Carlo BERGAMINI - an unassuming grave for a sculptor


Often as I'm walking around a cemetery, I come across graves that I think may hold a story solely due to the persons name... Carlo's grave was one of those and what a story I found!
Carlo's headstone belied what an amazing talent he had in his trade as a stonemason and the designer of 5 major South African War memorials in New Zealand. Those at Dunedin, Waimate, Palmerston, Riverton and Oamaru.

His unassuming headstone in Bromley Cemetery at Block 23 Plot 135, Christchurch states:


1870 - 1934

R - I - P

He had resided in New Zealand 47 years at the time of his death and he lived at 50 Buckleys Road, Linwood.  This in itself was a fascinating thing to find out, because for many years being a citizen in Avondale, Christchurch, I often passed this run down house situated beside Eastgate Mall on the way to my grandparents house and wondered what its history may have been!  

Carlo Bergamini [10]

"Carlo Giuseppe Bergamini was born at Carrara, Italy, on 19 January 1868 [differs to headstone information – Sarndra], the son of Oreste Bergamini and his wife, Marie de Raimondo Castelpoggi. Carrara was the centre of the Italian marble industry and the family were stonemasons and sculptors. As a young man Carlo arrived in Australia and New Zealand as a travelling representative of the family firm, hoping to win orders for cemetery headstones and marble monuments.

In Dunedin Bergamini met Elizabeth Jane Reid, who had migrated with her parents from County Antrim, Ireland [note conflicting information in Bromley Cemetery database states she was born in Christchurch – Sarndra]. Despite his Roman Catholic faith, they were married in a Presbyterian ceremony on 18 May 1889. Family legend says that on the honeymoon in Melbourne Carlo spent the money set aside for his return to Italy. The couple returned to Dunedin where Carlo set up as a marble sculptor and monumental mason, first on his own account, then in 1898 in a partnership with James Crawford, and finally some two years later in association with Elizabeth's father, Hugh Reid. Marble angels and crosses were imported in sculpted form from Bergamini's family in Carrara, and Carlo would finish, inscribe and then erect them in the cemeteries of Otago.

The end of the South African War in 1902 provided new opportunities for Bergamini. Some communities, wishing to commemorate both pride in their sons' service to the empire and sorrow for those who had fallen, decided to erect war memorials. Often they called for designs on a competitive basis. Carlo Bergamini proved to be an adept designer, and five communities
awarded him winning prizes. The firm of Bergamini and Reid was then commissioned to erect the memorials.


Waimate [32]...

Oamaru [33]

 Riverton [8]...

 and Dunedin [9] ...

 It also won a tender to put up a marble memorial tablet at Otago Boys' High School.

Otago Boy's High school tablets [11]

Bergamini won the commissions largely because his designs summed up the sentiments of the period. The iconography expressed that mixture of nationalist and imperialist enthusiasms which New Zealanders associated with the country's participation in the war. At both Palmerston and Waimate his designs featured a youthful figure of Zealandia – the daughter of Britannia – with one hand raised in triumph and the other carrying a wreath of flowers. At Oamaru the sculpture was a realistic portrayal of a local veteran; at Dunedin it was a more generalised heroic New Zealand trooper protecting an injured mate. The details also showed how sensitively Bergamini had read the prevailing mood. On three of the memorials the Union Jack and the New Zealand Ensign were intertwined in marble beneath the protection of the imperial crown, while at Palmerston and Oamaru the British lion made a symbolic appearance. Such details helped make these memorials undoubtedly the most distinguished in the country.

Contemporaries praised Bergamini for the appropriateness of his designs, while the firm of Bergamini and Reid received plaudits for their relative economy and the efficiency with which they put up the memorials once the carved figures had arrived from Italy. When the Invercargill memorial, for which Bergamini was not responsible, was being hoisted into place it fell and broke into three pieces. Immediately Bergamini was called in and his repair led contemporaries to wonder at his 'artistic manipulation of the Carrara marble'.

Despite his ability to express British imperial sentiments in stone, Bergamini remained essentially Italian. He drank red wine, made his own ravioli, and eventually took his daughter back to Italy for several years. By then his life had changed, both personally and professionally. The business partnership with Hugh Reid dissolved in 1909, and Bergamini moved to Christchurch. There his marriage with Elizabeth also suffered and they separated during the First World War. By that time, too, Carlo had given up work as a stonemason and become a commercial traveller, eventually working for the International Harvester Company. In the years following the First World War, when New Zealand again erected memorials, Bergamini was no longer prepared to offer his services. Occasionally, however, in prickly letters to the Christchurch newspapers, he was prepared to offer advice on others' memorial designs. He signed his address, 'Carrara Academy'.

Carlo Bergamini, a distinguished looking man of fair hair and blue eyes, died at Christchurch on 16 July 1934, survived by his wife, three sons and a daughter; one son had predeceased him. Fitting monuments to his life's work are the beautifully designed South African War memorials found in Otago and Southland."
[5 Jock Phillips. 'Bergamini, Carlo Giuseppe - Bergamini, Carlo Giuseppe', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand]

His private life wasn't without some magisterial issues.

Otago Daily Times , Issue 12822, 17 November 1903

CIVIL SITTINGS. (Before his Honor Mr Justice Williams.)

WISE V. BERGAMINI. An action for £100 damages. Mr Sim appeared for the plaintiff, Henry James Wise (labourer), and Mr Gallaway for the defendant, Carlo Bergamini (sculptor). This case was heard before a jury of four, the jurors being Alexander G. M'Kellop (foreman), Robert Marshall, George M. Aikman, and Frederick E. Campbell—The plaintiff, in his statement, said that on October 17, 1903, defendant assaulted him with a hammer, and broke ,his arm, wherefore he claimed £100 damages.—The defendant denied (1) assaulting plaintiff as alleged or otherwise; (2) that he broke plaintiff's arm or otherwise injured him, and further stated that plaintiff came to his business' premises and behaved in a violent and disorderly manner. He was apparently under the influence of drink, and was ejected. Plaintiff returned, and struck defendant without provocation, and in attempting to defend himself defendant accidentally struck him with a hammer  that he had in his hand.

Mr Sim, in opening the case, said that plaintiff formerly worked for Bergamini, and had a claim against him for wages. On the date stated Wise called at the yard and asked defendant to settle up. They had some words, and Wise struck him. Bergamini was working at a stone at the time, and had a hammer in his hand. When the plaintiff struck him defendant struck him back with the hammer. Plaintiff took the blow on his arm, and it broke with the force of the blow. He attempted to strike Bergamini again, and the latter struck him four or five blows altogether. Of course it was wrong of him to strike Bergamini, and if defendant had defended himself by using his fists instead of the hammer the case would never have come on. But, as his Honor would doubtless tell the jury, the right of self-defence must not be abused. A man had  to defend himself against attack, and in repelling an attack to rise force, but he had no right to use a deadly weapon. Defendant stated that the blow was accidental, but Dr Macpherson would depose there were several wounds on plaintiff's head, and it was too much to ask the jury to believe that they were all accidental. Dr Macpherson, in his evidence, said that Wise came to him with a fracture of the ulna (one of the bones of the forearm) and several scalp wounds. There were also one or two abrasions about the face.

The Plaintiff, in evidence, said that Bergamini owed him £3 for wages, and he went down to see him about it. Bergamini was working at a stone, and plaintiff asked him if he was going to square up. Defendant said no, and plaintiff said he would put it in the hands of a solicitor. Defendant said he did not care, and would not pay. Witness struck him, and Bergamini struck back. Witness raised his arm to protect himself, and received a blow from the hammer on the arm. Witness closed with him, and in the struggle witness received a blow on the back of the head. Reid (defendant's partner) separated them, and took witness to the gate. He told Reid his arm was broken. Witness was going back to get his tools, and saw Bergamini again. Witness struck him on the head, and Bergamini struck him back several times. He struck witness on the head, and said "I kill you;' I kill you." Witness became unconscious then, and the next he remembered was being in the yard with Reid, who was bathing his head at the tap. Witness called Bergamini an Italian devil  as he went out. He took a cab up to Dr Macpherson's, where he was attended to. Witness had two glasses that morning. Cross-examined: Bergamini was lettering a stone when witness went in. He did not remember chasing Bergamini's boy around the yard or falling against a granite tombstone. There were two assaults with the hammer. Witness would swear that he had made no application to his lodge for payment. The doctor advised him not to put in a claim. 

Mr Gallaway submitted that the story told by the plaintiff was improbable. It was perfectly obvious that there must be a great deal more in the matter than had already come out. That Wise was struck on the head with the hammer was not denied; that he was wilfully struck by Bergamini was an entirely different thing. Bergamini was not on the premises when Wise first came. One of Bergamini's sons, seeing Wise the worse for drink, very improperly began, to "chaff" him, and Wise chased him round the yard. Wise did not remember this, nor did he remember his fall against, the granite. Bergamini was away at the bank, and when he came in he  spoke to Wise, and then went to his work. Wise came back after Reid got him out, and if his arm was broken then it was perfectly obvious that Bergamini could not have done it, When Wise came back he struck at Bergamini  and if Bergamini struck back it must have been in self- defence. It could not have been intentional) for the hammer was heavy enough to kill him if Bergamini had struck him intentionally. 

Carlo Bergamini, in his evidence stated that when he saw that Wise was drunk he told him to come back on Monday. Wise struck him, and ho hit back with his open hand. Wise fell on the ground with his left arm under him. Witness did not then have the hammer in his hand. When Wise came back the second time witness was working at a stone, and did not hear his approach. The first thing he knew was a blow on the temple. Witness put his hands out, and defendant's head came in contact with the hammer. There was a scuffle, and witness heard someone Look out for the stone!" This was a granite stone, weighing 10cwt that was falling down. Reid put out his hand and stopped it.  Witness was excited, and did not know what he was doing. Cross-examined: Witness did not strike Wise with the hammer; he knocked his head against it. Witness never knocked a man down with a mallet at Palmer's, where he formerly worked. Witness was not excited, but was quite calm during tho Wise incident.

"Alfred Edward Abley, employed by Bergamini  and Reid, said he saw "Wise fall down. A piece of Oamaru stone fell on his arm. He then went into the back yard, and came out again. Witness then detailed the fight between Wise and Bergamini, and said that Reid separated them, and took "Wise out. The latter came back, and there was another scuffle. Bergamini appeared to be trying to keep Wise off. George Robertson, and William Reid also gave evidence. At this stage the court adjourned for lunch. On resuming,' Mr Gallaway  addressed the jury, reviewing the evidence and dealing with the law. Mr Sim having replied,

His Honor put it to the jury that the question for them to determine was whether the defendant used more force than was reasonably necessary to defend himself from the attack of the plaintiff and to prevent a repetition of the assaults. A person attacked was justified in using sufficient force to prevent a repetition of the assault. If the defendant only used sufficient force then he was entitled to a verdict; if the defendant used more force than was reasonably necessary, the plaintiff was entitled to recover.  The  Jury retired at 3.15 p.m. and returned to the court at 3.40 p.m. -with a verdict for the plaintiff for £5. Costs were allowed on the Magistrate's Court scale when £5 is recovered.

Also, according to an article in te Tuapeka Times, on 18 July 1908, he was sued for refund of deposit on a tombstone undertaken 2 years previously[12]

Carlo's wife Elizabeth was not without her own magisterial troubles later in her life. Elizabeth fostered children for many years and in 1929 her temper got the better of her and blemished her record  then 17 years satisfactory fostering by "brutally bashing" a 13 year old girl.  The child was bought to the attention of Effie CARDALE Secretary of the Society for the Protection of Women and Children, when the child was sent to school with her body in a bruised condition. She was examined by two doctors, who found four large bruises on her hips, and both medicos expressed the opinion that no misdemeanor on the part of the child could warrant such a beating". Consequently, the child was placed in a receiving home and her foster mother, Mrs. Bergamini, was charged with ill-treating her. Sergeant Hodgson gave evidence to the effect. that 'he interviewed the woman who admitted beating the child with a stick which she kept for beating carpets. She said Rachael [the beaten child] had been untruthful and while punishing her for it the child kicked the accused, who gave the offending infant more strokes than she had intended to. The sergeant said that two of the bruises on the girl's leg were four and five inches long. Describing the stick to Mr. Roy Twyneham, counsel for the accused, Sergeant Hodgson, said, it was two feet nine inches long, a little thicker than a pipe-stem, and there was no give in it.

The evidence continued: "Mrs Bergamini has had this whole family, and I know she has had a lot of trouble with them," said witness. "She has been a very satisfactory foster mother for many years and has taken children that no one else would take." 

Mr. Twyneham: What has this woman's general conduct been during the seventeen years she has been taking children for the State and for your Society? 

"She has always done 'her best. This, particular family has given a great deal of trouble to me and everyone else. Mr. Twyneham pleaded the woman's good record as a ground for leniency and stated that: she had failed to alter this child's propensity for stealing and lying. In arriving at his decision the magistrate said he was satisfied that the punishment had been excessive, even though the child's conduct might have been bad. "These children in foster homes have no one to take their part and see that they are not ill-treated, and they must have some protection," he said.[13]

Elizabeth died 25 November 1945 aged 78 at Greymouth, NZ and was buried in Bromley Cemetery, Block 35 Plot 225.  Cemetery records state incorrectly that she was born in Christchurch.

Carlo and Elizabeth's children:
William Oreste
Birth registration: 1890/8308
Born: 3 April 1889 or 1890, Dunedin [both birth years given in different documents]
Death: 11 August 1952, buried Ruru Lawn cemetery, Christchurch BL1A PL355
Address: Rannerdale Home, Christchurch
Occupation on enlistment: Mason working for Mansfield Bros. Limited Christchurch
Occupation at death: Surveyor; Born Dunedin, NZ
William’s Cenotaph database record here

His military records are available to read online here
January 1916: William listed as one of the men suspected as a carrier of enteric from the Maheno and dispatched to the isolation camp attached to the Auckland Hospital
Final discharge from service 25 May 1916 due to Enteric conjunctivitis causing disability occurring at Gallipoli

He married Minnie Constance Evangeline HIGGOTT at Mr HIGGOTT’s house, Linwood on 2nd April 1913 and Katie Beryl Evangelina was born 9 August 1913. William was charged under the Destitute Persons Act 1910 by his father in law Frederick HIGGOTT on behalf of Minnie, that he [William] had failed to provide Minnie with adequate means of maintenance and on 12th June 1913 was ordered to pay 20 shillings a week until the order was varied or discharged.  He also had to pay £100 surety. [6]
It appears that he went to prison in October 1912 for a month due to defaulting on this expected payment.[29]
Minnie appears on the historic BDM indexes as remarrying c1923 under her maiden name of HIGGOTT to John Smith DURIE. Marriage registration 1923/3670.
William remarried 1923 to Annie Beaner LEESON[14] at St Paul's Presbyterian Church, Christchurch[26]. She died c1951[21]
In 1928 William, noted as a stonemason and Annie lived at 16 Alexandra Street, Christchurch.  Annie's middle name is noted as'Beana'.

Gabriel Hercules
Birth registration 1891/7682
Military records state he was born 1 May 1882
Born: Dunedin
Married: Vera Beryl PIRRIE c1919[16] at St Paul's Presbyterian Church, Christchurch[26].
She died c1981 and had been born on 16 June 1896[23]
Death: 3 August 1928 and was buried Bromley Cemetery BL 35 PL 225 aged 35 years
Address at time of death: Rannerdale Home, Christchurch
Occupation: Stereotyper
Cause of death: Fatty degeneration of heart; spastic paraplegia; Laminectomy [removal of vertebra/e]; Haemorrhage and post operative shock.

Gabriel’s Cenotaph database record [occupation noted as Mason] here

His military records are online to read here and also show he gained a Military Medal during WW1 service.

During service he suffered:
12 Oct 1915 – Enteritis
06 Dec 1915 – Malaria
31 Oct 1917 - Military Medal  for “acts of gallantry in the field” NZEF O419 Hd Qrs Ldn
04 Dec 1917 – Dangerously ill
09 Dec 1917 – Still dangerously ill
23 Dec 1917 – Still dangerously ill but improving
"Private advice was received in Christchurch yesterday that Driver G. Bergamini, A.S.C., Military Medal, is still dangerously ill at tho No. 6 Hospital, St. Omer, but is improving. Driver Bergamini was attacked by cerebrospinal meningitis early in December. He left with th 4th Reinforcements. His brother, C. Bergamini, was a Main Body man, who returned and re-enlisted with the 26th Reinforcements, returning to France.[27]
16 Jan 1918 – Still dangerously ill
28 Jan 1918 – removed from dangerously ill list
31 March 1918 – Cerebro spinal meningitis
Medically discharged 14 July 1918 due to illness contracted on active service
His probate information is available here. He is noted as labourer of Christchurch.
He married Vera Beryl PIRRIE c1919

The 1928 Avon Electoral Roll notes Gabriel & Vera living with 'Carlo' [unsure if this is Senior or Junior] at 622 Gloucester Street, Linwood.[31] 

Carlo 1894-1966 
Birth registration 1894/10979  
Death registration: 1966/34885
Married: Ellen HOUGHTON c1912[18] She died c1914 aged 20[22]
They had a son George born c1912[24]
He married secondly: Vera Ellen WATSON c1918[17] She died c1938 aged 42[19]
They had at least 1 child, a daughter, born October 1918:
BERGAMINI  -  on 4 October at Nurse Poulsen's  Gloucester st,  Linwood,  to Mr and Mrs C. Bergamini  of Rolleston st, Linwood  -  a daughter.[28]
Victor Emanuel 1900-1979
Born: 11 December 1900[20]
Birth registration: 1900/1114
Death registration: 1979/33291
Married: Annie Elizabeth SANDLE c1925[15] 

Vilma Margaret 1903-
Birth registration 1903/5559
1928 Electoral Roll shows Vilma living with her mother at 50 Buckleys Road, Linwood.[31]
Married Kenneth SEARLE marriage registration 1928/6914
Date 12 November 1928 at St Peter's Presbyterian Church, Woolston, Christchurch[25]

Kenneth, an accountant and Vilma were living at 50 Esplanade, Sumner, Christchurch in 1935.  Vilma's middle name was given as ' Margaruita '[30]

Miscellaneous Paperspast Digital newspaper articles relating to the Bergamini designed war memorials:

"Photograph loaned by ‘Mr Bergamini" Otago Witness 26 December 1900 of Blocks of marble and the quarry at Carrara, Italy - note the people standing on top of some of the marble as an indication of scale [7]:

The unveiling of the Troopers’ memorial at Waimate, to be unveiled on October 6 [1904]. Designed and executed by Messrs Bergamini and Reid, Dunedin - here

Unveiling of the fallen troopers’ memorial at Palmerston - here

Riverton South African War Memorial
Otago Witness , Issue 2623, 22 June 1904, Page 43
The accompanying pictures show the unveiling of the Memorial for Fallen Troopers inthe Boer War, erected at the south end of Palmerston street, Riverton, and the stone itself. The total amount collected was £116 16 9d, and the Riverton Patriotic Committee donated £10, making the sum £126 16s 9d. The monument cost £105. The lettering on the stone reads Wallace Troopers' Memorial  Erected by the people of Wallace in memory of troopers who lost their lives in South African War 1899-1902; "The path of duty was the way to glory." To the memory of Troopers D. F. M'lntosh (Fairfax), of F. H. Goode (Riverton), Seth Ky e [sic] (Mossburn), and D. B. Ferrar (Otautau), and Alexander Scott (Clifden). Mr J. C. Thomson, M.H.R., is seen addressing the audience.[1] also here.

Wanganui Chronicle,  Volume XXXXVII, Issue 12221, 10 June 1904, Page 5
Dunedin South African War Memorial
The Fallen Soldiers’ Memorial Committee to-day decided to accept the design of Messrs. Bergamini and Reid for a memorial, to be erected in Victoria Gardens, the design of Mr. Gabriel Miller being given second place.

Otago Witness, Issue 2623, 22 June 1904, Page 41
This memorial, to be erected in marble in the Victoria Gardens, Dunedin at a cost of £1,000 will form a handsome adornment to the city.  It was designed by Mr Carlo Bergamini, who chose as his motto “Amor di patria.”

Fallen Troopers’ memorial, Dunedin Oval
Work was executed in Carrara, in Italy

Memorials and Monuments: Memorials to the South African War

Gabriel’s military records
Jock Phillips. 'Bergamini, Carlo Giuseppe - Bergamini, Carlo Giuseppe', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 30-Oct-2012
William’s military records
Riverton South African War memorial', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Dec-2012 
Otago South African War memorial in Dunedin', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Dec-2012
'Carlo Bergamini', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Dec-2012
'Otago Boys High Sth African War memorial', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Dec-2012
Marriage registration 1923/6452 Historic BDM, Dept Internal Affairs
Marriage registration 1925/5105.Historic BDM, Dept Internal Affairs
Marriage registration 1919/918 Historic BDM, Dept Internal Affairs
Marriage registration 1918/1110 Historic BDM, Dept Internal Affairs
Marriage registration 1912/8691 Historic BDM, Dept Internal Affairs
Death registration 1938/18244 Historic BDM, Dept Internal Affairs
Death registration showing birth date - Historic BDM, Dept Internal Affairs
Death registration 1951/25161 Historic BDM, Dept Internal Affairs
Death registration 1914/8494 Historic BDM, Dept Internal Affairs
Death registration also showing birth date 1981/43990  Historic BDM, Dept Internal Affairs
Birth registration 1912/15255 Historic BDM, Dept Internal Affairs
[30] 1935 NZ Electoral Roll, Avon.
[31] 1928 NZ Electoral Roll, Avon. 
Joe Wallace - "jokertrekker" flickr ID - permission gained
Robert Newell - "RobAucklandNZ" flickr ID - permission gained



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