The Lambton Park rotunda was completed quickly compared to the park in which it resides, whose establishment took over a decade. In contrast, the idea of a rotunda was first raised by Alderman Dent in December 1889 and less than twelve months later in November 1890 it was formally opened. That’s not to say the project was without difficulties.
First there was considerable argument about its location. Originally it was to be on the corner of Morehead and Howe streets, but there was concern that noise from the trams on Howe St would drown out public speakers and musical performances. Eventually a decision was made to locate it further into the park, in its current aesthetic position in line with Pearson Street.
Construction was delayed by some very bad weather, but then a storm of a more personal nature erupted in the letters page of the newspaper. Mr W. Conn suggested that the rotunda have a plaque expressing gratitude to Thomas Croudace for his work in establishing Lambton Park. This elicited some rather spiteful letters in response, mocking Mr Conn and making negative insinuations towards Mr Croudace. The idea of the plaque was quietly dropped, and instead, in the latticework above the Corinthian columns adjoining the entrance steps were placed the words “W.T. Dent, Mayor, Erected 1890”, still there today.
At a final cost of £361, construction of the rotunda was completed by the contractor Timothy Boyle in September 1890. However it was decided to postpone the formal opening until an ongoing miner’s strike was resolved, when the populace would be in a more festive mood. With the miners’ dispute eventually settled, the rotunda was officially opened on Saturday 29th November 1890 by Mr. Brunker the Minister for Lands. The ceremony included a brass band performance and a demonstration of Northumbrian sword dancing, to celebrate this handsome addition to Lambton Park.
A close up of the inscriptions in the iron brackets at the top of the columns on either side of the entrance steps.
The article above was first published in the November 2015 edition of the Lambton Local.
Timeline of events
Note that the date shown is the date of the newspaper article, not the date of the events they describe.
|25 Dec 1889||Alderman Dent first suggests the idea of erecting a rotunda in the park.|
|3 Feb 1890||Public meeting voicing concerns over the proposed site of the rotunda.|
|27 Feb 1890||Tender for construction by Mr Timothy Boyle accepted. Final site of rotunda chosen to be in line with Pearson Street.|
|12 May 1890||Construction delayed by “very bad weather”.|
|16 May 1890||Letter from W. Conn suggesting that the rotunda have a plaque of gratitude to Thomas Croudace.|
|17 May 1890||An anonymous letter, mocking W. Conn’s suggestion that a plaque of gratitude to T. Croudace be added to the rotunda.|
|19 May 1890||W. Conn’s response.|
|21 May 1890||Another anonymous letter criticising W. Conn, and suggesting that the idea for the plaque came from another gentleman during a walk on the Commonage with Mr. Conn. Although not named, it seems clear from the references to financial valuations, that the writer is insinuating that Thomas Croudace was the other gentleman, that he was vainly proposing the plaque to himself.|
|22 May 1890||W. Conn’s response.|
|28 May 1890||Request from the parks committee that the rotunda foundation have a plaque with the Mayor’s name, and the date of erection.|
|31 Jul 1890||Official opening of the rotunda is to be “held over” until after the celebrations for the electric light opening.|
|20 Sep 1890||Construction completed. Opening celebrations waiting for the termination of the miner’s strike.|
|26 Sep 1890||Detailed description of the construction of the rotunda.|
|19 Nov 1890||Electric lighting installed in the rotunda.|
|20 Nov 1890||First meeting to convene a committee for raising funds to liquidate the debt. The rotunda cost £361 to build.|
|1 Dec 1890||Report on the opening ceremony, held on Saturday 29th November 1890.|