Tick, tock: Timepieces of Christchurch

Daylight Saving Time ends this weekend (clocks back one hour on Sunday morning, folks) and while changing the time on various clocks and watches around the house can be a chore, it must surely be less hassle than having to change the time on a floral clock or a clock tower?

So here’s to the custodians of large clocks everywhere, but especially those in Christchurch!

Here are some of my favourite big timepieces; some still ticking, others now lost.

Central Post Office in Cathedral Square
Central Post Office in Cathedral Square, 1963, Flickr File reference: HW-08-FE-08, Private collection Christchurch City Libraries

Looking rather fetching here in the 1960s, complete with belfry, the chief post office clock was installed in 1879 but is not currently in place, with the hole where the clock should be covered up. Here’s hoping it comes back eventually.

Also in Cathedral Square, who could forget the Government Life Building digital clock? With it’s alternating time and temperature information, it was always satisfying to look up on a hot day and have it confirmed that actually, yes, it IS hot.

The Government Life Building was demolished in 2014.

Government Life Building showing clock 12:45 4 July 1963 CCCPlans Government-Life-11-2
Government Life Building showing clock 12:45 4 July 1963 CCCPlans Government-Life-11-2

Still in the central city, the Victoria clock tower, originally known as the Jubilee Clock, was previously at the High/Manchester corner (as it is pictured below).

The clock tower, Christchurch [ca. 1925]
The clock tower, Christchurch [ca. 1925] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 14 IMG0019
It wasn’t until 1930 that the clock tower was moved to Victoria Street where it can still be seen today. Following the quakes it has had a lot of restoration and repair and was officially unveiled by Mayor Lianne Dalziel on 22 October 2014.

89 to 91 Victoria Street: Jubilee Clock Tower after the 22 February Earthquake
89 to 91 Victoria Street: Jubilee Clock Tower after the 22 February Earthquake by D M Robertson in Kete Christchurch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License

Who remembers this one on the old M. E. D. building (later Southpower, then Orion) on Manchester Street? I love the square shape and minimalist look, not to mention the steps and gantry that provide access to anyone who had to adjust the time on it.

Orion Clock, 218 Manchester Street
Orion Clock, 218 Manchester Street by CityScape in Kete Christchurch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License

But in my opinion it’s not a patch on the original clock installed when the building was new, in 1939. The bold octagonal shape for the face, a rockstar font for the sign above it, neon on the hands and numbers… now THAT was a clock.

Close view of M.E.D clock, 1939
Close view of M.E.D clock, 1939, File Reference CCL-MED-0100

Out at New Brighton, another 1930s clock tower that has pride of place in front of the library has an interesting history. It’s perhaps not the most large or impressive clock tower in the city but I do like its vaguely nautical, art deco styling. This is another clock tower that has suffered some quake damage but repairs are planned.

New Brighton clock tower,
Cracks in Clock Tower – September 2010 39 by CityScape in Kete Christchurch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License

And who could forget this beauty? The floral clock. Sitting in the northwest corner of Victoria Square it was donated to the city in 1953 and has a face 8.5m in diameter. It’s by far the prettiest of all the public clocks featuring, as it does, 7000 individual plants.

Floral Clock, Victoria Square
Floral Clock, Victoria Square [1963], File reference: HW-08-FE-14. From Kete Christchurch and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives 3.0 New Zealand License

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