The William Rolleston Memorial Lamp stands on the corner of King Street and Domain Avenue outside the former Post Office in Temuka. It was erected in 1904 both as a functional light to assist citizens during the hours of darkness and, symbolically, as a guiding light in recognition of the late statesman’s work.
William Rolleston arrived in New Zealand in 1858 from England. An early pioneer who immersed himself in many aspects of community and political life in the new and growing colony, he went on to become the 4th and last Superintendent of Canterbury and subsequently a Minister of the Crown. He was a well-educated man and a strong advocate of a national system of free education for all. He was the MP for Temuka and died at his home Kapunatiki, north-east of Temuka in February 1903.
A national monument for William Rolleston was planned for Christchurch however after his death a committee of local citizens felt a suitable memorial was needed in his electorate. It was eventually decided that a lamp outside the post office ‘would be seen by everyone on either business of pleasure bent, and would stand to the memory of one who had done his duty to the district’.
The lamp post has a bluestone base, polished red granite pedestal and shaft which is topped by a lantern. Several inscriptions on the pedestal sides are there to be read and in May 1904, W F Massey, leader of the opposition, unveiled the memorial lamp which was illuminated by an acetylene generator and burner in front of a large crowd.
Modifications over the years have seen the gas installation done in 1906, repairs and maintenance carried out after a car crash damaged the lamp in 1909 and in 1925 the gas was removed to make way for electricity. At this stage the lantern was replaced by an extended stand and the globe lightbulb you see today.
It’s been sitting there on the corner for well over a century now, who knows what it’s been witness to, still continuing its duties as a beacon in the dark and a guiding light.