The Lion Monument that resides on the Veterans’ Steps is the memorial to the members of the Imperial and Volunteer Forces who gave their lives in defence of the settlement of Wanganui and was erected in 1891.
Designed and sculpted by Wanganui artist George Sheriff from Waikawa bluestone and marble, this monument depicts a sleeping lion as a symbol “of the [British] nationality and the repose of the departed heroes”. It was the first example in New Zealand of a sculptured lion, which was to become an important symbol in Boer War memorials about ten years later.
Beneath the paving where the monument is situated, lie the remains of 17 men of the 18th and 50th Regiments killed at the Battle of Nukumaru on 25 January 1865. Their names are listed on panels set in the alcove behind the Lion.
The Lion Monument was originally placed at the top of the hill, close to where the Sarjeant Gallery now stands. It was enclosed within a low picket fence, with a pyramid of cannon balls placed at each corner of the base. Nearby, as if to act as guardians, were the two cannon brought to Wanganui by the gunboat ‘Calliope’ and set up as part of the defences of the Rutland Stockade. Whanganui Regional Museum now houses these cannon.