Statues, scultpures and interesting things
Arthur Albert Fantham Marble statue
In 1908, the second of the park’s significant landmarks, the Fantham Statue, was unveiled.
Commemorating Arthur Albert Fantham who came to Hawera in 1882 and was well known for his wide farming experience, considerable veterinary knowledge and for introducing the bumble bee to New Zealand pasture.
The statue, sculpted from Italian marble and on a plinth of red Aberdeen granite was built with funds raised by the Hāwera Farmers’ Union in a project coordinated by a committee driven by solicitor Richard D Welsh.
Local master - builder Hugh Whittington began installing the statue’s foundation plinth at the end of November 1907 and the statue, which stands as a focus of the two main “avenues” along the promenade of the park was erected on 28 January the following year.
A small crowd of 25 braved inclement weather to see the statue unveiled on 4 March 1908.
First brought to Hāwera in 1885 for the use of the Volunteer Rifle Company, who used it only once during a training day, the cannon was mounted in the Park in 1912.
Historians may note that the cannon, which was cast in 1843 and was originally imported to defend Auckland, bears the coat of arms in King George III – who died in 1820.
Shortly after its installation, a letter to the editor in the Hāwera and Normanby Star warned of the cannon’s potential to destroy the Fantham statue at which it was aimed. Recalling an incident in the mid 1890’s when the cannon was fired “by persons unknown in the dead of night” and showered a section of Hawera with the scrap metal and glass with which it had been filled, the writer stated that on that occasion only the cannon’s high elevation setting had averted greater damage. His warning went unheeded, but decades later, late one night in May 1951, the cannon was again mysteriously fired, the blast heard throughout the town.
Fifty years later, LH Chadwick told of the prank, which involved him and his two friends George Vilars and Trevor “Toe” Barnett, both of whom had predeceased him. Chadwick said that the trio had overloaded the cannon, which was designed to throw an eight inch (200mm) shot weighing 64lb (29kg), with black powder and sacking wadding. When the gun was fired the “gunner” received a slight burn from flashback from the touch hole, the blast dislodged the piece from its concrete mount and all three ran from the Park in panic and with ringing ears. Chadwick’s “deathbed confession” was the final chapter of a pact made by the trio to keep “mum” about their clandestine exploit until all other involved parties had died.
One of the Park’s most popular “toys” the barrel has been burnished to a permanent bronzed shine by the trousers of the generations of small children who have ridden it.
Peter Pan and Wendy is a story for the ages – one that comes to life in King Edward Park. Explore the Park to find the famous bronze Wendy statue (the companion piece to the Peter Pan in London’s Kensington garden) - endlessly searching for the lost boys and in the park’s quiet pathways that lead to all sorts of hidden treasures.
The sculpture was a gift from Marion Campbell to the children of Hāwera to commemorate her husband James, mayor of Hāwera, who sadly died in office in 1939.
The statue, product of a Royal Academy of Sculpture competition, was commission in 1944 but suffered wartime setbacks, including the destruction of sculptor Ferinand Blundstone’s studio in a bombing raid.
Completed by Gilbert Baynes, the statue eventually arrived in New Zealand but became wharf-bound for months dues to the watersider’s strike.
It was finally unveiled on 9 July 1951. Sadly, Marion Campbell died in 1940.
In the statue Wendy is holding a lantern and kneels on a tree stump with two gnomes, four fairies, a raven, an owl, two hares, a rooster, squirrels, rabbits, mice, hedgehogs, toads and a fox. Not unexpectedly, no New Zealand animals or birds feature in this northern hemisphere design.
Fifty years after the installation of the Wendy statue, Wendys from all over the country came to the park in March 2001 to celebrate Wendy Week and the statue’s 50th birthday. South Taranaki Mayor Mary Bourke, joined with thirteen of the namesakes celebrating the occasion.
Make sure you visit King Edward Park with a friend to try out the Sound Mirrors.
Likely the largest sound mirrors in New Zealand when they were installed in 2020, these massive dishes stand over two and a half metres high. Facing each other over a distance of 50 metres the sound mirrors enable a person to whisper into the focal point of one dish while a friend can hear the whisper at the focal point of the other dish.
“We are very grateful to Global Stainless Artworks for donating these wonderful pieces, and to the funders who made installation possible,” says South Taranaki Mayor Phil Nixon. “They will be a fascinating addition to our award winning Park. They are a little bit of art, a little bit of fun and a whole lot of science combined.”
Global Stainless Artworks Hāwera, fabricators of high end stainless steel balls, spheres and sculptures have worked with the South Taranaki District Council to provide the structures for the District. They make custom made products based on designs by national and international sculptors and artisans and sell all around the world.
Kerry Fowler from Global Stainless Artworks explains, “The parabola shaped dishes collect focus and amplify wave signals. Sound that originates at the focal point will bounce off the dish and travel in the direction the dish is pointing. The two dishes have been perfectly aligned so that when you speak into the focal point ring the sound bounces off the dish and collects at the dish on the opposite side of the lake. If you speak where the focal point ring is, your ears will also be in the perfect position for listening.”
Sound mirrors are sometimes called “whisper dishes”, “acoustic mirrors” or “listening ears”. They were a forerunner of radar and were built on the south and northeast coasts of England between 1916 and the 1930s. The mirrors were designed to detect enemy aircraft and airships as they approached the coast. The listener could determine the direction of the aircraft and provide advanced warning to the local people. By the early 1940s the technology was replaced by radar.
Te Hāwera Community Board chair Wayne Bigham says “the Board was delighted to help fund such a worthwhile attraction which will provide entertainment and a sense of wonder to our park visitors.”
Donations towards the installation of these sound mirrors were received from Te Hāwera Community Board, Lysaght Watt Trust, Fred and Eunice Rodie Trust, Pelorus Trust and Bizlink Hāwera.