The “Victoria”

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.

1897

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.

The Town Hall Gardens, Wagga Wagga, c.1900.
The Town Hall Gardens, with a gate to Tarcutta Street in the background, c.1900 [from the Pym Collection, RW2735/15].
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.

The flooded Town Hall Gardens, Wagga Wagga.
The band pavilion in the Town Hall Gardens during the 1931 flood [from the Wagga Wagga and District Historical Society Collection, RW5/104].

1956

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.

Fixing supporting posts [SA1.317]
Many hands make light work to fix the supporting posts in place before the rotunda roof arrives on campus. [from the Wagga Wagga Teachers’ College Collection, SA1/317].
Rotunda roof carried by a crane at the Wagga Teachers' College entrance.
The Rotunda roof arrives at the College via a Murphy Industries Ltd. crane. [from the Wagga Wagga Teachers’ College Collection, SA1/317]
The rotunda roof being lowered into place.
The rotunda roof being lowered onto the supporting posts [from the Wagga Wagga Teachers’ College Collection, SA1/317].

1980

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.

The CSU Rotunda, Wagga Wagga
The Rotunda in 1980 in the same position it is now, on the north campus of Charles Sturt University. Pictured with the rotunda is Mrs Jenny Pideski, who was working in the School of Education at RCAE at the time the photograph was taken. [CSU26208/1438]
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4 thoughts on “The “Victoria”

  1. Jill, Further to your comments concerning the Rotunda (Keith Swan claimed responsibility to me at the time for having it moved from Teachers College to RCAE North Campus), among an album of photographs to be deposited with CSU Archives when I can get round to it are four which I took on 29 May 1980. Two show invited guests and some staff walking towards the Swan Theatre (the GG’s car is in one picture). The other two snaps show an unofficial counter-opening by students and staff at the rotunda, held in protest of not being invited to the official opening. Edward.

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  2. That’s a wonderful story and I love the roof – that’s what probably kept it safe unlike so many wooden band rotundas in country towns throughout Australia which rotted away to a point demolition was the only option.. Sue Thompson

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    1. Thanks, Sue. For years now, the story has been that the rotunda roof actually came from one of Wagga’s original gasometers. However, while researching this story, I found nothing to support this idea; only a comment in a newspaper article which said the roof was “like a gasholder.” No matter where it came from, it has served its purpose very well.

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