Blenheim's Seymour Square was, officially, named after Henry Seymour who, with his son-in-law Alfred Fell, owned the land on which The Beaver (Blenheim) was built. It is also said to be named after Arthur P. Seymour, the long standing Provincial Council member for the Wairau. Whichever is correct, and officially it is Henry, the efforts of both unrelated Seymours in helping Blenheim grow and prosper can be celebrated in the name of Blenheim's central gardens.1
Wandering stock was an ongoing problem in the public reserve's early years, however the square quickly became a focal point for the town's recreational and leisure activities. The Marlborough Industrial and Art Exhibition was held there in September, 1904, and a 1400 foot building was erected in the Square to house the various exhibits.2
A search of Papers Past shows that Seymour Square often featured in the newspapers, whether in reports of cricket matches, the activities of the Beautifying Society, or letters to the editor.
Who is responsible?
TO THE EDITOR. Sir,- ln "Grosvenor Gardens," that charming and highly cultivated lung of Blenheim - formerly known as Seymour Square in the old Beaver days- the Borough pig has been giving practical illustration of his unwonted industry by turning over a large area of the verdant turf on that enclosure-free of charge.' No one, Sir. can possibly object to the City Fathers having their pig (two if they please) ; but to allow him- or them free warren in our only pleasure ground, is quite too socialistic even for these days of progress - I am, &c, Aegus.3
TO THE EDITOR Sir-,-I should like to ask why anybody wants to clear away the hedges round the only little miserable refuge there is in Blenheim. Unfortunately, the present macrocarpa one is on the by-bye. But fancy this square, on a windy day, with no shelter! I went there to-day to meditate and to smoke, since I did not care to be where-well, say, talk and yarns are going on. What did I see? Youngsters running all over the place and playing "h--for leather," pulling leaves and branches off the trees; three women sitting down, yarning-to whom, I presume, these youngsters belonged-but never stopping them. What a pity! Now, why not try or start to grow a really good hedge-a New Zealand one? W. M. STACE.4
The open-air form of picture and musical entertainment is popular in other centres, and of the fact that it would be popular in Blenheim there was ample evidence last night, when Messrs Adams Bros., of the- British Picture Company, provided a pictorial exhibition in Seymour Square in the presence of a large assemblage. All roads seemed to lead to the Square, and by the time the pictures were commenced there was a gathering the dimensions of which must have exceeded the most sanguine expectations of the Beautifying Society, under whose auspices the performance was conducted.5
It is not altogether of the grave-robber that this article designs to treat, but of the thief or thieves who make a practice of depleting the flower beds at Seymour Square..... something will have to be devised to stop the wholesale thieving that is going on. The robbing of the beds is presumably carried out at a late hour of the evening, and if the gates were locked after eight o'clock each night the thief would have to resort to the expedient of climbing the fence, a procedure which carries a great risk of discovery.6
Seymour Square: Garden of Memories
(from Marlborough District Council heritage plaques)
1857 The Square was named in honour of one half of the land owning partnership of Henry Seymour and Alfred Fell who held title to land upon which The Beaver (Blenheim) was built. In the early days, the public reserve was casually used by local farmers for stock grazing.
1865 - 1875 The Garibaldi Cricket Club formed a rough cricket pitch in the middle of the Square. Football made its debut a decade later
1876 - 1880 With the popularity of the Square increasing, it was advertised that from that point onwards all cattle trespassing on Seymour Square would be impounded! Many professional running races were held; heavy wagering enlivened events.
1878 Mr A P Wilson, Lands and Survey Department, established the Blenheim Trig. It can be found midway along the western wall, with a plaque recognising 97 years of use.
1892 A macrocarpa tree hedge was planted around the perimeter of the Square to mark the first national Arbor Day.
1894 - 1904 A £95 tender for a band rotunda was accepted from D Wemyss. A decade later music and sport were in competition - music won and Council barred football from the Square.
1910 - 1912 James Oliver was appointed as Blenheim's Parks Superintendent and paid £200 per year. He introduced a more formal English style to the Square, with mown grass and flower borders. Mayor J. Corry helped form a beautifying society and Council donated £2000 to assist the group in developing the Square to Oliver's plans.
Click image to enlarge
1920 The oak tree Quercus palustris in the northwestern corner was planted by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII).
1921 - 1928 Seymour Square won the provincial vote for the proposed siting of a Marlborough War Memorial, which culminated in the unveiling of the WW1 Memorial Clock.
1945 Five flowering cherries Prunus serrulata Kanzan were planted along the eastern perimeter to commemorate the end of the war with Japan.
1953 The band rotunda was demolished to make way for a new WWII Memorial Fountain
1966 Sixteen flagpoles to display New Zealand's war allies were erected in front of the clock tower.
Click image to enlarge
1984 The 100 year old tree Sequoiadendron giganteum wasso infested with a borer beetle that it was cut down.
1996 The NZ Post Stamp issue of Scenic Gardens featured Seymour Square on the 40c stamp.
Lady Diana Memorial A deciduous magnolia and bench seat, on the southern wall, was dedicated to the Princess of Wales
'Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends'.
Blenheim's War Memorial and Clock Tower was unveiled in Seymour Square in 1928 and serves as the Marlborough province's principal monument to 419 residents killed during the First World War. The 16.5 metre clock tower was designed by Roger Bacon and cost £4450, paid for entirely by public subscriptions.
The stone used to construct the tower was collected from all over the Marlborough region to permanently represent the contributions of all its towns to the war effort. Australian sandstone symbolises the co-operation between New Zealand and Australian forces during the conflict.
Located adjacent to the memorial fountain, which commemorates those that served in the Second World War, the tower remains the centre of ANZAC Day celebrations.7
Story compiled by Joy Stephens, with additional information from Marlborough District Council Heritage plaques (revised 2012 and updated 2021)
Sources used in this story
- Griffiths, K. (2012) The grand old man of Marlborough: The life and times of A.P. Seymour. New Plymouth, N.Z, [Tucker Media] 2012, p 588
Marlborough Express, Volume XXXVII, Issue 146, 27 June 1904, Page 4
Marlborough Express, Volume XXVIII, Issue 142, 17 June 1892, Page 3
Marlborough Express, Volume XLIV, Issue 216, 19 September 1910, Page 8
Marlborough Express, Volume XLVII, Issue 30, 4 February 1913, Page 5
Marlborough Express, Volume XLVII, Issue 170, 21 July 1913, Page 4
Blenheim. War Memorial and Clock Tower. Retrieved from Heritage New Zealand July 2021:
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Further sources - Seymour Square
- Buick, T. L. (1900) Old Marlborough, or, The story of a province. Palmerston North, N.Z.: Hart and Keeling.
- The Cyclopedia of New Zealand : industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations. V.5 Nelson, Marlborough and Westland provincial districts. (1897-1908) Wellington, N.Z.: Cyclopedia Co. (also CDROM version available) http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/262796524
- MacDonald, C.A. (1933) Pages from the past: some chapters in the history of Marlborough. Blenheim, N.Z.: H.Duckworth (E.H.Penny and Co).
- McIntosh, A.D. (Ed.) (1940) Marlborough a provincial history. Blenheim, NZ.: Marlborough Provincial History Committee.
- Manson, C. (1966) Pioneer Parade. Wellington, A.H. & A.W. Reed, p.28-32
Tritenbach, P. (1996) Seymour Square. Blenheim, New Zealand.: Paul Tritenbach.
Big tree in Seymour Square causing concern. (1984, 17 July). Marlborough Express, p. 2
Re vagrant cattle. (1900, 19 September). Marlborough Express, p.3
Seymour Square. (1876, 12 July). Marlborough Express, p.5
Seymour Square. (1898, 12 November). Marlborough Express, p.3
Seymour Square. (1914, 13 July). Marlborough Express, p.5
- The evening attractions. (1909, 2 November) Marlborough Express, p.5
- What's in a name? A brief history: Seymour Street. (2008, 2 July). Blenheim Sun, p.8
- "Establishing a Township at The Beaver": from Hale Collection Archive, held Marlborough Provincial Museum and Archives.
O'Brien, R. (28 February, 2003). War Memorial and Clock Tower Seymour Square, Blenheim. Retrieved 6 April 2011, from : New Zealand Historic Places Trust Pouhere Taonga :
A query on this text - 1920 The oak tree Quercus palustris in the northwestern corner was planted by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII). I am wondering if the date or the person referenced is incorrect as Edward VII died in 1910. Ed. You are quite correct, it should be Edward VIII. I will amend the page
Posted by Adam Lowe, 16/08/2016 4:03pm (7 years ago)
Seymour Square is most definitely named after Henry Seymour father-in-law of Alfred Fell, NOT A.P. Seymour as suggested, and as is or was erroneously noted on one sign in the Square - erected if I remember correctly by the Lions Club. For further information on the early naming of Blenheim streets and sites refer to "Establishing a Township at The Beaver": Hale Collection, Marlborough Provincial Museum and Archives.
Posted by Alison Mildon, 30/03/2014 11:04am (9 years ago)