It was originally erected outside the Borough Council Chambers, Oxford St on April 25th 1923. It commemorates those who fell in the 1914-1918 Great War and added to the West facing side at the base is the memorial to those who fell in the 1939-1945 war. It stood in the heart of the Lyttelton Community, on the corner of Oxford Street and London Street. (See photograph c1924, courtesy of Lyttelton Museum).
London Street was then the main shopping street of Lyttelton. Oxford Street had all the public buildings since the majority of land stretching from Oxford Street up to Reserve Terrace had been ‘reserved’ for Community and Council use in the original 1849-1850 town plans. The early Provincial Council and the old Lyttelton Borough Council used ‘The Reserve’ for building the prison (a few cells remain in the Rose Gardens); the Lyttelton Borough School (now Lyttelton Main School); The Colonists Hall (sadly demolished in the 1940’s); the Lyttelton Borough Council Chambers and Courtrooms (later used as the Lyttelton library until 1999); Lyttelton Library and Fire Station (now a private residence)and the site of the original 1850 immigration barracks and council stables. So this original central position at the corner of Oxford Street was most obvious, but in 1923 no one had counted on the rise in popularity of the motor vehicle!
In October 1936 the Lyttelton Cenotaph was carefully removed to the present site; due to the increase in motor traffic up and down Oxford Street the memorial had become ‘a hazard’. At this time the Simeon Quay site was not cut off from the main residential area.
Simeon Quay is a very old area of Lyttelton; originally called Dampiers Bay Road (named after lawyer and Provincial Council member C.E. Dampier who occupied neighbouring sections 239-245 in 1850 when he arrived with the documents of the Canterbury Association.) Charles Simeon arrived in 1851 and succeeded J.R.Godley as resident Magistrate for Lyttelton and Christchurch. In 1853 Simeon was Commissioner of Police for Lyttelton and Sheriff of the Province; later he became Speaker for the Provincial Council.
Simeon Quay was East of Dampiers Bay; which was an old Maori bathing place before the bay was filled in with reclamation material in the 1870s. West of the beach was ‘Monkeytown.’ consisting of many tiny original cottages; at the Western end of Simeon Quay were orchards.
At this eastern end of Simeon Quay there already stood a park with the Lyttelton bandstand and adjacent were the Webb Memorial Gardens: reserve and memorial plaque to J R Webb mayor and councillor 1907-1927. The plaque is still on the site in 2007. Here too was the start of the Bridle Path and Simeon Quay had houses along it, a busy thoroughfare, that linked to West Lyttelton. The Cenotaph looked down upon the wharves and the railway; both busy and accessible to all.
This all changed in 1962 when the building of the Lyttelton Road Tunnel began. The bottom of the Bridle Path and houses in this vicinity were demolished to make way for the road tunnel which opened in February 1964. Over the next 40 odd years traffic increased substantially aided by the closure of the Lyttelton railway station and the associated rail passenger service to Christchurch; the advent of containerisation and an increase in the number and size of large trucks that today roar down Simeon and Norwich Quays.
The Lyttelton RSA flagpole from the old RSA clubhouse Winchester St was re- sited here when the clubrooms closed in 2001. The Lyttelton RSA memorial boards with lists of war dead and some of the memorabilia can be seen in the Lyttelton Museum, which also has original photographs of Simeon Quay, the Bridle Path and the Cenotaph before and during all the changes mentioned above.
Liza Rozzie 2007