A handwritten message containing the names of the stonemasons who worked on the Citizens’ War Memorial, honoring the victims of World War I, was found 85 years later in Christchurch, New Zealand. The piece of paper was rolled up and kept in a glass bottle found in the process of destroying the museum.
Brent Smith, a member of the Christchurch City Council, said the discovery came about by chance. “The contractor was working on dismantling the memorial’s concrete core when a large chunk broke apart, revealing the glass bottle. If the concrete hadn’t broken in that exact spot, we would never have found it.”
The bottle was then handed over to a team at the Canterbury Museum, who pierced the bottle’s glass stopper to get the note. But, the process was laborious, as the neck was narrow and, due to time, the paper was very fragile because of the infiltrated moisture.
It took a few weeks for the paper to dry before trying again. When this finally happened, some of the deed fell apart, but the names of five of the stonemasons who worked on the memorial were visible. They were identified by the following names: Fred, Albert, Graham, Lance and Jack.
According to Smith, the note, from February 1937, shows how proud the former workers were. “It’s an incredible link to the past that could easily have gone unnoticed. I think the note shows that the original stonemasons were very proud to be a part of the construction of this memorial to the men and women who lost their lives in World War I. role in the project was remembered”.
The member of the council also says he is “satisfied” with the find, because now the bricklayers can be honored. “I am delighted that 85 years later we have recovered the note they hid and we can publicly recognize them for their skillful work and the role they played in creating this beloved memorial.”
The team of stonemasons currently working on the relocation of the memorial’s artifacts describe the paper as something special. “This discovery is a reminder of the rich history and tradition we are helping to preserve,” said Regan Shanks, stonemason at Goldfield Stone.
Excited about the discovery, Smith revealed that there are plans to build a time capsule with a photograph of the stonemasons’ original note in front of the restored museum’s construction site, which will be in the same city.