrote to the hospital board in July 1924 reiterating the need for a chapel. This request was approved in principle in January 1925.[4] The hospital board provided the land and paid for the foundation and the basement, and was in turn granted the use of the basement. The Ministry of Health did not permit the hospital board to fund any other part of the building, and the government did not provide any of the funds either, but suggested that the public should fund the chapel.[4] A fundraising campaign commenced in November 1925.[1]

The foundation stone was laid on 15 March 1927 by the Duke of York. The foundation stone shows the name of the Duchess of York, but she was ill on the day and her husband stood in for her.[4][3] The chapel was built during 1927 to a design by John Goddard Collins (1886–1965) of Collins and Harman, who offered his time free of charge.[1]

The first service was held on Christmas Day of 1927.[1] The chapel is dedicated to nurses who died during World War I, and to nurses who died during the 1918 flu pandemic. Three Christchurch nurses—Nona Hildyard, Margaret Rogers and Lorna Rattray—died when the troopship SS Marquette was sunk in 1915 by a German submarine. Two Christchurch nurses—Grace Beswick and Hilda Hooker—died during the flu pandemic.[1]

Threats of demolitionEdit

In the mid-1970s, the hospital board proposed to demolish the chapel to make way for additional operating theatres. This was met with strong opposition, and the hospital board found a solution that left the chapel in place. The next threat of demolition occurred in the 1980s and was again met with strong opposition, with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust issuing a protection notice in August 1989. Subsequently, the hospital board leased the building to Christchurch City Council, and it is administered by a trust and cared for by a group that calls itself 'Friends of the Chapel'.[1]


The chapel was closed after 4 September 2010 Canterbury earthquake had damaged the building. It suffered additional damage in subsequent earthquakes. In October 2011, the Canterbury District Health Board announced that the chapel would be repaired, after demolition had been considered.[5] Work to restore the chapel began in October 2017 and despite some unforeseen setbacks, was completed to schedule in October 2018.[6]


Collins chose the Arts and Crafts architectural style for the building, with the walls made of exposed brick inside and out, and timberwork on the inside.[1] The timber includes oregon panelling, and blackwood and oak parquet floor. There are carvings in the sanctuary by Frederick Gurnsey and Jack Vivian. In the early 1990s, a porch was added to the chapel.[7]

Stained glass windowsEdit

Name of window Designer Dedicated to Unveiling
The Angel of Charity and a Waif Veronica Whall Mary Ewart, first qualified nurse at Christchurch Hospital; Matron, 1898–1908 Bishop West Watson, 1933
Faith and a Sick Child Veronica Whall Sybilla Maude (Nurse Maude), founder of the Nurse Maude Association Archbishop Julius, 1936
Christ and Children Veronica Whall Annie Pattrick, wartime nurse and supporter of the early Plunket Society Chaplain Henry Williams, 1939
The Angel of Hope Veronica Whall Pioneer nurses Bishop Warren, 1953
The Conversion of St Paul Francis Spear Mabel Thurston, wartime nurse and Matron of Christchurch Hospital 1908–1916 Bishop Warren, 1964
St Agatha Francis Spear Mary Christmas, Marquette survivor and first nursing tutor at the Christchurch Preliminary School of Nursing Marquette survivors Jean Erwin and Emily Hodges,1968[8]
St. Faith Francis Spear Rose Muir, Matron of Christchurch Hospital 1916 – 1936 Grace Widdowson, 1971
Lamb of God & The Dove of Peace Gifted from the former St. Mary's Church, Merivale
Poppy's Remembrance Suzanne Johnson Poppy Blaythwayt, home sister at Christchurch Hospital Nurses' Home, 1950s and 1960s 2000
Nurses' Memorial Window Stephen Belanger-Taylor First and Second World War nurses

Heritage registrationEdit

The New Zealand Historic Places Trust registered the building with registration number 1851 on 20 July 1989. The chapel is significant as New Zealand's first hospital chapel, and as the country's only World War I memorial solely dedicated to women,[1] and is worldwide the only chapel dedicated to nurses.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Nurses' Memorial Chapel". New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Welcome to the Christchurch Nurses Memorial Chapel". Friends of the Chapel. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Nurses' Chapel". The Press. Vol. LXIII, no. 18951. 16 March 1927. p. 9. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  4. ^ a b c "Construction". Friends of the Chapel. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  5. ^ Stylianou, Georgina (14 October 2011). "Historic chapel saved from wreckers". The Press. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  6. ^ Guildford, Jonathon (27 October 2018). ""Historic Christchurch nurses' memorial chapel reopens"". The Press. Retrieved 19 March 2020.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ Blundell, Sally (26 August 2012). "Chapel holds special place for nurses". The Press. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  8. ^ Latham, Iris. "Jean Neill Erwin". Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 1 July 2016.