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William Trethewey was born 8 September 1892 in Christchurch and lived in Linwood with his parents. He attended East Christchurch Public School as a child before leaving at 13 to become a woodcarving apprentice where he learned to make decorative bed ends, mantelpieces and fancy table and chair sets.
On 24 July 1914, he married Ivy Louisa Harper and then moved to Wellington where he studied figure drawing and anatomy, something that would be infinitely useful in his later work. He was also exempted from military service during the First World War because of his family and study commitments. In 1918, he returned to Christchurch with his family and became a stonemason, spending most of his time doing engravings on headstones. About this time he also joined the Canterbury Society of Arts, rising through the ranks over the years to become Vice President.
Following the end of the First World War, Trethewey was able to hone his skills as a sculptor, carving a number of notable monuments, in Kaiapoi, and other Canterbury places. He also undertook commercial projects, of note the Christchurch Civic Theatre and Theatre Royal internal décor, the Regent Street shopping façade and the Edmonds clock. He also worked on memorial statues of prominent local people.
He died in Christchurch on 4 May 1956 following health problems caused by years of working with stone and its resulting dust.
Maclean, Chris. The Sorrow and the Pride : New Zealand war memorials. Wellington : GP Books, c. 1990.
Phillips, Jock. ‘Trethewey, William Thomas’ from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 30 October 2012. URL: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/4t26/trethewey-william-thomas
Pryor, Ted. The Rising of the Phoenix : a tribute to the life and works of William Thomas Trethewey, sculptor of Christchurch. 2002.