History & heritage  |  11 Mar 2020

A $1.5 million project to restore Christchurch’s heritage Thomas Edmonds Band Rotunda on the banks of the Avon River is set to start this week

Under the Christchurch City Council rebuild project, the rotunda will be fully reinstated – complete with the original 70-tonne copper-sheathed dome – in Cambridge Terrace.

The Canterbury Earthquake Appeal Trust has donated $1 million towards the reinstatement.

The rotunda sustained major earthquake-related damage in 2010 and 2011, leaving only the dome in one piece, along with the entrance steps.

The restored rotunda will be used as a performance venue and is due to reopen in early 2021.

 A gift to the people of Christchurch from Thomas Edmonds – the man behind the Edmonds Cookery Book and Sure to Rise Baking Powder – the classical-style rotunda was built in 1929.

Head of Parks Andrew Rutledge says the rotunda will bring music back to the riverbank, operating as a performance venue. “We are investing in the area by restoring such an important historic building to its former glory – and in a much stronger form – to again take centre stage alongside the Avon River,” Mr Rutledge says.

“The rotunda is a major asset for the city, offering people a sense of place and familiarity in a rapidly changing environment. It will be the centrepiece of the riverside precinct.”

Designed by Victor Hean, the rotunda was one of several structures funded by Edmonds to mark 50 years of business in the city.

The River Precinct – near the Margaret Mahy Family Playground – features several Edmonds-linked heritage landmarks, including the neighbouring Pavilion, the Edmonds Clock Tower on the corner of Madras Street and Oxford Terrace, the Telephone Cabinet and the River Wall.

“It will once again be an important reminder of the past but a tourist attraction for the future,” Mr Rutledge says.  

“It presents a strong link to our local history but opens the door to a unique precinct that will draw more people to this part of the city centre.”

The reinstated rotunda – a category 2 historic place – will include a curved staircase.

A brass band enthusiast, Edmonds was a strong supporter of the local band in Woolston where he originally owned a grocery store.

An historic photo of the Thomas Edmonds Band Rotunda. Image from Christchurch City Libraries. CCL-PhotoCD09-IMG0053.