There were a number of stonemasons working in Christchurch throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and their work is well represented among the monumental masonry in Linwood Cemetery. In 1894 a stonemason could earn up to 3 pounds a week – several shillings a week more than other building trades. Many headstones in the cemetery carry the name of the stonemason on the bottom right hand corner of the headstone.
G. W. J. Parsons
G. W. J. Parsons was established in 1877 by George Parsons who worked as a monumental and general mason with his son. He initially established premises in Sydenham and by 1898 was considered to be the leading monumental mason in the City. Parsons imported marble and granite for his work from Italy and Scotland and also made iron railings for burial ground enclosures. In 1894, Parsons took over Stocks’ business and moved to Stocks’ Manchester Street premises. The 1901 Trades advertisement in Wise’s Directory shows him at 56-60 Manchester Street. Parsons had undertaken his apprenticeship with Stocks. As was the case with a number of monumental masons, Parsons did not limit himself solely to this work and also did decorative carving for churches and buildings and manufactured marble tops for washstands and restaurant tables.
John Bolton Mansfield
The firm of Mansfield’s was established in 1863 by Joseph Bolton Mansfield. J. B. Mansfield is listed as a monumental mason in Wise’s Street Directory in 1887 at 16 Manchester Street. In 1890 Mansfield’s ‘monumental yards’ are described as being in ‘Manchester Street near the railway station and Buckleys Road, near the public cemetery.’
By 1921 the business is listed as ‘Mansfield & Sons, 38-40 Manchester Streets’ in Wise’s. Mansfield died at sea on S.S. Omrah and was buried at sea 27.11.1908. His widow Caroline lived at 88 Buckleys Road, dying on 13th April 1912 aged 64. (McDonald Biographies and CCC Cemeteries Database) She is buried in Linwood Cemetery Block 22 Plot 41.
James Tait (1833-98) was a Scotsman who came to New Zealand in the 1860s and established a business as a builder, contractor and monumental mason in Christchurch. Tait’s advertisements for business as a monumental sculptor state that the business was established in 1863.
Tait worked on several prominent Christchurch buildings including the Museum, part of the Cathedral, NZ Loan & Mercantile building (Hereford St) and Fisher’s Building.
Tait was the second mayor of Sumner, a City Councillor, and a leading member of St Paul’s Presbyterian Church. He died at Sumner in 1898 aged 65. (McDonald Biographies and Cyclopaedia of New Zealand)
Tait owned a large section of land on the corner of Cashel and Montreal Streets – 275, 273 (later renumbered 52) Cashel Street, from which he ran his business. Tait’s premises is advertised in 1882 in the Southern Provinces Almanac as being at ‘Cashel Street West’.
John Anderston Tait took over management of his father’s business in 1895 working with his son John Edward Tait. The business continues today in the Tait family and operates from Sydenham.
In 1905, J. B. Tait had a full page advertisement which clearly showed the wide variety of monumental masonry the firm had available. The advertisement also noted that the firm supplied “Kerbings, iron railings, and every Cemetery requisite. A large stock always on hand to select from – designs submitted and estimates tendered on application.”
The firm of Sylvester and Co appears to have been established around 1916 – as that is the earliest listing in Wises’s Directory for the firm. However Henry Silvester was in Christchurch by 1899 as he appears as a witness at the marriage of Thomas Sylvester and Rosa Wells and his occupation is noted as a stonemason. Thus we can assume that he worked as such establishing his own firm at a later date.
In 1916, Sylvester & Co. is listed at 495 Colombo Street, Sydenham. In 1921 and 1925 the address given as 491 Colombo Street and in 1930 as 493 Colombo Street. (It must be noted that the spelling of Silvester alternates in Wise’s between ‘Sylvester’ and ‘Silvester’.)
Henry Silvester died in 1938 and is buried in Bromley Cemetery.
Thomas G. Hoar
Less represented monumental mason Thomas G. Hoar was from Masterton and is listed in Wise’s in 1916. The word ‘Masterton’ appearing with his surname on headstones refers to the place rather than being part of his name. By 1930 the business is listed in Wises’s as Hoar & Sons (T. G.) 32 Lincoln Road, Masterton.
Again a less well represented monumental mason John Hunter, was a Scotsman who came to New Zealand in 1862 and worked on the Otago goldfields. He later settled in Dunedin working as a monumental mason and came to Christchurch in 1872 where he was a foreman to William Stocks. After working as a contractor / builder, he formed a partnership with Mr Grieg in 1876 forming Messrs Grieg & Hunter, contractors and builders who built Boys’ High, Girls’ High, and made additions to Sunnyside Asylum in 1894 – he left the partnership in early 1890s (Cyclopeadia of New Zealand)
According to the Cyclopaedia, Hunter returned to monumental masonry and took over Stocks’ business on his death in 1894 conducting business under the name Messrs John Hunter & Co. However, it must be noted that Industries of New Zealand, 1898 lists G. W. Parsons as taking this over in 1894 – there is no evidence of partnership between Parsons and Hunter.
‘Hunter & Co, junction of Colombo Street and South Belt, Christchurch’ is listed in Wise’s 1896-97 while Parsons is listed in Manchester Street in Stock’s premises there.
It is possible that John Hunter died in February 1897 and is buried in Linwood Cemetery B29P46.
Later Monumental Masons
(Source: Linwood Cemetery Conservation Plan with additional information by Alexandra Gilbert)
© The Friends of Linwood Cemetery Charitable Trust