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Christchurch City Council Media Release 24 January 2001

The Mysteries of the Missing Statue

Only two of the original four marble statues that once graced Cuningham House in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens remain on public view.

Two are still in the house, one is damaged and will be repaired soon, and the fourth has been lost for sometime.

Now the Christchurch City Council’s Gardens management is hoping that it can be found so that it can be restored to its original position in Cuningham House in the Gardens.

The missing 1.5m statue was removed from Cuningham House sometime in 1980s because of damage. It is thought the head was knocked off.

It was placed in storage under the Band Rotunda in Hagley Park and was seen 11 years ago. It could now be sitting in someone’s garden.

It was missed in June last year when an inventory of statues and other garden ornaments was carried out.

The door of the storage area had been repaired sometime before but no one noticed if the statue had gone when the door was smashed open by vandals. The police have been informed about the missing statue.

The four statues, all different, are believed to be Italian (but that is a mystery itself), the sculptor is unknown as are the subjects. They are believed to be about 120 years old and could be older.

All four statues were of the female form.

They given for Cuningham House by a well-known Christchurch businessman, George Scott of Scott Brothers Ltd, engineers and iron founders, about the time the House opened in 1923.

Charles Cuningham, an Irishman who came to New Zealand in 1856 as a child, rose to become a managing clerk for Christchurch solicitors. He retired at the age of 39 with enough money to lead a comfortable lifestyle that included travel for the next 27 years to 94 countries.

When he died in 1915 he left eight thousand pounds to the Botanic Gardens. The money was held in investment for seven years and grew by three thousand pounds in interest.

Cuningham House was opened in 1924.

Further information: Sue Molloy, Botanical Technician: 364 7584.

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