Public Clocks in Toowoomba
Toowoomba with a population of 160,000 lies 125km West of Brisbane. This city is known for its beautiful gardens and the preservation of its Victorian buildings. Worth a trip.
The City Hall at 541 Ruthven St – The cities third Hall was built in 1900 to a design won in a competition by W Powell. One of 5 plans submitted, his winning entry earned 25 guineas. It housed Council offices, the School of Arts, a Technical College and a Public Hall. The original plan did not have a clock tower, just a spire, but during construction the Council decided the 2level structure should have a 5-level clock and bell turret.
Made by Gillettt and Johnston the clock with four 5foot dials one 7cwt hour bell and two quarter bells costing £278 were shipped from England on the SS Devonshire. The total cost including installation was £400. Interestingly two of the original four pillars on the City Halls frontage, were removed in the early 1940’s to form the gates of the City Showgrounds but were returned when the Showgrounds closed in 1985. The clock is wound twice a week with three winders – one for the quarter bells, one for the hour bell and the clock itself. This video explains the workings of the clock. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ap_pPafivWM
The Old Post Office at 136 Margaret St. – a heritage listed Classic Revival style building made of yellow sandstone from Helidon. The building was completed around 1880 at a cost of £8,100. It has a 17meter high clock tower, the clock made by Gillett & Bland of England. Their name can be seen on the dial. The contract for fitting up the clock was awarded to Mr. Schoenle of Ipswich for a fee of £105. The clock was replaced with a Brisbane Synchronome movement in the 1950’s but is not working at present. This building is now home for a café and offices.
The Old Commonwealth Bank Clock Tower – a 3dial electric clock erected in the 1980’s and located on the corner of Ruthven and Russell St. The dial has red hands and red single dash numerals. The bank was recently closed and is now tenanted by a night club. The clock has not been working for a number of years.
The Chronicle Footpath Clock – was presented to the city by the local Chronicle newspaper for its 125th anniversary in July 1986. This unusual 4m electric 4dial clock stands in Ruthven St at the entrance to Bell St Mall. It has a 60 second impulse movement.
The Toowoomba Railway Station – this stunning Victorian structure built in 1874 still has much of its original furniture. A working 60second impulse clock hangs at the main entry to the station platform.
Warwick a small country town two hours drive from Brisbane has two historic public clocks.
1. The Court House Clock. Located at 88 Fitzroy Street, the Warwick Court House and police Complex was designed by John Clark (a famous Australian architect) and built in 1885 with several additions added later. The 4dial clock was supplied by Flavelle & Roberts of Sydney, Brisbane & London, (the clock maker for the Gympie Town Hall). Deemed to expensive to restore, the clock is presently not working.
This elegant sandstone Town Hall was built in 1887. For five years an affordable clock was sought by the ratepayers and when offered one by the Minister of Works, the Hon. H Tozer for £125 they quickly accepted. Initially bought from England it had been lying unused in the Colonial Architects Office. The clock had only three dials so a new dial and mechanism had to be made. Also required was the clock to strike meaning more work. A 3½cwt bell was sourced locally from St. Mary's Church. In 1892 the clock was up and running. The four dials were illuminated at night by eight gas jets fitted with reflectors. Total cost was £341, but within budget.
2. The Town Hall Clock Tower.
During the 1920's/30's the clock was wound by a young boy who one day fell off the staircase. A tale that at night loud bumps are reportedly heard - said to be the ghost of the boy! How to attract tourists!! In the 1990's the clock was converted to electric, managed by Synchronome Brisbane.
Public Clocks Found by Paul on his visit to Cairns
This RSL memorial clock tower costing £2,074 (then the most expensive clock and statue in Qld.) was unveiled on ANZAC Day 1926, and doubled as Cairns' only public clock. Relocated in 1972 to the Esplanade, the clock faces were replaced with painted replicas each set at 4.28 for when the Anzacs landed at Gallipoli in 1915. The original clock had a 30 second impulse, powered by a battery master clock located at the Council Chambers. With the connection to mains power the clock had become inaccurate and by 1970 calls were made to remove it - hence the painted dials.
At the Port of Cairns, a clock tower was built in 1948 above the 1913 now heritage listed Number 3 shed. The new electric clock costing £900 first ran on a car battery and was built by A L Franklin of Sydney. It had 4 dials each 6 feet in diameter, a pendulum weighing 100lbs, 27 gear wheels and a 3 foot diameter bell connected to the mains weighing half a ton and struck by a 20pound hammer. In 2011 this terminal was upgraded to be used as both a cruise liner berth and a private and public convention centre for up to 600 people.
Centenary Park Kuranda where the Visitor Information Centre is located another clock was found on top of the public toilet block. It is a Simplex two dial with a 60 second impulse.
Inside the Cairns airport there were several Raymond Weil quartz clocks. These ‘affordable luxury’ Swiss timepieces are made by a Geneva firm founded in 1976.
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.
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.
Some More Regional SE Queensland Public Clocks.
1. Palmwood - a double-sided Brisbane Synchronome street clock.
2. Wondai - a four-sided Brisbane Synchronome clock found in Coronation Park, with repairs in 2020.
3. Maleny - a synchronome double-sided street clock erected in 1998.
4. Esk - with a continuous sweep electric clock on the front of the Regional Somerset building.
5. Kandanga - erected 2016 with the words "Lest we Forget" for numbers - has an electic single dial.
6. Murgon - The art deco Public Hall now called the Murgon Civic Centre - built in 1938 and added to the Queensland Heritage Register in 2012.
Thanks to Tony, Danny and Fran for sending in these snaps.
Discovering Public Clocks in Regional SE Queensland – Day 1.
During July 2020 Danny and I took the opportunity to check out the Public Clocks that could be found on a two-day trip from Brisbane to Bundaberg and back.
Kilcoy Memorial built in 1919, Blackbutt in 1988, Kingaroy in 1967, Goomeri (two snaps) in 1940, & Gin Gin 1971. These structures when built had a 4 dial clock made by Synchronome Electrical of Brisbane. Today they are maintained by Synchronome Pty Ltd. – having replaced the movements with modern electronic impulse clocks. Some are solar powered and all have a GPS system for accuracy.
The 13m. memorial clock at Goomeri was erected in 1940 for the local soldiers killed during WW1. it has an unusual dial with the ANZAC words “Lest We Forget” instead of numbers. WW11 names were later added.
Bundaberg Post Office - Commonwealth Heritage Listed in 2011.
This magnificent Post Office was constructed in 1890/91. The 2-storey building has a 6-storey (18m) clock tower and cost £4,398 to build. The four 1.8m diameter dial with Arabic numerals mechanical clock was manufactured by Flavelle Bros of Brisbane.
Sometime after 1920 a new dial with Roman numerals appeared drawing criticism from residents who felt from a distance the crossbars could not be distinguished from the hands. In 1965 the clock was replaced with a Brisbane Synchronome Master.
Today the clock is serviced by Synchronome Pty. Ltd. with an upgraded electronic master system.
City Hall Master
Discovering Public Clocks in Regional SE Queensland – Day 2.
Maryborough has two public clocks. The City Hall built in 1908 has a fully restored Brisbane Synchronome master clock with a 4-dial clock tower.
The Post Office had a 3dial Gillett and Bland mechanical clock installed in 1879. It was removed in 1935 and put into the nearby Gladstone Post Office. The tower was clockless to 1986 when Brisbane Synchronome was requested to install a tower clock. Today Synchronome Pty has replaced this with a modern electronic master.
Originally the PO tower was only one story. On top of this a time ball operated to 1872, but as it told the time only once a day a single-faced clock replaced it. People working in nearby fields could not see this clock so in 1879 the tower was raised one level for a new clock. The empty clock dials on the lower tower are still evident.
Gympie the next city had two impressive public clocks. We had the experience of climbing both towers. The Town Hall, built in 1891, had a clock made by Flavelle, Roberts & Sankey of Brisbane and London. This mechanical clock needed to be wound every 5 days. In the last 20 years it has been replaced with a Synchronome Pty Ltd. clock – the original movement remaining in the tower.
The Gympie Court House built in 1901/02 had a Brisbane Synchronome clock installed. This clock has also been retired with a replacement Synchronome Pty Ltd. electronic Swiss Mobatime master.
Our 2 day trip was completed with the last stop at Nambour. At the Museum (on Bury St.) we discovered an original Brisbane Synchronome clock. It once hung on the Nambour Shire Council Chambers between 1953 and 1987. Rescued from the City Council Depot yard in 2018, the movement though has been replaced with a continuous sweep electric motor.
Mackay Clock Tower
Another example of a combined Telegraph and Postal Office built between 1883-1884 with open verandas and a central three-dial clock tower. The lower level housed the Post and Telegraph services, the upper level the master residences. This was a grand building for a small town of 2,300 in 1883.
In 1938 it was extensively remodelled in art deco style leaving only glimpses of the old exterior. A picture near the entry door shows these alterations. The charming old timber and masonry clock tower was replaced with a brick tower. New electric clocks were installed with simple dials of white or black hands and dashes for numbers. In 1995 the PO moved out and the building became a telephone exchange for Telstra.
Worth mentioning is the former Mackay Town Hall - put on the Queensland Heritage Register in 1998. Built in 1912 with a tower designed specifically for a clock, the four openings have remained empty to this day except for the circular glass windows. Nonetheless a superb structure just awaiting a clock to fully complement it!
Rockhampton's old Post and Telegraph Office Clock Tower.
This impressive two-storey brick structure with a sandstone façade, was built in 1892 at a cost of £14,368. It was divided in the middle by a carriage way and clock tower with the Post Office on the left and the Telegraph Department on the right. Services occurred on the ground floor and accommodation for management was on the first floor. In 1963 the carriage way was infilled with a staircase and in 1997 the building ceased to function as Rockhampton’s main Post Office. For the next 10 years it was unoccupied but rescued from demolition when the State heritage listed it in 2003. In 2008 it was sold and today occupied by several commercial tenants including a restaurant and café.
The 4-dial clock costing £325, made by Gillet and Johnston of Croydon England is one of the oldest in Queensland. Still hand-wound every four days, it has two winding cranks - one for the bells and one for the clock. The pendulum is about 5m long. The clock has a distinctive sandstone moulding as its ‘bezel’. Written above the dial are the words - ANNO 1890 DOMINI ('in the year of our Lord 1890') and below the dial the words - TEMPVS FVGIT CITO PEDE ('Time flies on winged feet').
Gladstone Post Office and Clock Tower
The first PO in Gladstone was erected in 1854. A new building with a clock tower was built in the 1870’s. By the late 1920’s this building had become very shabby and too expensive to repair, so in 1932 a new PO was built. It was one of only seven “twin porch” masonry PO’s built in Queensland and the only one with a clock tower. Costing £5,400, it was designed by the Federal Director-General of Works in Canberra under the works creation scheme, intended for the relief of the local unemployed.
The four-dial clock mechanism was obtained from Maryborough and after an extensive overhaul was fitted into the tower. Officially opened in July 1932, the Gladstone Town Council agreed to illuminate the dials each night to midnight. This PO survived to 1997 when it was sold to a private enterprise. It was put on Queensland’s Heritage Register in 1998. Thanks to Paul for these pictures.
The Stanthorpe Post Office Clock Tower.
At Stanthorpe on the Scenic Rim (210km from Brisbane), you will find an elegant post-Federation building with a 4-storey tower. On it is a 4 dial clock built in England & installed in 1903. This is home to the towns Post Office. Have you noticed that the dials have no Roman or Arabic numbers just ‘dashes’?
Rockhampton Heritage Village. Paul on his trip North found an impressive display of clocks here.