Next time you are waiting for your turn at the intersection of King Street and Domain Avenue, glance across at the Timaru Gardens nearby. You will see a flat area of garden beds and towards the back of these are some landscaped stone steps flanked by beautifully rusticated iron urns. Sitting in front of these, amongst the beds is our Queen Victoria Jubilee Fountain.
The fountain was originally located on the small reserve in King George Place, opposite the council buildings. In 1960 the monument was moved from that site and re-erected in this south west corner of the Gardens. The steps were designed and built at the same time to create a backdrop for the Victorian styled sunken garden. Although it is neat and bare in its current winter state, it is full to overflowing in the spring and summer months with seasonal plantings in the formal beds which put on a fabulous show of bright colours set off by the green landscape of the wider gardens behind.
Queen Victoria ascended the throne on 20 June 1837. Her Golden Jubilee was widely celebrated by Colonies throughout the Empire on 20 June 1887, the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of her accession. In New Zealand and in many far flung colonies memorials to Queen Victoria appeared in the form of statues and fountains to mark the event including our own Jubilee Fountain.
On 26 September 1907 our then Prime Minister, Sir Joseph Ward marked an important symbolic shift in New Zealand’s perceptions of nationhood when he read the declaration of our Dominion status. The change from Colony to Dominion was one that was one that had little practical effect but Dominion status was more about perceptions – and perceptions mattered in those changing times. He hoped by doing so it would remind the world that New Zealand was an important player in its own right.
It’s a subtle reminder of our colonial past, nestled quietly into a lovely corner of our town, one that also overlooks a busy intersection where our busy, modern lives are on view, hustling and bustling by. A rather nice juxtaposition.