The Victoria Band Pavilion (or as we call it now, The Rotunda), will be 120 years old next year. It was first erected in 1897 in the Town Hall Gardens by the Wagga Wagga Municpal Council; it was later bought by the Wagga Wagga Teachers’ College and then lastly moved to the north campus of Charles Sturt University, where it can still be found near Ron Potter Drive, overlooking the city.
In days gone by, a town band was a sign of a progressive, civilised community. Wagga’s first town band held its initial concert in October 1869 and over time, regular concerts in the town parks became very popular. But something was missing: a band pavilion.
The Town Hall Gardens, situated around the lagoon between Baylis and Tarcutta Streets behind the Council Chambers, were chosen as the site for the town’s first bandstand.
On June 22, 1897, Wagga held a number of events in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, including a concert in the Town Hall Gardens, utilising the newly-constructed bandstand. Prior to the concert beginning, Mayor Hayes christened the band pavilion, the “Victoria.”
The Victoria band pavilion was described as being circular in shape and made of iron, “with a floor space of 20 feet in diameter, while the roof is dome-shaped – like a gas holder – is supported on eight columns, which rise 10 feet from the floor, and the roof is domed 2 feet 6 inches higher.” The structure was made by Messrs. Carless and Co., of Goulburn. It was estimated that the total cost of the bandstand was £120, of which £100 was provided by the Government.
In April 1956, the Wagga City Council accepted £1/1 from the Wagga Wagga Teachers’ College for the nearly 60 year old pavilion. The pavilion was cleaned up and re-erected next to the gates in College Avenue on May 30, 1956. There it stayed for almost 24 years.
It was relocated for the final time in April 1980, when it was to form part of the opening ceremony for the new campus of Riverina College of Advanced Education. The Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowen, was to officially open the campus on May 29 from the renovated bandstand; however, heavy rain and the ensuing quagmire moved the ceremony inside to the Swan Theatre instead. Despite this, the commemorative plaque was placed at the pavilion.
The rotunda, as we call it today, is still in place on campus. A drive along Ron Potter Drive on Charles Sturt University’s Wagga Campus will bring the rotunda into view, surrounded by lush green lawns and the odd kangaroo, with a view of Estella and the city of Wagga Wagga in the background.