Elder Park Rotunda

Elder Park Rotunda

The rotunda was officially opened on November 28,1882. The following day The Observer reported that Mayor E.T. Smith received an ovation at the Town Hall from school children for securing the building of the Torrens Weir. Sir Thomas Elder was equally honoured by witnesses at the opening ceremony of the rotunda: “Such work at the Lake and the Rotunda must be regarded as important aids to the encouragement of outdoor recreation.”

The ground between King William Road and the lake was considered an admirable site for the type of recreation ground frequently seen in continental cities and “when it has been levelled and the edges sloped down to the Torrens bank ... there will be no prettier spot around Adelaide”.

At the opening of the rotunda the Adelaide City Council Brass Band played a specially composed piece of music, the Rotunda March: “The water of the lake, the trees that fringe its banks, the people sauntering along the margin of the water while the boats glide past will together form a most pleasing picture equalling perhaps the attractions of the celebrated sheltered bay in the Botanic Gardens of Sydney.”

The rotunda is a dominant and decorative element of the Torrens Valley and is intimately tied to its development and beautification. Torrens Lake was created in 1881 when the weir was opened, and the transformation of the valley from a series of muddy waterholes to a navigable lake is one of the most enduring and practical testaments to the short-lived South Australian boom period. During this period Adelaide was consolidated, reaching a maturity expressed by the construction of museums, libraries, public buildings and recreational structures.

Plans for a rotunda were initiated by Sir Thomas Elder, who wrote from Scotland in 1881 that it was being made at his expense to be sited in the ground “granted by the Government to the Corporation as a place of recreation and a promenade for the people of the Colony on the banks of the River Torrens”.

The rotunda, manufactured by MacFarlane’s Saracen Foundry in Glasgow, was described as octagonal and 24 feet in diameter, with spandrels and acanopied roof with overhanging eaves, the whole surmounted by a domed cupola and bold finial with cast-iron railings. It was shipped from Great Britain in 1882 and erected by Charles Farr. The floor of the rotunda was raised about 18 feet above the original ground level with steps of granite.

Ever since, the rotunda has been a focal point for recreation and entertainment in Elder Park, later reinforced by the Advertiser Sound Shell and the Cheer-up Hut, which in turn were replaced by the Festival Centre Theatre Complex.


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The rotunda is an excellent example of cast-iron fabrication and is redolent of that era when British cultural aspirations took on permanence in colonial outposts. Its design was repeated in other colonies and copied by various local manufactories.

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Images of Elder Park Rotunda

  • Elder Park Rotunda, 2014
  • Elder Park Rotunda photo.jpeg
Macfarlane's Saracen Foundry
Charles Farr
Building materials
Iron, Cast iron
Architectural styles
2 Victorian Period (c. 1840–c. 1890)
1882 - 1882/11/28
Architecture and design features
deep frieze, spandrel, balustrade, column
Engineering features
Council Ward
Alternative Addresses
Town Acre
Planning Zone or Policy Area
Original owners
Corporation of Adelaide
Original occupant
Later occupant/s
Purposes and use
Gardening, parks and urban space, Park
AS2482 classification
18100 - Historic Sites (unclassified)
Public Access
Access unrestricted
State Heritage ID
ACC Reference No.
DPTI Heritage No.
Certificate of Title No.
CR 5999/492 H105100 S6026
NTSA file exists
Heritage Status
State Heritage listed
State heritage listing
State Heritage listed
Date of State heritage listing
Local heritage listing
Date of Local heritage listing
NTSA listing
NTSA classified
Date of NTSA listing
Section 23 (4) crtiteria
Risk status
Historic Themes
3.1 Economic Cycles
3.1.5 Farming Boom
6.2 Recreation and Entertainment
6.2.7 Enjoying the natural environment
6.5 Significant Events
6.5.2 Public spectacles and celebrations
Sir Thomas Elder
Australian Curriculum references
Year 5: The Australian Colonies


  • ACA, Annual Reports, 1881, pp. 107-8, 1882, pp. 27-9, Digest of Proceedings, 22 August
  • 1881, 19 September 1881, 27 November 1882, 29 November 1882; Observer, 29 November
  • 1882; South Australian Register, 23 November 1882, 11 August 1883.

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