Trask Memorial Gates Queens Gardens


Francis Reuben Trask (1840 – 5 April 1910) was a 20th-century Member of the Legislative Council from Nelson, New Zealand and Mayor of Nelson.  He also served on the Nelson Harbour Board from its inception.

Trask 44118

Hon Francis Trask MLC. His characteristically 1860s Abraham Lincoln type beard, makes him highly identifiable in group photos. Nelson Provincial Museum 44118

Trask was born in Merriott, Somersetshire, England in 1840. He migrated to Christchurch on the barque Minerva in 1860.1

From Christchurch he moved to the Otago goldfields and stayed at Wetherstones Gully.  After a few months he moved again to Nelson, where he settled.  Trask married Emily Osmond Mercer in 1864 at Nelson.2  He ran a butchery business.  Trask's residence in Nelson was "Gunnersbury House" and was located in Collingwood Street.  The house was noted as one of the best in Nelson.  The Trask's had four children.3

In 1878, after serving as a JP, and juror on the Maungatapu Murders trial,  he was elected as a city councillor and was elected Mayor in 1890.  Trask became Mayor during a typhoid epidemic in the city.  He kept a steady course through the 1895-1897 depression.  Happier moments came in 1892 when the enthusiastic 50th jubilee celebration of Nelson took place.

The most notable works during his term were the Rocks Road, a new main road from the town to the country, by way of the sea coast, and the Queens Gardens.  Trask was aHe remained Mayor until 20 December 1899 when he was succeeded by Joseph Auty Harley.

In 1887 Trask suggested that for Nelson’s commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee a garden be created.  At that time Nelson was well established, but remained one of the few towns in New Zealand that did not have a public garden.  On 22 June 1887, the area was dedicated 'the Queens Gardens' as part of the commemoration of Queen Victoria's 50th Jubilee celebrations.

Work commenced in about 1888 and in 1892, Nelson's 50th Jubilee year, the Gardens were formally opened.  Commemorative trees were planted at the opening and, over the next decade, the garden was developed.  Mr Trask had been ably supported by Mrs Trask, who had presented trees and raised funds for other improvements.4

Trask was appointed to the Legislative Council in 18 March 1903 and served until his death at Nelson on 5 April 1910, after just having been appointed for his second seven-year term.5 He was a lifelong friend of premiere Richard Seddon.

The southern gates to the Queens Gardens on Hardy street, are a memorial to Trask.

In August 1910 public subscription was called for a suitable memorial.  Initially new Church Steps were considered as a combined, Colonel  Pitt and Trask memorial.6

Trask Gates FNJones

Trask memorial gates photographed shortly after erection by FN Jones. Ken Wright Post Card Collection

At the 17 March 1911 meeting of the City Council, a letter was read from Mr John King, honorary secretary of the Trask Memorial Committee, stating that entrance gates to the Queens Gardens in Hardy street had been adopted as a suitable form of memorial and the committee requested the Council's approval of the project, the plans of the proposed gates being forwarded.  Messrs King and C. Y. Fell waited upon the Council in support of the proposal.  Mr Fell said the gate would be a handsome one, constructed mainly of Tonga granite, with marble slabs.  Mr Trask had taken a great interest in the Queen's Gardens and they thought a handsome entrance to the Gardens would form a very appropriate memorial.  The design was by Mr Arthur Reynolds Griffin's and the cost was £115, which consumed the funds available.7

On 10 April 1912 the stone work and tablets had been ready for some time, but the wrought iron gates were not yet completed by the Anchor Shipping & Foundry Company Ltd.8 Monumental sculptor George Miller was responsible for the inscription of the marble tablets and Tonga stone gate pillars.9

A start was made on 17 July 1912 with the erection of the Trask Memorial Gates at the Hardy Street entrance, to the Queen's Gardens.10

At the top of the Trask gates arch, amongst the ornate wrought iron filigree, is a double sided iron circular coat of arms featuring the old Nelson City Crest.11  This includes a sailing ship (HMS Victory) and belt surround with the motto, palmam qui meruit ferat.  He who has earned the palm, let him bear it.  Loosely translated as, "achievement should be rewarded" (or, "let the symbol of victory go to him who has deserved it").  In 1797 this motto was attached to the coat of arms of Lord Nelson.12 This is the motto on the Nelson City's coat of arms.

The gate’s marble tablets read:

Left side: This gateway was erected by the citizens of nelson in memory of Francis Trask who was for 30 years closely associated with the interests of the city.

Right side: City Councillor 1878-1890 Mayor 1890-1899 Francis Trask member of the Legislative Council 1903-1910.

In late August 1912 Mrs Trask, wrote and thanked the Council for its request that she should officially open the Trask Memorial Gates, "but regretting that the state of her health would not permit of her doing so.”13

No newspaper report was found of the official opening of the Trask Memorial Gates.

2016 (Updated August 2020)

Sources used in this story

  1. Shipping news (barque Minerva) (1861, March 2) Lyttelton Times, p. 4
  2. Dept of Internal Affairs Marriage 1872/3978, Emily; Death 1924/5962, 84 yrs
  3. Dept of Internal Affairs Births; 1866/8952 Ada Emily;  1872/12076 Arthur Francis Reuben; 1877/11628 Sydney Vincent. (No record Ernest Edward 1865)
  4. The Late Hon. F Trask (1910, April 16) Colonist, p.2
  5. Francis Trask. Retrieved from Wikipedia
  6. The Pitt Memorial (1910, August 10) Nelson Evening Mail, p.6
  7. The Trask Memorial (1911, March 18) Colonist, p.2
  8. News of The Day (1912, April 11) Colonist, p.4
  9. Nelson City Council Landscape Conservation Plan,  Queens Gardens Nelson (June 2012), Nelson: Nelson City Council,  p.79 .
  10. New of the Day (1912, July 18) Colonist, p.4
  11. Nelson City Council Landscape Conservation Plan, p.79
  12. Wikipedia
  13. City Council (1912, August 31) Colonist p.6 6

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