These snaps are from the South Island of N.Z. The latest postings are in Red. Click on underlined headings.
NZ South Island - Christchurch clocks (Diamond Jubilee, Edmunds, Arts Centre, New Brighton & Scarborough, The Canterbury Museum, Old Railway Station), Lyttelton Time Ball, English Clock Systems Culverdon, Rothmans Motueka, Motueka PO, Nelson PO, Blenheim War Memorial.
Diamond Jubilee Clock Tower in Christchurch NZ – a Survivor.
This 30m structure made up of a combination of limestone and local volcanic stone features ornate wrought iron, coloured glass and a 4-dial clock. Skidmore and Sons of Coventry England built the iron work tower while John Moore and Sons of Clerkenwell London made the clock. It was shipped in 142 boxes in 1859 to Christchurch destined to sit on top of the Provincial Council buildings. The iron tower when assembled was found to be too heavy and so it was dismantled in 1864 and stored in sheds nearby and the clock put in another tower in Armagh Street where it could only be heard – not seen! The tower was reassembled in 1879 and it stood in the city Council yards for the next 18 years.
To commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee the clock was sent back to England to have chimes installed and on its return was reunited with the tower and both were erected on a stone base at the corner of Litchfield and Manchester Streets in 1897. Due to traffic congestion it was moved to the present site (corner of Victoria and Montreal Streets) in 1930. In 1977/78 the tower was cleaned and the clock given new chimes. In 2010/11 both the clock and tower required major repair and restoration after earthquake damage. In 2014 it was revealed in its original glory – a reminder of the incredible detailed workmanship put into early buildings - a true survivor.
The Edmunds Clock Tower in Christchurch NZ
This two-dial time only clock (the other two dials have sculptures) sits atop a 14m tower on the Avon river bank at Oxford Terrace. It was erected in 1929 with a donation of £5000 from Thomas Edmund of Edmunds baking powder fame to celebrate 50 years of business. The donated money went to the River Bank Improvement Scheme which built the clock tower, a telephone/drinking booth and a band rotunda. Halfway up the tower are the words peace, faith, hope and charity etched into the sandstone sides. It has had extensive restoration since the 2010/11 earthquakes.
Arts Centre Clock Tower Christchurch, N.Z.
It was a privilege to be allowed up this tower to view the clock - part of today's Art Centre, which covers a city block and was originally used by Christchurch University. Designed by architect Benjamin Mountfort and built of limestone and basalt from the Port Hills, the two dial clock tower has bells and an impressive entrance - a tiled floor with beautiful stained glass windows and a divided staircase. From here, through a locked door, one climbs up two flights of narrow wooden stairs to reach the clock. Made by Gillett & Bland of Croydon, England in 1877 (same firm as the Ipswich and Sandgate clocks) it has been repaired since the 2010/11 earth-quakes. A small electric motor has been installed to wind up the two weights every 4 hours.
Seaside Clock Towers - Scarborough and New Brighton.
On 14 December 1934, the foundation stones for the Scarborough and New Brighton Clock Towers were laid. The towers were a very generous gift to Christchurch City by builder Richard Green in honour of his father, Edmund Green, who set up the first telegraph service in New Zealand.
80 years on both clocks & their towers were in poor shape. A seashore location of harsh saltwater exposure had left the Brighton tower with concrete issues while each clock tower had corroded dials, worn movements & structural steel issues (mostly from the 2010/11 earthquakes). A call for their renovation was sent out – the requirement for the repairer was to do both clocks.
The contract was awarded to Cook Brothers Construction. Work started in 2018 with the towers being fenced off & the Brighton clock wrapped in protective plastic. The barriers finally came down in mid-2020. The cost to return these clock towers to their former glory - $740,000 for Scarborough & $994,000 for New Brighton.
Same Dials on both clocks
The clock movements were imported from England, made by Gents of Leicester. Costing round £400 each they were pulsynatic – meaning driven by electric with an impulse moving the hour hand every minute. Such clocks were very popular at this time as the one ‘master’ could be linked to many ‘slave’ clocks particularly useful in Government departments.
Clocks at the Canterbury Museum Christchurch N.Z.
For horologists, museums offer some incredible treasures. The Canterbury Museum is no exception. On entering, one walks a replica street scene of Christchurch retailers from the late 1800’s. The jeweller’s shop, G Coates & Co. has a superb display of clocks and pocket watches.
Giles Coates had been well trained by his father (also Giles), a reputed clockmaker from Chedworth in Gloucester England. In 1850 Giles aged 43 emigrated to NZ and set up a shop in Bridge Street Nelson. Moving to Christchurch in 1857 he opened a jeweller’s shop at 218 Colombo Street – the museum shop frontage a copy of this original building. Besides clocks and watches, Giles also sold surveying and draughting equipment, optical and silver goods, barometers and precious stones.
A wide range of clock and watch types are featured in the window. From an impressive barometer clock with four sub-dials to cover days, weeks, months and the time to skeleton, wall, mantle and calendar clocks, this is a wonderful display. I have room for only a few.
What makes this shop special is to find displayed a link to the owner - a quality 2m tall regulator made by Giles Coates of London (probably Giles senior).
Railway Station Tower Clock in Christchurch NZ - Preservation and Restoration - Keeping Alive the Past.
On a jeweller's shopfront in Nelson is a working double dial synchronous clock that was once hanging from the Christchurch Station's main platform.
Built in 1960 this Station lasted only 30 years as falling patronage made it uneconomic. Taken over in 1990 by Hoyts theatre and a Science Alive Interactive Museum, new life was breathed into it. In Sept. 2010 at 4.35pm a magnitude 7.1 earthquake stopped the 4 tower clocks. Cracks can be spotted in the brick work. Repairs to 3 of the clocks were made in November, but the 12.51 pm February 22 magnitude 6.3 quake in 2011 rendered the whole building unsafe. It was demolished in 2012.
Preservation of two of these dials has occurred at Quake City – an interactive museum built in 2017 allowing people to see the impacts of the quakes. Two of the 2m dials can be found in the main office set to the exact time of each quake.
This Gents NZR ‘slave’ is typical of the many small impulse wall clocks once found in the rooms/offices of NZ railway stations.
The other two dials are now featured at Riverside Markets built in 2019. Here they have been restored to a working condition, one on the outside and one inside. Both have had new 60sec impulse synchronous movements added.
Lyttelton Time Ball in N.Z.
The very first Time Ball was erected in England in 1829 at Portsmouth. Greenwich was next in 1833. A time ball station consisted of a tower containing a regulator clock with a ball at the top that was dropped at 1pm. Ships anchored in the port used this to regulate their ships chronometer so ensuring accurate navigation.
Lyttelton, the port for Christchurch, nestling in an extinct volcanic crater, was a key launching point for Antarctic expeditions. The time ball built here in 1876, operated to 1934, and then lay disused to 1983 when a ten year restoration project brought it back to working order.
The original clock used at this station was made by E. Dent (of Big Ben fame). At 1pm the clocks electrical system triggered the dropping of the ball. This system was used to 1916 when the clock was retired and replaced by a telegraph signal from Wellington.
The ball and hoisting mechanism was made by Siemen Brothers of Germany. It was a 1½m hollow zinc sphere along with a hand wound rack and pinion mechanism to hoist the ball up a 3m wooden mast.
From 1993, the time ball was back in action and it became an on-site interactive museum attracting many tourists. Visitors could stand very close to the ball to watch it fall. Sadly, in 2010/11 nature intervened. A series of three major earthquakes reduced it to rubble.
In 2017 work began to rebuild this station – total cost a tad over NZ$3million. It was only the tower re-built using the original local scoria blocks. Digital scanning of the tower had been done before the total collapse and so an accurate reconstruction was possible. It is now run by a computerised system which releases the ball daily at 1pm. The new time ball station was officially opened in November 2018.
English Clock Systems Ltd.
This company started in 1936 as Synchro Time Systems Ltd. installing and maintaining public clocks. In 1939 they became English Clock Systems Ltd, the Industrial branch of Smiths English Clocks Ltd. manufacturing a complete range of timekeeping equipment essential for office and factory. In 1948 their Head Office and Showrooms at Speedometer House, 179 Great Portland Street, London opened.
A snap dated 1950 of the ECS Showroom
Whilst holidaying in NZ, I came across two ECS Ltd. public clocks that bear a striking resemblance to the two hanging from the ceiling shown in the 1950 Ad. The first was a square double-sided synchronous ECS wall clock on the 1923 Bradford House building in Motueka. It was operated by a recently acquired electronic Gents Master clock.
The other found at Culverdon near Christchurch was a round ECS double-sided public clock hanging on the front of the now vacant 1929 Amuri Council building. The clock has not run for years and there is no record of the whereabouts or maker of the master.
Motueka NZ - The Rothmans Clock Tower, Motueka's Most Recognisable Landmark.
Motueka a town of 7000 people at the Northern end of the South Island of NZ is a place for seasonal workers picking apples and kiwifruit and for tourists with its beautiful beaches and National Parks. At the entry to this township is an eye-catching structure – the bright blue Rothmans Tower. Recently restored to operating order, it features a 4-dial Gent’s synchronous clock.
Harking back to the 1930’s/40’s, Motueka had a thriving tobacco industry. In 1950 the owner of the main tobacco factory Gerhard Husheer gifted to the town this clock tower. In 1955 Rothmans bought his factory and added their name to the tower. When the industry closed in 1995 as the demand for tobacco had declined, the clock tower was left to deteriorate.
Then in June 2010 this clock tower, considered by many an eye-sore, was to be bulldozed. On demolition day a Clock Tower Trust stepped in and agreed to pay $150,000 for the small parcel of land with tower. Restoration followed included painting the tower in the old Rothmans blue colour, stabilising the tower walls and wiring in a new electronic master from Germany. Snaps below of my climb up this 12m tower.
Motueka unearths some more intriguing old clocks -
The main street features many old buildings. Westrupp Jewellers, who occupy Bedford House, feature a working double-sided square Smiths English Systems clock. These synchronous electric clocks were produced in Cricklewood, London from 1931 - 1955. Inside above the doorway was the master – a recently acquired Gents electronic unit from Europe.
On the Guthrie Bowron building, once the Post Office and Telephone Exchange, is a working double dial Gents Synchronous clock. The master inside was recently bought from Europe and unavailable for viewing. The original master for this clock I was told was a Gents pul-syn-etic. A signal from Wellington’s DSIR atomic clock was sent daily at 9am to the NZ Post Office network and then these Gents electric impulse clocks could re-set to the correct time.
Nelson's Public Clock Tower.
This clock tower is claimed to be NZ’s worst looking public clock. Most refer to it as an appalling edifice, brutalist, inappropriate, a monstrosity!
The 1906 original structure had a clock tower built for the Nelson Post Office by John Taylor and Co. of England. The clock had a similar designed mechanism to London’s Big Ben with four dials and five bells and a 5 metre drop for the weights to operate. It was Nelson's signature landmark.
Demolished in 1970 because of earthquake damage and the high cost of renovation, the new building would house Nelson’s Civic Centre and the GPO. The only design requirement was to reinstall the four old clock dials and bells. Objections delayed its construction and it was not until 1981 that the last hurdle - a dispensation from height requirements was granted allowing the “futuristic pipe structure” to be built.
What do you think - a modern marvel or modern mistake?
War Memorial Clock Tower Blenheim NZ
This tower clock located in Blenheim NZ, was constructed in 1928 as a memorial to 419 locals who died in the First World War. The clock was made in Wellington by Littlejohn & Son (this firm made 13 turret clocks put all round NZ) and the 5 bell set was cast in England. It was wound twice a week. The tower is 16m tall and constructed of stone sourced locally. interestingly the outer dial and the tower dome is made from Australian sandstone which symbolised Australian and NZ co-operation during the war. 'Lest We Forget".
Blenheim did have a prominent clock tower on its old PO built in the early 1900's. It was demolished in the early 1970's.
The old PO had some changes over the years. The roof terrace taken down in the 1930's & the bell tower in the 1940's. The replacement clock now sitting in Cleghorn Square is a replica of the old PO tower top. The fancy band rotunda built in 1903 has also been removed recently as it had sustained earthquake damage over the years.
1996 Stamp of Memorial clock
Sundials in the South Island.
Factory & gardens 1976
Edmunds Factory Gardens Christchurch - this famous flour factory built in 1923 was demolished in 1990. The garden was bought by the City Council & today is a beautiful reminder of this era. Even the seats have a back shaped like a rising sun! The sundial was erected here in 2007 with the appropriate motto "the sun is always sure to rise". It has a brass 'pyramid style' gnomon with half hour time intervals.
Mona Vale Christchurch - in this beautiful space an armillary sphere sun dial can be found. The metal rings represent the Equator, Tropics, Arctic & Antarctic Circles. The time is read from the shadow East of the staff that passes centrally through the sphere. Dedicated to A Macleod 1959 - 1989.
Christchurch Botanic Gardens - a SD with no gnomon (it was stolen). This was built in 1954 to honour gardener Thomas Stevenson. It consists of a black slate table with brass gnomon built on a octagonal granite column. The inner circle is a compass rose with the direction and distance shown for 7 world locations. There are two brass plaques at its base, one with the EoT for months, the other for 10day intervals throughout the year.
These 3 Snapped 2022
Christchurch - St. John's Anglican Church WWI&II remembrance, motto "some tell of storms & showers I tell of sunny hours"
Rangiora - in memory of Rule & Samson who died in the Sth. African war 1900-01. No motto but has Equation of Time.
Picton Holy Trinity Anglican Church. Dated 1872, badly worn brass dial, no motto.
Kaikoura - honours Tom Smith local diver killed by a Humpback whale in 2003 while freeing it from a craypot line. Motto - "be as true to each other as the dial is to the sun".