The death of Queen Victoria in 1901 led to a outpouring of grief in New Zealand, and many buildings were draped in black. St Paul’s was used as the venue for the official New Zealand memorial service. The church was decorated with black, white and ‘imperial purple’. The pulpit was draped in black and white flowers and hanging in the church was a large black banner with ‘Victoria’ inscribed on it in white letters.
In place of the litany desk at the entrance to the chancel was a crown made of white dahlias on red velvet, placed on a purple pedestal (see image above).
The newspaper reported that the church was so crowded that hundreds were turned away, even some who had been invited couldn’t reach the doors.
The first seat to the right of the aisle was reserved for the Governor, Lord Ranfurly, and around him the members of the cabinet and judiciary; the south transept reserved for the local council members, and the north transept for local MPs.
Interestingly, the south aisle was reserved for the officers and men of the HMS Mildura, on which Ranfurly had travelled just a few months earlier to annex the Cook Islands for Great Britain, on behalf of Victoria. The service was led by the Bishop of Wellington, Frederick Wallis, and the service was filled with music.
Source: Evening Post, 28 January 1901, Page 5
Image: Crown, St Paul’s Church, Wellington. Photographer: Ross, Malcolm. Ref: 1/1-006699-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23203846