Band Rotunda

Carrington Park, High Street (State Highway 2), Carterton

  • Band Rotunda, Carterton.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Vivienne Morrell. Date: 27/12/2013.
  • Band Rotunda, Carterton. View showing the iron work of the columns and balustrade.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Vivienne Morrell. Date: 31/03/2014.
  • Band Rotunda, Carterton. Carrington Park c.1913 Ref: 1/2-007089-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23058919 .
    Copyright: Alexander Turnbull Library. Taken By: Frederick George Radcliffe.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 3962 Date Entered 12th December 2019 Date of Effect 22nd January 2020


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Pt Sec 5 Town of Carterton (RT WN350/229), Wellington Land District and the building known as Band Rotunda thereon. The extent includes a two metre curtilage around the building. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Carterton District


Wellington Region

Legal description

Pt Sec 5 Town of Carterton (WN350/229), Wellington Land District

Location description

The Band Rotunda is located in Carrington Park on the main road (High Street / State Highway 2), set back approximately 60 metres from the road.


Built in 1911-1912 to commemorate the coronation of King George V, Carterton’s Band Rotunda stands proud as the central focus of Carrington Park. As an elegant example of a late Edwardian band rotunda sited in a public park, it has much aesthetic value. The rotunda also has historic and social significance related to its long community use as a musical and public speaking platform.

Although various structures, from halls to lampposts, were erected to celebrate the coronation of King George V, Carterton’s community settled on a band rotunda. Emerging from the international trend towards public green spaces, brass bands and relaxation, the band rotundas had become de rigueur for parks by the Edwardian period. Designed by architect M.R. Varnham, its construction was funded by the community and a government subsidy. Carterton’s Band Rotunda was officially opened on 8 February 1912. The rotunda was then regularly used by the local band until it disbanded, and for other public events and celebrations.

The Band Rotunda is octagonal and built on a concrete platform, with a timber and corrugated iron roof and a superstructure of cast iron. T. S. Arcus and Sons, local builders and joiners, likely erected the structure. The iron castings were by S. Luke and Co. of Wellington and chosen from the foundry’s catalogue. Since it was built, the rotunda has lost some of its original features, such as some of its decorative ironwork and the large sign proclaiming ‘Coronation King George V’ was removed early on. In the early twenty-first century restoration of the structure was completed.

Despite its original purposes having lost their relevance to some extent–New Zealand does not look to England’s monarchy for a sense of belonging, nor are brass bands currently fashionable –the Band Rotunda retains an important place at the heart of Carterton’s community. The structure is a focal point within one of the town’s main parks and contributes a small piece of Edwardian whimsy to modern-day Carterton.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Carterton’s Band Rotunda has historical value - indeed it was erected to celebrate the historic importance of the coronation of King George V. The Band Rotunda is an example of a popular custom of commemorating coronations in the early twentieth century. Although New Zealand’s rotundas were a local slant on international band stands, they still represented the Victorian nineteenth century emphasis on outdoor social recreation and leisure in the face of increased industrialisation.

Aesthetic Significance or Value

Carterton’s Band Rotunda has aesthetic value – elegant, deliberately ornamental and designed ‘for show’, its appearance is enhanced by the picturesque setting of Carrington Park. The elevation of the platform, decorative iron work and octagonal structure combine to impart a visually pleasing impact. It is the major focal point of the park and visible from High Street, Carterton’s main road.

Social Significance or Value

As the focal point of Carrington Park, the Band Rotunda has a long history of close association with community leisure activities. The rotunda has seen many band concerts and public speaking events over its life. In the early twenty-first century the rotunda’s social significance to the community was emphasised when the Carterton District Council and the local Rotary Club combined forces to undertake repairs and restore it to mint condition.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

Carterton’s Band Rotunda is linked to the rise of leisure activities, community green spaces, outdoor recreation and brass bands in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is part of a group of structures which represents New Zealand’s response to international trends in musical entertainment, leisure and outdoor activities, generated during the Industrial Revolution. It has been argued that these ‘elegant structures’ are ‘probably our most important form of musical architecture’.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place

The Band Rotunda owes its very existence to the local Carterton community, who rallied to donate funds towards its construction. Despite falling into disuse as the nature of outdoor entertainments evolved, ongoing community esteem was exemplified by the local efforts to undertake repairs and maintenance around 2004. Community concerts were then held in the Band Rotunda in the following years.

(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place

The Band Rotunda is also associated with attitudes to public commemorations. Royal coronations were commemorated by the construction of various public facilities in the early twentieth century. Carterton’s Band Rotunda is a good example of a representative type of commemorative structure common to towns and cities throughout New Zealand.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Luke and Sons and Williams

The Wellington firm of S. Luke and Company (also known as Luke and Sons and Williams, and S. Luke and Sons), had a foundry approximately where the Opera House now is in Manners Street (Luke’s Lane), Wellington. Samuel Luke purchased the business of Gilchrist and Waters (est 1876) in 1879 after the Luke family emigrated from Cornwall, and established the company. He had four sons including William, and Sir John-Pearce (1858–1931), who was Mayor of Wellington and a Member of Parliament. Another son, Charles Manley Luke (later Sir Charles) (1857–1941) worked in the firm’s office at the time, and was also Mayor of Wellington. Luke’s foundry was one of the largest in Wellington, occupying one and a half acres (0.6 hectares). The company specialised in ship building, boilermaking, cooking ranges and iron and brass work, securing notable jobs such as building the Castlepoint and Cape Palliser lighthouses, eleven hydraulic cranes for the Wellington Harbour Board, and the SS Matai, at the time the largest steamship built in New Zealand. The company also built the battery engine and boiler for the Albion Gold Mining Company Battery and Mine Remains (List No. 9032) and supplied decorative cast iron-work for the Carterton Band Rotunda (List No. 3962). In 1913 Sir Charles Manley Luke retired from business and the firm was purchased by J.J. Niven and Co.

M.R. Varnham and E. J. Rose

Miles Rhodes Varnham was in partnership with E.J. Rose from at least 1901 until May 1911 when the partnership was dissolved and Varnham continued the business alone. Together they designed residences, shops, Masterton gas works, additions to Masterton’s Knox Church, and were local architects for the Wellington Education Board. They were also the architects of the Masterton 1902-03 Coronation Band Rotunda. Varnham issued the Carterton Band Rotunda specifications on his own in September 1911, crossing out the name of Rose. In November 1911 Varnham designed the Coronation Swimming Baths in Greytown. He was also involved in music and was given a ‘valedictory concert’ in 1914 as he was leaving Masterton to take up farming in Akatarawa.

T. S. Arcus and Sons


Steve Ticehurst

Builder for List No. 3962 mid-2000s renovation

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Around the 1600s Rangitāne, Ngāti Ira and Ngāti Kahungunu tribes settled in the Wairarapa, all migrating from further north. Rangitāne and Ngāti Kahungunu intermarried extensively. In 1821 a northern war party entered the Wairarapa, and further invasions from Taranaki tribes followed with Ngāti Tama settling on the western shore of Lake Wairarapa. In the early 1840s a peace treaty between the Wairarapa iwi and the occupying Te Ātiawa chief Te Wharepouri saw the return of the local iwi to the Wairarapa.

European settlement of the Wairarapa began in 1844 when a small number of Wellington settlers arranged pastoral leases with local Māori. In 1853 Charles Rooking Carter (1822-1896), one of Wellington’s leading lights in the building trade, worked with Joseph Masters to persuade the Crown to buy land in the Wairarapa for settlement purposes. Greytown (named for Governor George Grey) and Masterton were the resulting settlements. Carter, however, acquired a large block of land south of Masterton. In 1857 he was selected to represent the Wairarapa District in Wellington’s Provincial Council. That same year, a small settlement named Three Mile Bush was founded to provide a base for men working on the road between Greytown and Masterton – ‘men whose capital chiefly, if not solely, consisted of stout hearts and strong arms’. Carter took such a ‘lively interest’ in the district and ‘its purchase from the natives - its settlement by small farmers – and its general prosperity’ that in July 1859 Three Mile Bush was renamed Carterton.

A sawmilling industry grew up in the bush surrounding Carterton, proving not only additional employment but more ground for settlement and farming. The development of the dairying industry in particular, combined with sawmilling, helped give Carterton a strong economic base. By 1897 the township had ‘rapidly grown into a place of considerable importance’.

Carrington Park

By the mid-1890s Carterton was ‘only just beginning to feel leisure for such luxuries as balls, “evenings”, concerts and so on’. Into this atmosphere stepped William Booth, Chairman of the Wellington Meat Export Company, and Walter Buchanan, Member of the House of Representatives for the Wairarapa. In February 1896 it was announced that Booth and Buchanan had purchased eight and a half acres of land in the centre of town from W.G. Beard for £500. The section was gifted in trust to the town of Carterton as ‘a public reserve and recreation ground’. The clearing of the site to create an open ground cost 11s 1d. Booth donated the sum.

The new public reserve first appeared as ‘Carrington Park’ in May 1897. It is thought to have been named after Booth’s own estate, also named Carrington. Plans to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee included planting trees at the gifted land. Indeed a Mr Blomquist offered to gift 100 trees for the park. In June, however, the Council decided instead to lease the land for cropping for a period of twelve months. Not only would this help solve the Council’s ever-increasing overdraft, but would also leave the ground in ‘good order for tree planting’. By 1899 the lease was over and the land was planted out in shrubs - although an unauthorised grazing of sheep in the Park in December saw all the new plantings eaten and in need of replacement.

Over the next few years the park was used for events such as hockey and cricket matches, Arbour Day tree planting and public gatherings. Importantly, it also provided a space for the local band to play. The Carterton Brass Band was formed in 1878. In 1879 six bandsmen were charged and fined five shillings each for obstructing the public highway by playing music on the road. Perhaps in response, the Band then used a ‘portable rotunda built on wheels and horse drawn or pushed by the bandsmen to whatever venue’. Yet there were mixed feelings. While a ‘lover of harmony’ wrote to the Wairarapa Daily Times in 1883 strongly criticising the music played by the Band, they were often hired for events throughout the district, where they ‘tended to enliven the proceedings considerably’.

Carrington Park increasingly became a focus for the Carterton community and at a public meeting in May 1911, the community decided to raise funds for a band rotunda in the park as a Coronation monument to King George V.

Band rotundas

Well into the twentieth century, England was still seen as ‘Home’. New Zealand was still officially a British colony as late as 1907 when it was granted Dominion status. Yet little changed – it was not until the First World War that a separate sense of New Zealand identity began developing in earnest. At the time of King George V’s coronation, then, the general public were enthusiastic to welcome and celebrate the new monarch.

New Zealand used a number of structures to commemorate coronations in the early twentieth century – a hall in Auckland, a fountain in Palmerston North, a hospital in Christchurch and a street lamp in Arrowtown. Yet band rotundas emerged as a popular celebratory structure. Masterton and New Plymouth, for example, constructed rotundas to commemorate King Edward VII’s 1902 coronation. Like Carterton, a number of towns also chose to commemorate the 1911 coronation of King George V with band rotundas, including Tīmaru, Hāwera, Eltham and Inglewood. For small towns, offered a pound by pound subsidy, a commemorative rotunda was within their financial scope.

Yet the origin of band rotundas pre-dates their popularity as coronation memorials. Bandstands, as they are known internationally, owed their existence to two developments in England’s history. Firstly, as a response to the Industrial Revolution, green open spaces were created for the public to relax, restore and reconnect to the natural world. Secondly, brass bands began to emerge during the 1840s, and quickly grew in popularity. In 1861 England’s first bandstand was built in the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens. These outdoor stages, connected with light-hearted entertainment, quickly became considered a necessity in public parks as the 'good music would free the mind of urban griminess and humanise the industrial landscape'. Traditionally Victorian bandstands were octagonal in shape; ornate and embellished with fine iron work; they were ‘light and airy, painted in bold colours and set against a background of green’.

Probably New Zealand’s first bandstand structure was in Dunedin’s Vauxhall Gardens, which opened in December 1862. Simply called ‘the Rotunda’, it was a ‘round building, of considerable size. The sides are open, but the top is roofed in. It is to serve the purposes of dancing and promenading. In the centre a place is enclosed for the band…’. The use of the term ‘rotunda’ when describing a bandstand appears to be limited to New Zealand and Australia, as research by George Griffiths and Dianne Bardsley indicates.

Carterton’s Band Rotunda

At Carterton’s coronation celebration day, in June 1911, £80 was raised towards the erection of a band rotunda. The community now had sufficient funds to embark on the project.

On 28 June 1911 Milton Rhodes Varnham (1860-1938), of Varnham and Rose, an architectural firm in Masterton, accepted the offer from the Parks Improvement Committee to design a rotunda. Varnham wrote he would be ‘pleased to prepare plans and supervise the construction of same at half the usual fees, viz. two and a half percent’. As a musician of ‘considerable ability’, who was also a conductor for various bands, Varnham was an obvious choice as architect. According to architectural historian David Kernohan the firm was ‘arguably the leading architecture practice of the era in the Wairarapa’. Varnham had designed Masterton’s band rotunda in 1902 and the two rotundas were similar, although Carterton’s was a little less ornamental. Yet newspapers of the day reported that Carterton’s rotunda was to be similar in design to Gisborne’s 1902 rotunda by architect W.J. Quigley. Carterton District Council correspondence, however, records that the style took after the rotunda at Wellington Hospital, but smaller. Indeed the elements of commonality between the Carterton and Wellington Hospital Rotundas are marked.

By the end of September 1911 the design was complete and by mid-October four tenders had been received. The estimated cost was £200. The lowest tender, belonging to Messrs Rose and Mason, was accepted by the Borough Council Committee. Rose and Mason, however, turned down the offered contract. The Council then asked all other tenderers to resubmit. While newspaper reports on the rotunda’s progress fall quiet over the succeeding weeks it seems likely that T.S. Arcus and Sons, Carterton’s own builders and joiners, were contracted for the work. Their tender of £310 had been the second lowest quote during the first round of tenders.

Carterton District Council also corresponded with the firm ‘for the supply of goods and services’ for the rotunda. Other goods and materials were sourced from New Zealand Railways, T.J. Rathbone (a Carterton sawmiller), and Wairarapa Steam Saw and Planing Mills. The extensive cast ironwork on the Rotunda was sourced from the foundry of S. Luke and Company of Wellington. The company was founded in 1876 and grew to be one of the country’s large engineering firms, specialising in ship building, boilermaking and cooking ranges, as well as brass and iron work. Notes written on the specifications indicate that the cast iron work was chosen from a Luke and Sons catalogue to echo the Wellington Hospital rotunda and not specifically designed for the Carterton Band Rotunda.

By 30 January 1912 the ‘Coronation Band Rotunda’ had been completed. On 8 February the rotunda was officially ‘opened’. Carterton was ‘en-fete…reflecting the progress of the town …to the accompaniment of much enthusiasm’. The New Zealand Times detailed the proceedings:

'A large assemblage gathered at Carrington Park, in ideal recreation ground…Here a handsome band rotunda with a concrete foundation, surmounted by iron pillars and a railing, has just been erected to commemorate the coronation of King George V. The rotunda supplies a long-felt want and cost £265, supplemented by a Government grant on a £1 for £1 basis. The Mayor (Mr Frank Feist) declared the rotunda open…[then] the Carterton Brass Band, of twenty-seven members, under Bandmaster R. Crawley, rendered selections.'

In describing the form and construction of the Rotunda, local architect David Kernohan wrote that it speaks ‘of the era and tradition in which it was built…[it] is constructed in a manner that reflects and demonstrates the technical expertise of the time. The use of cast iron for both structural members and for decoration evoke[s] the architecture of the period’.

…and the band played on

The following Sunday afternoon the Carterton Brass Band made use of the new rotunda to play a programme of music. The band’s performances drew large numbers and by December the band was said to be ‘improving in every way’. The conductor also decided to take up residence in Carterton to devote as much time as possible to the band. Visiting bands, such as the Salvation Army Brass Band and Masterton’s Municipal Silver Band, also made use of the rotunda.

Not long after its opening, however, mention of the rotunda faded from newspaper reports. Sadly the Carterton Brass Band also faded from view. It was soon left depleted when the majority of its members left for active war service. In 1916 the band was disbanded and the instruments ‘called in’ so they could be sold to the military authorities at Tauherenikau.

Despite the demise of the band, Carterton’s rotunda was still used for public events. In 1922, for example, when Governor General Lord Jellicoe visited Carterton, the community gathered around the rotunda to hear him speak. That same year a ‘war trophy’, a German howitzer, was presented to the Carterton Borough Council. It was placed on a concrete stand in front of the rotunda. The Council had it removed, however, during the Second World War in case it was mistaken as a gun emplacement.

In May 1937 the rotunda briefly regained its commemorative function when the coronation of King George VI was celebrated there with addresses and hymns. In 1957 a roller skating rink was built in front of the rotunda by the Carterton Jaycees. Carterton’s mayoress cut the ribbon near the bottom of the rotunda’s steps. It is clear from the photograph of the proceedings that in the intervening years the ornamental railheads on the edge of the rotunda’s roof had been removed, as had the cast iron lacework between the brackets of the columns. The commemoration sign ‘Coronation King George V’ had also been removed.

By the end of the twentieth century the rotunda was only used infrequently by community groups or by visiting bands during fairs or festivals. In 2004 Carterton District Council applied for Lottery funding to undertake repairs to the deteriorating structure. The Council and local Rotary Club also contributed toward the cost of the renovation, which was carried out by local builder Steve Ticehurst. Rotten timbers, such as match lining and fascia, were replaced. The low concrete rail that framed the steps was also repaired. After the rotunda was restored it hosted a series of summer concerts in 2006 and 2007.

Although brass band outdoor concerts are no longer fashionable, and band rotundas no longer patronised for their original purpose, over one hundred years since Carterton’s Band Rotunda was built it remains ‘an elegant, although under-utilized addition to Carrington Park’.

Physical Description

The Band Rotunda is located in Carrington Park, set back approximately 60 metres from the main road through Carterton. A path leads from the street towards the rotunda and after about 25 metres opens-out into a larger concreted area in front of the rotunda, which was formerly a roller skating rink. There is a children’s play area behind the rotunda. The park continues behind the play area and is used as a sports field. The entire area is surrounded by mature trees.

The rotunda design was based on a traditional/characteristic octagonal shape and is approximately 25 square metres in area. The base and platform are concrete. Access to the platform is provided by several concrete steps.

A low iron balustrade encircles the platform and provides much of the rotunda’s decorative appeal. A timber handrail tops the balustrade. Eight slender iron columns support the octagonal roof and there is ornamental cast iron fretwork at the top of the columns, branching outwards along the roof’s support beams and across the eaves to its corners. ‘S. Luke and Sons’ name is recorded on a number of the cast iron posts.

When built, the structural beams for the roof were tōtara and rimu and kahikatea was also employed in the structure. The structural beams are hidden from view by a match-lined ceiling. An inspection in 2003 indicated much of the roof was likely original.

The corrugated iron roof rises, with a slightly concave form, to its apex which features a tall finial which bunting was attached to. The finial was initially taller and appears to have been reduced in size due to the timber decaying. Originally, sitting directly above the stairs there was also a sign proclaiming ‘Coronation King George V.’ However, this appears to have been a temporary sign because it is not present in a 1922 photograph of the structure.

Decorative ironwork is located at the top of the columns and from the column to the edge of the roof under the eaves. The roof, comprising eight corrugated iron triangular sections, is topped by a flag pole. The ceiling is constructed of timber.

Comparative analysis

Alexander Turnbull Library’s Music Curator, Dr Michael Brown, is a band rotunda enthusiast: ‘What fascinated me is the diversity of architectural designs of the rotundas… They’re elegant structures and probably our most important form of musical architecture.’ Robyn Burgess noted in her report on the Band Rotunda in Kaiapoi (List no. 3748) that ‘they are part of the fabric of so many communities in much the same way that war memorials are’.

By 2019, 23 band rotundas were on the New Zealand Heritage List, most dating from the early twentieth century. All are Category 2, except the Leamington Domain rotunda in Cambridge (List no. 4193).

In style, contemporaries compared Carterton’s rotunda to Masterton’s in Queen Elizabeth Park, Gisborne’s on the river front and Wellington Hospital’s rotunda, which is no longer extant. Neither Masterton’s nor Gisborne’s band rotundas are on the New Zealand Heritage List. Of course band rotundas, by their very nature, are relatively homogenous; open sides, entry steps, a platform, roof and iron ornamentation. All the rotundas on the List share these common characteristics. For example, the balustrade on Rotorua’s Government Gardens Band Rotunda (List no. 789), appears to be the same design as the balustrade on Carterton’s rotunda. Architect and author, Charles Fearnley noted that this was a common design ‘observed throughout New Zealand as well as in Sydney, Australia’. Catalogues were commonly used by foundries to advertise their products, and in this case, the contract specifications noted that the designs were from a Luke & Sons Catalogue – the posts were no. 14, railing no. 18, brackets no. 12, frieze brackets and frieze no. 28, and cresting (over spouting) was to be the same as Luke supplied for the Wellington Hospital Band Rotunda.

While there are few townships in New Zealand that do not have a rotunda, at least historically, as Robyn Turner remarked, ‘nobody notices a band rotunda until someone wants to remove it’. Often overlooked, band rotundas are small, ornamental mementos of a long-gone era. As fine as any New Zealand example, Carterton’s Band Rotunda stands proudly, taking its place as a reminder of the glory days of band rotundas.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1911 - 1912

1922 - 1984
Removal of some filigree iron work around the roofline, and loss of Coronation signage

2004 - 2006
Restoration including roof repairs, painting and missing cast iron replacement

Construction Details

Concrete; timber; corrugated iron; cast iron

Completion Date

15th October 2019

Report Written By

Susan Irvine and Vivienne Morrell

Information Sources

Bagnall, 1957

A. Bagnall, A History of Carterton, Carterton, 1957

Kernohan, 2003

D. Kernohan, Wairarapa Buildings: Two centuries of New Zealand architecture, Wairarapa Archive, Masterton, 2003

Winter, 2007

Winter, Gareth, The Look of Carterton, Wairarapa Archive 2007

Varnham, M. [Milton] R.

‘Specification and Contract for the Erection of Band Rotunda in Carrington Park’, 29 Sept 1911, original held by Carterton Historical Society

Rabbitts, P.

Bandstands, Shire Publications, Oxford, 2011

Kernohan, D.

‘Band Rotunda, Carrington Park, Carterton’, Conservation Report, 2003a, copy on NZHPT file 12009-644

Other Information

A fully referenced New Zealand Heritage List report is available on request from Central Regional Office of the NZHPT.