Horological Snaps from the immediate Brisbane area taken by our Club Members.
The Museum of Lands, Mapping & Surveying
This museum located at 317 Edward St. has an impressive display of exhibits relating to the surveying of Queensland along with the maps created. Even better it has three notable regulators.
The clock on the left is a Brisbane Synchronome Master clock that was used to provide the standard time service in Queensland from the mid 1930’s to the mid 1970’s. It was located on top of the Queensland Savings Bank in George St.
The middle clock was made by J C Cochran of Brisbane. It is a Sidereal clock built in 1871 and was used by the Trigonometrical Survey Department of Brisbane as an observatory clock.
The clock on the right (of most interest to me) was made by Victor Kullberg of London - one of England’s premier chronometer makers. It was ordered by Queensland as the new mean time clock for the Standard Time Act (the first in Australia).
The clock’s main role was to regulate the lowering of the new time ball installed on top of the Windmill at 1pm daily. It operated from 1895 – 1930. It is a credit to the Museum that these clocks have not been lost enabling a valuable part of Brisbane's history to be preserved.
The Southport Memorial Street Clock.
On the intersection of Nerang and Scarborough Streets, Southport an unusual clock with lights can be found. It was built in 1953 as a memorial to the local men who fought and died during WW1 and WW2. This 4-dial clock in a square box made by a Melbourne firm, has a synchronous movement ticking over every minute. Above the clock are 5 Victorian styled streetlights – 4 round the outside & one higher globe in the centre. Beside this clock is a stone memorial to Captain James Cook the voyage of discovery in 1768 – 1771. It was built by the Gold Coast Rotarians for the Bi-centennial year for peace in 1988.
John Heron 1772 – 1837 from Greenock in Scotland.
A club member can trace his genealogy back to this renown silverware, clock and watchmaker of Greenock - a small town 32km from Glasgow on the mouth of the Clyde river. By chance two years ago, a John Heron clock was listed for sale in Sydney. This clock is now reunited back in the hands of family as a treasured heirloom.
An 8day mahogany cased Grandfather clock c1810 with a recoil escapement, elegant Roman numeral dial with seconds and date sub dials and a bell to strike the hours.
John Heron, chronometer maker, submitted several of his examples to the Greenwich Observatory for testing. This letter written in 1801 accompanying one of his clocks stated he was “well-known as a chronometer maker to most of the reputable makers in London”.
John also had Greenock’s Observatory purpose-built for him in 1819. The accuracy of his chronometers could now be checked. Free of the customary feu-duty, he only paid a small rent. The octagonal building had two apartments – the Western part was a library and sitting room, the Eastern part was the observatory room containing the telescopes and a sidereal regulator. This clock had the new detent or detached escapement providing the accuracy needed for astronomic study.
Programmers for Synchronous Clocks.
Synchronous Master clocks were able to link with slave/impulse clocks in as many rooms/offices in your building as required. A Programmer could also be added to the Master clock to enable bells, whistles or sirens in the building to automatically sound at pre-arranged times. Schools and workplaces were obvious choices.
Example 1 – At Brisbane Girls Grammar School in the main foyer is a beautifully made Silky Oak Synchronome of Brisbane installed in 1920. Standing over 2m. it served as the main school clock until 1992 with the programmer used to trigger the bell system. Pins could be inserted into the Programmer time dial for the bells to ring as required. The white envelope stored these pins. On this programmer one can see the pins set off bells every 45 minutes. Morning break was set for 11am to 11.15am. In 1993 the clock was retired and restored to a time function only as a reminder of past days.
Example 2 - The University of Queensland Physics Museum has a Programmer (made by Synchronome Co. Ltd. of Middlesex England) which operated the bells in the Parnell Building from 1955. Used in conjunction with the Master clock (made by the Electrical Co. of Australasia in Brisbane), the duration of the bell ring was controlled by a mercury timer (seen in the top left corner). The two dial Master was an electrically reset gravity escapement pendulum clock providing half minute current pulses to operate slave dials in lecture rooms and drive this bell programmer.
Two Interesting Clocks Discovered in Suburbia.
Camelas Clock Tower at Water St. Red Hill.
A working metal cased synchronous clock in Woolloongabba.
Adina – A Brisbane family-based clock and watch company.
Founded in 1971 by Bob Menzies, Adina has become successful Australia-wide. Although mainly watch focussed, they do have an impressive catalogue of clocks including wall, mantle, alarm, Grandfather and desk clocks in both quartz and mechanical.
The ‘Penrod’ Memorial Clock at Brisbane’s Anglican Church Grammar School. ACGS or ‘Churchie’, was built in 1913 of mainly red brick in Gothic style. It is a prestigious independent day and boarding school for boys in East Brisbane. The clock on the Young Building was donated in 1970 by parents Jim and Elizabeth Schmidt as a tribute to their son, Penrod.
This clock set in a brick wall overlooking the oval and tennis courts had not worked for several decades. Enter ‘Adina’ and Bob Menzies a Churchie Old Boy who was commissioned in 2017 to repair the clock. He put in a Belgium made master and slave electric system specially designed for extreme weather and high accuracy with a GPS allowing the clock to reset itself in the event of power outages. The hands (minute hand is 1m) and numbers were of laser cut steel – originally painted white but now in ‘Churchie Cream’ – an official Dulux colour. It was up and running last year 2019.
Two other Adina clocks in Brisbane - a double-sided electric Adina clock is hanging in the entrance hall to the University of Queensland.
Easts Hockey Club in Carina, Brisbane, has a large Adina electric clock featured on their score board.
The Southport School (TSS) has an impressive clock tower.
TSS an Anglican primary and secondary day and boarding school for boys, was established in 1901. Built in the Scottish Baronial style, the clock tower was a later design by architects Atkinson and Conrad opening in 1926. It was also used as an American army hospital during WW11.
The clock itself was built by Gillett & Johnston of Croydon, dated 1926, and is still hand wound. It has only 3 dials - the fourth side is clockless as it faced South onto then farmland and so was deemed unnecessary.
The clock strikes the Westminster chimes with four bells for the 15-minute chimes and one large bell for the hour. The clock room accessed by a steep ladder has been off-limits for over 50 years. But boarders who once lived in a dormitory beneath the tower have been up into this room as a dare and signatures of their visit can be seen. For more information and pictures of this clock go to the Gold Coast Bulletin web site here.
Flavelle Bros. & Co. of Brisbane and Sydney.
The fact that many jewellers had arrived in Brisbane from the 1860’s was directly linked to the local gold discoveries in and around Gympie. They came to test, weigh and buy the gold and make jewellery and watches. One such jeweller was Henry Flavelle who became a worthy rival to great Australian firms such as Hardy Bros. and Wallace Bishop.
Henry Flavelle (1820 – 1899) a successful jeweller, watchmaker and optician was born in Dublin. Emigrating to Sydney in 1842 he joined George Brush, working as an optician. In 1850 he set up a partnership in George Street as a jeweller with his elder brother John, his London based supplier. They traded as Flavelle Bros & Co. opening a Brisbane branch in Queen Street in 1861 and a Rockhampton branch in 1894. The brothers were joined by John Roberts in 1868 hence a name change to Flavelle Roberts & Co. Another partner, Robert Sankey joined in 1892, resulting in another name change to Flavelle Roberts & Sankey. The Flavelle business survived to 1932.
Like many jewellers, Flavelle made his own one penny trading tokens – now very collectible. They had a kangaroo and emu on the back of each coin. His presentation silver and jewellery were also very sought after e.g. the ceremonial silver-bladed spade he made in 1873 that turned the first sod for the Brisbane to Ipswich railway. He imported English, French and American clocks, made 18ct gold chronograph watches and was a general supplier of surveying instruments, spectacles, harmoniums, fire/thief proof safes and telescopes. He was also responsible for the Gympie Town Hall clock in 1890.
Here is a fine example of a Flavelle Bros & Co. English fusee movement mahogany cased wall clock – C1861-1868.
And here a case only with the dial stamped Flavelle Bros & Roberts (his next partner) C1870’s/1880’s.
A Night Watchman’s Clock made by Gent & Co. of Leicester.
Recently I came across a Gents Watchman’s clock with a plaque reading Barton White & Co. Brisbane. Located in Edison Lane they were the first to supply electricity to Brisbane in 1888 specifically to the GPO and the Government Printing Office. Such clocks would be located in the main office enabling the manager to track the night watchman. The clock has an 8-day fusee movement with 6 stations that can be plotted on to a chart. I suspect a drawer has been added to the base.
Established in 1872, Gents was a well-known manufacturer of electrical equipment especially electric clocks used in railway stations and public buildings. A Night Watchman’s clock, or Tell-Tale clock, could record from 3 to 100 stations. Doors, gates or rooms would be checked each night by a watchman to ensure they were locked. During his rounds he would insert a key into a contact box which was wired back to the main clock. Turning the key would activate a marker to leave an ink dot on the revolving paper chart. This paper record would then be used to verify the number of places the watchman had visited or missed on his rounds.
Clocks at Parliament House, Brisbane.
Clocks have always played a major role in Parliament. To keep politicians on schedule, both for arriving and for speeches, was always a dilemma. Having every clock reading the same time was solved by the arrival of the synchronous electric system used from the beginning of the 20thC.
Brisbane’s early Parliament had a master system that controlled over 200 clocks. In the 1970’s the old clocks were replaced and in 2015 a new digital master system from France was installed. Interestingly the backup system for timing speeches is an hourglass!
On Open Day, I visited this three-storey sandstone building to see any early remaining timepieces. In many rooms small round synchronome wall clocks, not working, were still displayed. Two of the oldest clocks, now hanging at either end of the Legislative Chamber, once sat on top of the flogging posts outside the convict barracks in Queen Street where early Parliament sat in the 1860’s. The clocks label – “Baynes London & Moreton Bay’ reflect Brisbane’s early history, when it was called the Morton Bay Convict Settlement. A pleasure to visit this 1992 Heritage Listed building.
The University of Queensland Physics Department Museum.
The centrepiece of the University of Queensland, the Forgan Smith building was erected between 1937/39. A striking example of the Art Deco style, it is famous for its beautiful mix of lavender, cream and brown sandstone with cloistered structures and a central five-storey tower featuring a synchronome clock - still in working order.
At the museum in the UQ Physics Parnell building, completed in 1955, houses a collection of interesting scientific memorabilia. Of note is the Pitch Drop Experiment which holds the world record for the longest running lab experiment, started by Professor Parnell in 1927.
Horological items in this museum mainly deal with the Synchronome Electric system used by this University with some working examples. Several master clocks, a program timer, an atomic clock and other interesting electrical related items can be found. Credit to one of our members Norm Heckenberg who was active in setting up this display. Well worth the visit – open weekdays.
St. John’s College is located on the same campus - a residence for 300 students. Here is a French styled copper domed clock built with wood-fired bricks from Warwick, erected in 1999. It is the only clock tower at any Queensland university. The clock has a Swiss made movement and chimes the hours using Belgian made bells. At 8am, 1pm and 9pm they peal out the full Westminster chimes.
Brisbane Maritime Museum
The HMAS Diamantina in the Dry Dock and in its engine room a Smiths Astral with Begg and Grieg engine room controls.
This museum is alongside the South Brisbane heritage listed Dry Dock and the HMAS Diamantina – a River Class Frigate. The Dry Dock closed in 1972 after 90 years of maintaining and repairing over 50 submarines and 100 warships. From 1900 – 1925, the dry dock was also Brisbane’s championship swimming venue where a world record for the 100yards was set in 1903 by R. Cavill.
The museum, opened in 1971, has many displays including model ships, nautical equipment, lighthouses, exhibitions and artefacts, including some interesting clocks relating to maritime history.
International Time Recorder, London Bundy Clock for up to 150 employees.
Rolf Gerdes 8 Bell Clock
located in the Main Office
Smiths bakelite electric also on the Diamantina
Thomas Mercer chronometer in the main museum
The Masonic Temple at 311 Ann Street, Brisbane - Heritage Listed in 1992.
On Brisbane Open Day the Temple was made available for anyone interested in strolling through this spectacular four-storey building. Built between 1928-30, at a cost of £103 000, (plus £10 000 for the silky oak, maple and cedar furniture), this is an imposing structure. The entry facade boasts six fluted Corinthian columns. Once inside, the beauty of this building unfolds. The Urn of Remembrance is spectacular and equally awesome the top floor where you will find the Grand Lodge room that can seat 1100 people.
The clocks in this Temple are one of the few examples left of an operating system installed in 1930 by Synchronome Pty Ltd. Brisbane. The master clock controlled 11 slaves in various rooms. It was replaced by an electronically controlled master in 1990 which operate the slaves today. The original master clock awaits restoration. The large clock above the entrance to the Grand Hall features an elaborate case carved out of a single silky oak tree trunk.
Brisbane Tramway Museum
Brisbane trams commenced operation in 1895 and were retired in April 1969. Fortunately, a few enthusiasts had the foresight to lease 4 hectares of land from the City Council at Ferny Grove to collect, house and display tram memorabilia. Our club visited the museum in September 2019 and had a thoroughly interesting day. The museum is open only on a Sunday from 12.30 to 4pm.
Of special interest was the tramway clock system, installed in 1927 by Synchronome Electric Brisbane. There were two systems, costing in total £88 – one at Fortitude Valley, the other at Woolloongabba, each with a master clock linked to several slave clocks at signal stations throughout Brisbane city. Each of these tiny stations had to fitted out with a toilet! The master clock shown came from the Woolloongabba station. The Museum was also in the throes of restoring two Bundy clocks – one an English oak Time Recorder, the other a green metal Cincinnati Time Recorder.
The Skyring Clock Collection at Pine Rivers Heritage Museum, Petrie, Brisbane.
The Museum here has over 60 mechanical clocks, 48 of these the work of Roy Skyring. Donated to the Museum by Roy’s widow, Olive in 2007, there are some rare and interesting examples. Roy learned his trade as an aircraft instrument maker and fitter in 12 Squadron of the RAF from 1941–47.
These pictures give some idea of the high quality of his clocks - a rare lighthouse, Congreve, skeleton, grandfather, scissors and one of only three copies in the world of a 1776 Merlin Band clock. A must visit.
A physics and chemistry teacher at Bundaberg State High from 1958-1980, his hobby of repairing clocks and watches for friends and making unobtainable parts in his workshop earned him an unmatched reputation. Retiring in the early 1980’s Roy started to build his own clocks and model steam trains. He won several prizes for his skeleton clocks at the Brisbane Exhibition, and also built grandfather clocks – the wooden cases as well as the movements. Our club was involved in moving and setting up the Museum display in 2007.
Up-Date on the Old Windmill Tower and Time Ball, Brisbane.
On Brisbane Open House Day this historic tower, built by convicts in 1828 to grind maize and wheat and to punish the convicts on a treadmill, was made available for tours. Climbing the narrow spiral staircase was a challenge but then to stand in the observation room at the top within hands-reach of the actual time ball that had been installed in 1861 was special. Parts of the winding mechanism still exist.
While waiting downstairs, a video on the towers history was being screened. I was very surprised and excited to spot a regulator clock standing in the corner of a room with a film projector on a bench - dating this scene to the 1920/30’s – just after the time ball was mothballed in 1930. Inscribed on the dial is the name Victor Kullberg.
Victor was a Swedish clock maker who lived from 1824 to 1890. Moving to London in 1851 he became one of England’s premier chronometer makers, winning many awards. The actual regulator is now on display at the Museum of Lands Mapping & Surveying, 317 Edward Street along with two other regulators one by Synchronome, the other a J Cochran Sidereal clock.
The Telstra Museum
This museum has on show 150 years of Brisbane telegraphic and telephone history. One can see switchboards, photographs, telephones, teleprinters, morse senders, receivers and Post Office memorabilia. Also there is a small theater with a 20 minute review of the history of this industry.
Of interest to the club is a collection of horological items. Several Brisbane Synchronous Electric clocks are displayed - a Gents of Leicester, a Magneta Ltd of Leatherhead in Surrey plus time clocks for trunk calls. It is truly an unforgettable hands-on experience with guides happy to explain all. The display can be viewed at 3 Oriel Road Clayfield Brisbane. A donation to view is appreciated - open only on Wednesdays.
Synchronome Electrical – acknowledging a remarkable Brisbane clock company.
Alfred George Jackson (1863 – 1935) was born in Manchester England and trained as an electrical engineer. He arrived in Sydney in 1886 and moved to Brisbane in 1891. In 1897 he set up a business in George St. importing electrical goods.
In 1903 he purchased for £500 the rights to the Synchronome name developed by Frank Hope-Jones of London. In 1904 he set up the Synchronome Electrical Company of Australasia in Ann Street.
This electrical clock system was one of the last developments in mechanical clocks. It was low cost, reliable, and enabled the synchronisation of a network of slave dials. These were connected in series operating on a low voltage pulse from the master clock every 30 seconds.
Jackson was a leader in this new technology and with limited competition, sold 407 master clocks and 2727 slaves between 1903 and 1957. Over half of these were installed in Queensland. Ideal for use in schools, railways, factories, Government offices and public towers, the company proved very popular in Australia and N.Z. They also sold a wide range of related products including switchboards, dynamos, school bells and fire alarms. The advent of quartz clocks in the 1970’s, signalled the end for Synchronome Electric.
‘Snapshots’ has identified many Synchronome electric clocks in Brisbane including the first at the South Brisbane Town Hall in 1904 and arguably the finest put into the City Hall in 1929. They usually can be identified by the loud ‘clunk’ every 30 seconds when the minute hand moves and by their spade hour hand. Today many movements now run on a synchronous motor, meaning the hands move continuously.
This example from the Brisbane Police museum was used to regulate all clocks installed in the Police barracks in Petrie Street from 1939 to 1989 - it is awaiting an overhaul.
Nudgee College Clock
Nudgee College has a freestanding two dial clock mounted on a 3m. metal pillar. Brought from England in 1895 by the Queensland Government, it was exhibited at the 1897 Queensland International Exhibition in Brisbane. Purchased by Heindorff & Co. in 1897 it stood on the footpath in Queen Street for many years. When it came up for auction in 1917 the College purchased it. However the installation on school grounds did not occur till 1928 when Synchronome Brisbane became involved. A working clock it ticks over every 60 seconds. Now an iconic structure at the school, the boys fondly call it “Big Ben”.
Herga & Co. – a Prominent Brisbane Jeweller. Part 1.
In 1888, Alphonse Herga opened a watch repair shop in Queen Street. In 1894 he apprenticed Frederick Bright and Herga & Co. was formed. Whilst in Queen St. they established an industry specialising in chronographs, repeaters, perpetual calendars and importing ladies & gents watches.
In 1927 a new shop was opened at 181 Edward Street and Frederick's son Edward was apprenticed. They were now importing barometers and electric clocks from England and also dealing with the rating and correction of daily time by electric signals from the Observatory. The task of supplying Queensland schools and Government Departments with fine wall clocks was another important responsibility.
From 1939 to 1945 they repaired navigation instruments for the American Navy at night and continued with their normal work during the day. By the 60's the focus changed to producing surveying equipment.
In 1972 Herga & Co. was appointed to be the Australian dealership for Geodimeter. Today this 4th generation business has morphed into a global electronic industry dealing in UPG and Geosystems.
Part 2 - Examples of Herga & Co Clocks found in Brisbane.
From the early 1900’s, Herga & Co’s main claim to fame was in a very successful nation-wide industry importing English clock movements and placing them into Australian made timber cases – notably Silky Oak, Cedar and Maple. Their wall clocks were in high demand in Queensland schools and Government Departments.
Today, Herga clocks have become quite collectible. They are uniquely Australian and can still be found hanging in many establishments.
The Brisbane Police Museum opposite Roma Street Railway Station, has two Herga & Co. Brisbane drop dial school clocks on display. The larger Cedar clock (right) came from the Petrie Terrace Brisbane Police Depot - the smaller Silky Oak (left) is from the Morven Police station, 665km NW of Brisbane, and gifted to the museum in 1986.
The Brisbane Supreme Courts legal heritage collection has a Herga clock located in their library, level 12, George Street. Made of cedar, it survived the 1968 fire that had gutted most of the building. Rescued from a skip bin when the building was being demolished in 1976, it was donated to the Courts collection in 2018.
A coffee break at the Little Tree Café, Cavendish Road reveals yet another survivor. This large 70cm dial Herga fusee wall clock once hung in the old Brisbane Law Courts in George Street.
Thomas Given of Ipswich
I came across this elegant 1.5m drumhead regulator clock hanging on the wall of a local business. It features a deadbeat escapement and a mercury compensated pendulum. The name Thomas Given Ipswich inscribed on the dial dates it back to the late 19th Century.
Given's Jewellery shop in Ipswich. Picture from 1880's.
Mercury compensated pendulums were designed to compensate for temperature variations. This invention dates back to George Graham in 1721. The way it works is basically simple. When temperature rises, the metal pendulum rod gets longer but the mercury in the two glass vials expands upwards so keeping the period of swing constant.
Thomas, a migrant from Ireland arrived in Australia in 1855 where he settled in Ipswich establishing a business in Brisbane Street as a jeweller and watchmaker. He passed away in 1890.
The RNA Showgrounds Clock
The annual Brisbane Exhibition, the “Ekka”, held in August, has been running since 1876. Here the agricultural lifestyle of our rural workers is brought to the city with animal and fashion parades, wood chopping, equestrian events, a side-show alley and showbags. It has become one of Brisbane’s most popular attractions with over 400,000 visitors over the 10 days it operates.
Of interest is the clock spire atop the main ringside grandstand. The latter was erected in 1906 at a cost of £6248, with a seating capacity of 2,250 people. In 1923 it was named the John MacDonald Stand and was heritage listed in 2003. The timber spire supports a cupola (dome) and a four-faced electric clock. Information on the history of this clock is sparse, so any comments would be appreciated.
The Workshops Rail Museum Ipswich
Covering 24 hectares this site has been operating as a rail con-struction and maintenance facility since the early 1800’s. The home for blacksmiths, metal workers, painters and carpenters, the Workshops have played a vital role in Queensland Rail. Over 200 steam locos have been built here. In 2002 the Workshops opened as a museum experience with 15 interactive exhibitions, a childs playground featuring Thomas the Tank Engine, model railways, restored locomotives, carriages and other related memorabilia.
The club visited here in 2017. For many, memories of our steam days were reignited and the kids were also totally entertained. Railways have always relied on the accuracy of time-tables. It was not therefore unexpected to see many examples of early time-pieces.
On display there were several synchronome slave clocks, a master clock and a conductor’s pocket watch. A memorable day for all.
Ithaca War Memorial Clock.
This stone memorial clock tower located on the corner of Latrobe and Enoggera Terrace, was designed and built by Arthur Thurlow of a local masonry firm. In 1918 the local community decided to raise funds to build a war memorial hall but the Council was worried about ongoing maintenance costs for this idea. By 1922 a decision was made to use the £650 raised to erect a stone clock tower in honour of the 130 local men who died on active service during WW1. The 4-dial clock, manufactured by the Synchronome Electric Company of Brisbane had its master clock next door in the Ithaca Fire Station. This type of memorial is rare and the only one in Brisbane. Heritage listed in 1992 it is still operational.
The Windmill Tower, Spring Hill, Brisbane - once a Time Ball Station.
Main Details - Built by convicts in 1828, it was the home of a time ball. The Tower is a circular stone and brick structure, standing 16m. with a base of 8.4m in diameter, tapering to 4.5m at the top. Here there is an observation platform with a hexagonal timber cabin. Starting as a treadmill it became an Observatory with a time ball operating to 1930 and then had many uses including night fire spotting and television transmission. Heritage listed in 1992, it remains one of Queensland’s oldest structures and a valuable monument to Brisbane’s history of time keeping.
Reason Built - The tower was first used to grind wheat and corn. It had two sets of millstones, one using sails to power the grinder - the other using convicts on a treadmill. But with little wind for the sails, the treadmill became the only power source - a very cruel form of convict punishment. The grinding of grain in this mill had ceased by 1849.
Time Keeper Facts - Its location in the CBD, high above the Brisbane river, made it ideal for use as a signal station and Observatory (see picture from late 19thC. above). From 1855 shipping news from the mouth of the Brisbane river about 15km away, was sent to the Tower. In 1861 it had a time ball added to allow watches and clocks to be set/regulated. At 1pm the time ball would drop based on observations relayed by telegraph from Sydney. In 1865 a flag staff was erected to inform the public of ships entering the Brisbane river (the information relayed by telegraph from Fort Lytton). The time ball was replaced with a time gun between 1866 and 1894 to fire the 1pm time signal. Reports that Ipswich 30km away could hear the canon fire! In 1894 a new electrically controlled time ball returned. In 1902 it was connected to the telegraph at Roma Street railway station. But modern technology had made time balls round the world unnecessary. The ball ceased to drop in 1930 with the new City Hall clock becoming the main time regulator for Brisbane.
South Brisbane Railway Station Clock
This Renaissance-styled masonry station was built in 1891 and is the second oldest station in Brisbane after Roma Street. It was the terminus of the standard gauge railway from Sydney to Brisbane until 1878 when the Merivale Bridge was built allowing Roma Street to become the interstate terminus. In 1992 it was heritage listed.
The notable feature of this station is that it still retains much of its original platform furniture and the original clock hanging on the front entrance. This Brisbane Synchronome Time Systems clock has been a permanent feature for over 100 years as the 3 pictures from 1902, 1968 and 2019 show.
A Quirky Find in Brisbane - the "Little Jewel" in Boondall.
In Sean Street Boondal it would be hard to miss this 'palace'. It is the brainchild of Francesco Fera, an Italian who moved to Brisbane in 1977 and decided to build his own home with a time line of 35 years. The castle features his love of clocks with a large 1m. exterior clock flanked by the Australian and Italian flags, many inside and even one on the boot of his 1936 Pontiac. Seeing is believing. Check out the video link and marvel at his detailed work both inside and out.
St.Andrew's Anglican Church Lutwyche Road, Brisbane
This imposing brickwork church was designed by Melbourne architect Louis Wilson. Opened on 8th August 1926, the 18m tower with a flag pole and cross on top included a clock with 13 bells struck by the clock hammers. This was rare for Churches in Brisbane. The bells were made by Lough-borough Bell Foundry in England and can be rung manually by the Churches active group of campanologists.
The tower clock has a 90cm dial controlled by a synchronome master clock. Both striking and chiming could be switched on or off at any time although today the chime is inactive and unfortunately so is the clock.
Kirilpa Library Tower Clock, Boundary Road, West End, Brisbane.
The very first 'Snapshot' dealt with the WW1 Anzac Memorial clock in Blenheim NZ. It seems appropriate with Anzac Day only a few days away (25th. April) that another be featured - this time in Brisbane.
After WW1, communities all over Australia were planning and funding memorials to those who had served and paid the ultimate sacrifice. In West End, the Ladies War Memorial Committee were actively raising funds to build a memorial clock and bell tower (estimated cost £3500). The School of Arts Committee were also requesting a library. In 1928 the Brisbane City Council approved both ideas using City architect Alfred Foster as designer (who also designed the Fortitude Valley Baths). On completion in 1929 it became the first purpose built Council library in Queensland.
The 4-dial chiming mechanical clock was made in England as requested by the Ladies Committee. It plays the West-minster chimes and was one of only 3 bell tower clocks in Brisbane. Complaints in the 1980's saw the chimes decommissioned, though since 2007 the bells have been allowed to ring again from 9am to 6pm on weekdays and 10 to 6 on weekends.
The small but imposing Georgian style building was named 'Kirilpa Library', which is the Aboriginal name for the area meaning 'place of water rats'.
It was heritage listed in 2007. A brass plaque inside the doorway lists the names of the 87 fallen soldiers from the district. "Lest We Forget".
The Brisbane Arcade
On your next visit to the CBD Mall, a visit to this stunning 95 year old art deco arcade that links Adelaide with Queen Streets is well worth the time. Designed by Richard Gailey Junior, it was built between 1923/24 at a cost of £70,000.
There are two synchronome electric clocks hanging at either end with a distinctive green metal edge, a red bezel and enamel dials. Both work and one can hear the very audible 'clunk' of the hands moving every 30 seconds. Have coffee here and enjoy Brisbane's oldest heritage-listed three level arcade featuring beautiful woodwork, lead lights. terrazzo floors and many boutique shops.
Brisbane Central Railway Clock
This is Central Station, Brisbane in Ann Street. It was erected in 1899 in Federation style and designed by renown Australian architect JJ Clark - who also designed The Treasury building. The sandstone clock tower which is above the main entrance was built later in 1901. The four-dial mechanical clock was built by Gillett & Johnston of Croydon, England . It was State Heritage listed 21 October 1992. This elegant clock tower is now dwarfed by surrounding high-rise. From the front steps, one can look South and see the GPO across Anzac Square.
Brisbane's GPO Clock from 1910 to 1970 - the Synchronome Era
Since the earlier posting, extra information and pictures have emerged. In 1910 the new 'Brisbane Synchronome' clock with a double-sided 1½m lit dial hung from a 2.1m iron bracket, was enthusiastically received by the public. It replaced a 35year old clock prone to breaking down, cost less to operate (only 5s per year in electricity) and was much more visible to people in Queen Street. The hand movements were controlled by a small weight which was wound by an electric motor every hour.
However this clock was also to prove prone to malfunction and was removed in the late 1960's. Plans were drawn up for a 25m clock tower to be added to the existing building in 1971, but this was shelved for a smaller electric clock to be put back into the East wing gable cavity where it remains today.
Remarkably this clock has resurfaced in 2018 relatively intact and displayed at Harringtons Antiques. It has no makers name on the dial, matching the 1960's postcard above. Originally the clock had 'Brisbane Synchronome' on the dial (as in the 1917 postcard above). Also shown is the internal mechanism working the hands.
Right is a picture of the remains of the master clock from 1909 that ran this clock and a slave from one of the offices in the GPO.
Magnified dials - left from the 1920's and right from the 1960's.
The Brisbane GPO - 1872 to 1910
The Original Plan
This heritage listed sandstone structure designed by F Stanley has an interesting history. Initially the plan was for two identical wings with a central tower rising 100 feet (30.48m) featuring a three-faced clock.
The East wing was built first in 1872 costing £7450. However the clock tower costing another £4,000 was considered too lavish, so a 4½ foot (1.4m) dial clock with striking bells costing only £150 was placed into the centre of the East wing gable. It was illuminated by a gas-powered light. The West wing with the central tower reduced in height by half was completed in 1879 at a cost of £19,417. The rest of the building through to Elizabeth Street was finished by 1908.
The call for a more visible clock to look up and down Queen Street, resulted in the removal of the gable clock in 1908 and a double-faced electric clock was hung from the central tower. In the mid/late 1960's this clock due to time-keeping issues was taken down and a smaller electric clock put back into the East wing gable where it has remained to today. The empty circular West wing recess without a clock creates a slightly unbalanced look! What do you think?
The Ipswich GPO Clock Tower
30km SW of Brisbane is an impressive 32m Tower clock that has been an iconic landmark in Ipswich's CBD since 1901. Both clock and bell were made by Gillett and Johnston of Croydon in 1900 - one of the leading world tower clock makers and bell founders. The structure cost £9000 with the clocks cost at £425. It has four 2m diameter dials with a half-tonne bell striking only on the hour. The movement has a Dent three-legged gravity escapement. To wind the clock, one had to climb a set of 42 spiral steps twice a week.
In 1912 it was illuminated - much appreciated by the townsfolk.
In 2006 the manual wind-up was replaced by an electric motor.
Click on this impressive youtube video taking one through the tower -
Footnote - the location of the new Ipswich PO was very puzzling. Next door was the Council Town Hall built earlier in 1877 which already had a clock tower. Two public clocks side by side did not make sense. City workers complained that the clocks were out of time with each other. Looking at the picture from 1902 it is clear why the taller GPO tower was considered superior. The two-clock situation lasted only 11 years with the Ipswich Council in 1912 selling the clock (explaining the blank dials left - still evident today - and can be spotted in the above video). Eventually this clock ended up in the tower at Sandgate (see next title below).
Sandgate Town Hall and Clock Tower
The Sandgate Council erected this L-shaped building between 1911-1912 at a cost of £5000. Designed in Federation style by Thomas Hall - who partnered G. Prentice with the designs for the Brisbane City Hall and McWhirter's - it was initially clock-less to 1923. Heritage listed in 1995, with a $3.9m restoration in 2011 it is an impressive structure.
The tower rises 3 levels above the ground floor with a clock on the 2nd level and a bell on the 3rd. In 1924 the merging of all Brisbane councils saw this building become a community hall and library - as it remains to this day.
The acquisition of this 4-dial clock made by Gillett and Johnston of Croydon in England, makes interesting reading. Initially installed in the Ipswich Town Hall in 1877 tenders were called for its sale in 1912. Why? The new GPO built next door in 1901 came with a taller more grandiose illuminated clock tower - also the two clocks were rarely in sync. Herga and Co. of Brisbane bought it for £60.10s in May 1913 and then it sat under a house for 10 years before the Sandgate Council bought it for £325 off Herga & Co. It was then installed in 1923.
Now aged 140 years it is one of the oldest working clocks in Brisbane.
The blank dials left in the Ipswich Town Hall.
Brisbane City Hall Clock Opened in 1930
This Italian Renaissance style building made of granite and sand-stone with a 92m. tower is truly spectacular. Corinthian columns, a statue of King George V, two bronze lions, a carved tympanum and inside a magnificent organ with over 4000 pipes and a copper-domed circular auditorium seating up to 1500, came at a massive cost - £1m.
The clock when built was the largest in Australia. The synchronome master clock imported from England was a duplicate of the one at Greenwich Observatory. Synchronome Brisbane then built the four clock dials, the hands and the 60 slave mechanisms needed for the building. The 4 dials weighing 3 tons were 5m wide and filled with white opal held by over 1000 screws. The copper minute hands were 3m long and the hour hands 1.7m. The exciting part is that the original hand-operated lift still operates and takes one up the middle of the tower pausing as it passes through the clock room then on to an observation deck at 73m. (bottom right picture) operating daily for free. Because the lift runs through the clocks a separate movement was required for each dial. From the 1950's the slaves in the building were removed and a master clock put into the tower.
The bells sounding the Westminster chimes can be heard across the CBD - one 4.3 tonne 2m diameter bell strikes an 'A' flat on the hour and 4 smaller bells at over 3 tonnes each strike the quarter hours.
For Brisbane this recently renovated building with a museum is a major tourist attraction and a must for clock lovers.
South Brisbane Town Hall Tower Clock
This elegant red brick structure built in 1892 for £11,000 in the Italian Classic Revival style, though called a Town Hall, was actually offices for the South Brisbane Council. With 2 main storeys and a 20m tower (accessed by a series of wooden ladders) it was easily visible across early Brisbane. The four 1.8m clock dials illuminated by 10 lights were installed 12 years later in 1904 by Synchronome Electrical Co. Australasia at a cost of £100. This was their first tower clock in Australia and also the first electrically driven clock. The master clock, located in the Town Clerk's Office, was linked to 6 slave clocks. Although electrically controlled, it needed a weight driven mechanism to move the hands every 30 seconds when released by the electrical impulse.
Climbing up a narrow staircase and manually winding this clock every week was a job done by a member of our club, Greg Baker, Government Horologist, from 1978 until he retired in 1999.
The building has had a colourful history. Its use as municipal offices ceased in 1925. City engineers then took over followed by the American Military during WW11 and then into flats for Council workers. From 1955-1979 the Queensland Conservatorium of Music occupied it and then TAFE in the 1980/90's. Heritage listed in 1992, it has since 1999 been part of the
Somerville House Girls School.
Today the basement is run as a cafe called "Under the Clock Cafe". Top spot to have a latte while viewing this historical Brisbane landmark.
Fortitude Valley Police Station
This two-storied L-shaped building designed by respected architect Ray Nowland at the corner of Brookes & Wickham Streets was opened on 6th Jan. 1936. Built of red-face brick with arched sash windows a portico entrance framed by 4 columns, it is an arresting structure!
Of interest to the club is the clock featured prominently above the entrance. It has a 1m diameter uncovered black dial installed by Synchronome Brisbane in 1936. The station was heritaged listed 24th June 1999.
The Redcliffe Jetty Pavilion Clock
This classic art deco building was built in 1937 at a cost of £1500. It served as an entrance to the 150m jetty and as a bathing pavilion. Redcliffe had been very isolated until 1935, but this changed when a 2.74 km road bridge (the longest in Australia) was built. Previously this popular swimming area was accessed from Brisbane mainly by small launches.
The pavilion had 4 private bath cubicles and 2 toilet rooms. The admission charges were threepence for the use of a locker, shower and toilet but for a private cubicle the charge was sixpence an hour and a toilet room was threepence for 15 minutes.
The picture to the right shows today's jetty and pavilion.
The large (about 1m in diameter) clock was Redcliffe’s first public electric clock. Electricity had only been switched on here since 1928.
It has typical synchronome hands which click over every 30 seconds.
This place has many art deco buildings, lovely eateries and also one can revisit your youth by checking out the nearby Bee Gees Way – worth a visit.
Brisbane Boys’ College in Toowong has an imposing clock tower.
BBC, built in the Mission Revival style, was opened in 1931. The tower today displays two working clocks facing S and W. The school archivist reports these clocks were not installed until 1961 as the cost had initially been too high, so the tower just had covered 'holes'. The Northern and Eastern side can still be seen in this state as a roof extension in 1947 partly hid these apertures making a clock there unnecessary. Etched on each dial beneath the twelve can be seen the word 'synchronome'.
In the main foyer hangs the master clock with its original movement & pendulum. Sadly this master is not working and the pilot clock and dial have been replaced by a quartz movement. There appears to be no record of when the master was disconnected or how the 3 tower clocks operate today. Thanks to Ian a BBC Old Boy who accompanied me to view these fine clocks.
The Bulimba Ferry Terminal in Brisbane.
This terminal, built in 1922 linked with Teneriffe across the river. It is a striking building with an open timber-framed waiting shed and a gabled tiled roof. Above this is an octagonal tower with four clock dials installed by synchronome Brisbane, topped by a metal cupola. The next terminal 1km upstream at Hawthorne was built in 1924 in a similar style - but without the clock. Both terminals have been heritage-listed.
The clocks in this terminal enabled the ferries and the waiting trams to keep to an accurate timetable. However the Brisbane Courier in January 1930 bemoaned that the ferry & trams were hard to coordinate and suggested putting in a Bundy clock. This terminal is worth a visit and while you are there why not treat yourself to a trip upstream on a river cat. There are some fantastic sights including the Powerhouse, Story bridge, Customs House, South Bank and some incredible riverfront properties. Pickup is your choice at any number of stops upriver.
Synchronome Clock Enthusiasts - Archerfield Airport.
Tony & David have nearly completed the restoration of the Synchronome timepieces located at Archerfield airfield in Brisbane. This beautiful art-deco building was opened in 1931 - the home to Qantas, Ansett ANA, Trans Australia Airlines & the Queensland Aero Club. It was Brisbane’s main airport up until 1949 and hosted the Royal Australian, US & Netherlands Air Force during WWII. Today it is used mainly for civil aviation and the Department of Emergency services rescue helicopter flights.
These pictures show the terminal building - below it the impressive passenger lounge with a wall painting of the original building. Next is the master clock and beneath a close-up of the lounge room slave clock. Finally 3 pictures of the slave clock mechanism which will be returned to the front facade to once again show the time to arriving planes. Note the method for turning the hands - a vintage bike chain!
Well done Tony and David for keeping alive these timepieces in this important heritage building.
The Redlands Museum at Cleveland displays an exciting array of yesteryear memorabilia. Of interest is the George Clauson regulator clock used in The Old Observatory in Brisbane from 1897 and a fretwork clock. This museum, with hundreds of items is well worth a visit. Pictures from Trevor.