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Nurses' Memorial Chapel

Completed in 1928, the Nurses' Memorial Chapel was erected at Christchurch Hospital in memory of nurses who died while performing their duty.

The Nurses' Memorial Chapel commemorates the Christchurch Hospital-trained nurses Nona Hildyard, Lorna Rattray, and Margaret Rogers, who died after the transport ship Marquette was sunk by the German U-boat SM U-35 in the Aegean Sea on 23 October 1915. The chapel is also a memorial to nurses Hilda Hooker and Grace Beswick who died during the 1918 influenza pandemic after being on duty at Christchurch Hospital.

On 9 November 1915, a memorial service was held at St Michael and All Angels’ church where a collection was raised with the intention of erecting a memorial chapel for the nurses who died in the Marquette sinking. In 1916 a meeting was held by the North Canterbury Hospital Board where the concept of a memorial chapel was raised. The proposed chapel would be attached to Christchurch Hospital on Riccarton Road.

The construction of the chapel was finally approved by the hospital board in January 1925. Fundraising campaigns were held and on 15 March 1927 the foundation stone was laid by the Duke of York (the future King George VI).

Architect John Goddard Collins designed the chapel free of charge, while the construction was overseen by William H. Williamson. Designed in the Gothic Revival style of architecture and with a brick exterior, the chapel conforms to a crucifix footprint. The nave faces southward towards a chancel with a western and eastern vestry.

Construction was completed in April 1928. Opening onto a main hospital corridor, the chapel with its beautiful Arts and Crafts interior soon became a sanctuary for patients and staff.

The altar and reredos were carved in oak by Frederick Gurnsey, with additional carving by his apprentice, Jake Vivian.

The chapel also features a significant collection of stained glass windows, four of which were designed by noted English stained glass artist Veronica Whall: The Angel of Charity and a Waif (1932-1933), which commemorates Matron Mary Ewart; Faith and a Sick Child (1936), a memorial to Sybilla Maude; Christ and Child (1938-1939), which commemorates Annie Pattrick; and The Angel of Hope (1952-1953), a memorial to pioneer nurses.

When the surrounding hospital buildings were demolished in 1991, the chapel remained on its own site after a campaign to save the memorial.

More stained glass windows have been added in the last 30 years including The Nurses’ Memorial Window by Stephen Bélanger-Taylor, in memory of the New Zealand nurses who served and lost their lives in both world wars.

Another significant addition is the 12-metre carpet runner in the aisle of the chapel titled The Tree of Life and designed by Nicola Jackson. The three nurses, standing hand in hand at the start of the runner, represent Margaret Rogers, Nona Hildyard and Lorna Rattray.

The building was badly damaged during the February 2011 earthquake.  Three years later the memorial chapel and its surrounding garden became an historic reserve administered by Christchurch City Council. The Council strengthened and restored the chapel which reopened in October 2018.

The beautiful, historic memorial once again provides a venue for special services and events, as well as quiet reflection. Remembered are all nurses who have died on duty during wars, and many staff who worked at Christchurch Hospital. As well as being one of New Zealand's most significant memorials to women, it was the first public hospital chapel.