Surrey Gardens are acknowledged by the council as having “more history in its 1.4ha than any other park in the City of Boroondara”. [REF: https://www.boroondara.vic.gov.au/recreation-arts/parks-and-gardens/surrey-gardens]
A key feature is of course The Shrine, commemorating local servicemen from world War 1. Many residents will have attended the ANZAC Day services held there in recent years. However, only residents of longstanding would remember another key element that disappeared in the early 1970’s.
Like many other gardens laid out in the early 20th century, these gardens had a rotunda or bandstand. Known as the John Gray Memorial Rotunda, it was erected in 1912 by the Surrey Hills Progress Association to commemorate John Gray, “one of Surrey Hills most highly respected and revered citizens”, who died in 1909.
Whilst many rotundas of the era were octagonal, this one had a distinctive domed cupola, clad in copper. This has been replicated in the new build, but using modern material for the cupola. The original was elevated on an enclosed timber base, with a room beneath it used by many community groups, including the brass band for its rehearsals. Its builder, Clarence Montgomery, was almost certainly a member. He moved to Surrey Hills from Koroit, where he was bandmaster, and is thought to have played the trombone.
It’s a long time since concept plans were tabled at a SHPA meeting, and those living nearby have wondered just how long the build was going to take, but it’s been worth the wait! All that remains is some landscaping to be completed around the rotunda’s perimeter. The display beds in the gardens have been planted out ready for spring blooms. So, let’s hope that it won’t be too long before we can again enjoy musical performances in the Surrey Gardens.
Thanks to Surrey Hills Heritage Collection for permission to use historic photo - SHP0847; current photo by Sue Barnett.