Volume 5

Victoria Park and the Thames Band Rotunda

Kae Lewis, Althea Barker and Dave Wilton


Thames Star, 13 June 1902:


At last night's meeting of the Thames Borough Council the question of erecting a band rotunda on Victoria Park was discussed. The matter was introduced by Cr Burns who thought that as the Government were donating a £ for £ subsidy for Coronation celebrations the time was opportune for the Council to take some action in the desired direction. A rotunda was badly wanted and the foreman of works had very opportunely submitted a plan of one to cost £60. The design was a useful one and the speaker thought that no better work than that suggested could be undertaken by the Council. He moved to the effect that a band rotunda be erected in Victoria Park...Cr Wood seconded....Cr Radford did not think that a rotunda of the size indicated in the design would be large enough for, say 25 men. Perhaps the foreman of works might be sent to Te Aroha to see the design and size of the rotunda in the domain...Cr Hetherington supported the motion and said the Council should fix a sum - say £100. He thought the Council might go as far as the sum indicated for with the Government subsidy, it only meant an expenditure of £50 from the Council's funds.

The other councillors expressed their approval of the proposal and the motion was put to the meeting and carried unanimously. This means that at next meeting of the Council, designs will be considered and the Council will probably make a selection and decide to call for tenders for the work as soon as possible.

In the early days of Thames, the sea water flowed over the area which is now forms Victoria Park. The large hotel on the water's edge in this photo is The Pacific Hotel and Academy of Music.

The park as it was in 1900, before the building
of the rotunda.

The Pacific Hotel and
the Academy of Music.


Victoria Park and the Band rotunda was opened to the public with great fanfare 110 years ago this Christmas, on 10th of November 1902.

The opening of the Victoria Reserve and new Band rotunda at Thames. November 10 1902. The Pacific Hotel can be seen on the left of the photo, at the south end of Victoria Reserve. This marks the old the sea shoreline.
Source: Auckland Weekly News; Sir George Grey Special Collections,
Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19021127-2-3

110 years later; Victoria Park December 2012.

We can read about what happened that day in the pages of The Thames Star, for 10th November 1902:




It may be said that to-day the town of Thames was en fete, for while the morning was devoted to carrying out the ceremonies of laying the foundation stone of the Troopers' Memorial and opening the Victoria Reserve and Band Rotunda, the afternoon was given over to the Public Schools sport, where the youngers held high carnival, and where a lengthy but varied programme of sports was gone through. It was a good idea for those responsible for the several ceremonies to co-operate - it ensured the success of the three functions and provided the residents of Thames with an interesting and pleasant day.


There is little occasion here to refer to the incidents that have led up to the carrying out to-day of ceremonies of considerable public interest. In connection with the Victoria Reserve and band rotunda the Borough Council some time back set to work to provide residents with some little pleasant spot, where maters and children might pass a few hours during the day and with this object changed what was formerly an eyesore into a triangular shaped reserve - small certainly, but one that will suit the purpose and be a lung of the town that will become more and more popular as time passes, for experience has shown that public parks or reserves improve upon acquaintance and become popular places of resort. The ground was well prepared and soon down in grass, and the result in this connection has been more than satisfactory. The grass has grown splendidly, and on smooth green sward it may be expected that during the summer thousands will visit the reserve and enjoy themselves. A broad path follows the shape (triangular) of the Reserve, which adjoins the railway station at Grahamstown, and will therefore be calculated to give visitors a good impression of the district. Between the paths and the substantial fence that surrounds the Reserve, trees, shrubs and flowers have been planted and these have made a wonderful difference to the appearance of the triangle.

In the centre of the Reserve stands a handsome band stand (which was formally declared open today), and as this has been substantially and neatly built, it will be seen that the Borough Council have now an asset that year by year will increase in value, while the residents of Thames now have a breathing spot, a health adjunct, that is sure to be highly appreciated. It is sincerely to be hoped that the good work commenced will be continued, that the vacant spot on the southern side will also be improved, and as funds permit, the work of filling the foreshore be proceeded with, and the plantation continued from Shortland to Grahamstown. There may be difficulties to be contended with, but we believe that these difficulties can be overcome and that this almost necessary work can be carried out.


The Band Rotunda, a true octagon in shape about twenty one feet in diameter, was erected from a design by Mr H. Simmonds, who also supervised the work. The foundation is of concrete rising two feet six inches above the ground to the floor level. There are eight concrete pillars eighteen inches square, into which the columns are bedded. Between these pillars it is filled in panels formed with red-pressed bricks with white joints. The floor is of concrete eight inches thick, and finished all round with a three inch noseing with scoria underneath all of the concrete. The approach is at the back and consists of four circular concrete steps with twelve in treads and six inch risers. The eight columns are of wood, ten feet high, six inches square at the bottom and turned to taper towards a carved capital. These columns carry the whole super structure.

The roof projects eighteen inches over the plates, and these rise to a height of twelve feet. It is ogee in shape, and is covered with plain galvanized iron seamed together into one piece and covered at intersections with a lead roll. There is fret work six inches deep between each column under the top plate, and with fretwork brackets under the sub-plate. From the floor to a height of two feet six inches is filled in between the columns with a handrail and banisters, with the acception of the adit, which is three feet six inches wide. The whole building is painted and picked out in most suitable tints. The contractor for the whole work was Mr C. W. Adams, and the plumbing and painting work was executed by Mr F. Battson and Rae Bros respectively. The contractor and others are to be complimented upon the excellence of their work and the Borough is to be congratulated in possessing such a splendid rotunda.

Still in good condition 110 years later in 2012. It was reroofed in 2002 by Battson's, the same company that had put the roof on 100 years previously.

Although The Trooper's (Boer War) Memorial was originally placed at the corner of Mary and Pollen Streets, today it has been relocated from out of the middle of a busy main street to a quiet corner of Victoria Park.


The Thames Star, for 10th November 1902 (continued):


After the ceremony of laying the foundation stone of the Troopers' Memorial had concluded, a procession was formed and a move was made to the Victoria Reserve, which was to be formally declared open, also the band rotunda, which was also open for use by the bands for the first time. This ceremony was allotted to the Mayor, who, when the spectators had arranged themselves, the bandsmen forming an half circle, the volunteers and cadets the other half, addressed those present. He congratulated the residents of the district at having a Reserve and a band rotunda. He admitted that it was not as large as they would have liked it, but it showed that the Council were anxious to do their best in this direction, and having made a commencement they would perhaps be able to continue the work.
The Hon. Mr Gowan called for three cheers for His Majesty King Edward VII. It is needless to say the people joined enthusiastically in the cheers. The Battalion Band played 'God Save The King'.

After some further remarks he called upon the Battalion Band, as being the senior band present to play, and under the conductorship of Bandmaster Gordon, the band played a stirring march.


The Hon. Mt McGowan then spoke. He congratulated the town on having this park, small as it was. Every town now-a-days had parks, breathing space, for people. In this respect the Borough Council had done well, and he hoped would go further and fill up the portion on the other side of the road. He did not say the Government would assist, but an effort should be made to get such assistance. Should he be returned, as a representative and be a member of the Government he would do all in his power to get a grant. In Auckland there were many large parks and reserves, and all the gift of the colony, and he did not see why smaller towns should not be helped to get reserves and parks. He felt sure the Harbour Board who held the foreshore in trust for the people, would not stand in the way, and perhpas in a short time there would be an addition to the present reserve. He was very gratified to see such a large assembly of people, and all well dressed and happy looking. He concluded by congratulating the people on the possession of the Victoria Park.

The Hauraki Band, under Conductor T. B. Booth, then played their opening selection - another enjoyable march, after which the people began to flock over the reserve, criticising the design of the rotunda, the appearance of the reserve, and other details. We are pleased to say that the verdict was distinctly favorable and the general impression is that the Council had done splendid work, for which it deserves commendations.


The volunteers and cadets, with the bands, took part in the next ceremony, firing a fue de joie in honor of His Majesty the King. The No 1 Thames Rifles were under the command of Capt Shand, the Hauraki Rifles under Lieut. Swindley, the Battalion Band under Conductor Gordon, Hauraki Band under Conductor Booth, the Kauaeranga (Baillie Street) under Captain Hammond, the Sandes Street under Captain Finch, the Waio-Karaka Cadets under Capt. Newton and the Parawai Cadets under Capt. May. At noon the volunteers and cadets were drawn up in line and a feu de joie was fired. After the shots had rippled up and down the lines three times, the bands playing the National Anthem. Meanwhile a Royal salute was given, and after this three rousing cheers were given for his Majesty the King. The crowd then dispersed, the morning's ceremonies having concluded.

Today the Rotunda is registered as a Historic Place Category 2 (19 March 1986).

A very early photo of Victoria Reserve taken soon after it was built in 1902. The Pohutukawa trees had probably only just been planted. It is interesting to see Grahamstown wharf a hive of activity with a visiting steamer in the background.

A pair of souvenir Victoria Park cream jugs featuring the rotunda.

The area of the Victoria reserve in 1947 showing the railway embankment. At this time, the sea still lapped right up to the edge of the reserve and there were no mangroves, as there is today. The landfill used to build up the the area of the Reserve consisted mostly of tailings from the mines in the hills above Grahamstown.
Originally the south side of the reserve was called Albert Park and the north side Victoria Park. Today it is all called Victoria Park



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