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Adelaide clocks

891 ABC Afternoon Delights at the State Library : 6 & 20 July 2004

Carole Whitelock talked with Michael Talbot

Adelaide Clocks

Recently I was putting together a talk about the State Library's collection of photographs and choosing pictures to include. Looking at pictures of King William Street I was reminded of a time when buildings like the town hall or the post office dominated the landscape, and the significance their clocks once had.

I don't think clocks are as important a part of the civic landscape as they used to be. In the nineteenth century fewer people had watches. Watches themselves were more subject to damage by harsh conditions. And there wasn't the range of alternatives for telling the time. I wear an older wind-up analogue watch but if I am at my desk I'm more likely to glance at the bottom corner of my computer screen to check the time. And I know quite a lot of people who get the time from their mobile phone display rather than wearing a watch. High rise buildings reduce the distance that you can see a public clock.

For today I decided to look at the clocks in the Adelaide square mile to check out what is there, what has disappeared, and what might have been.







Holy Trinity Church, North Tce. c.1880.
Photo: Anson & Francis. B 17436.

This clock was built in 1836 and intended for erection on government offices in Adelaide. But as this was building of any height in Adelaide the clock was installed here, probably in 1838. 







Old General Post Office, King William St.
c. 1865. B 22042.

The Metropolitan Police Station, Court House and Post Office was completed in April 1851 and a clock installed in its tower in 1854. Today the clock is at the Glenside Psychiatric Hospital.







 GPO, tower under construction,
King William St. c.1871. B 45358.

The foundation stone of the present GPO building was laid in 1867 and the building completed in 1872.








GPO, King William St. 1873. B 1998.

Although the building was completed in 1872 there was a period of three years before a clock was made and installed in 1875. 







 King William Street. c.1866. B 8713.

Adelaide Town Hall was opened 20 June 1866. The Register noted spaces left for a clock which it hoped the 'liberality of the citizens' would shortly supply.





 King William Street. c.1936. B 6832.

In fact the Town Hall was without a clock for 69 years until former Lord Mayor Sir J. Lavington Bonython donated one. This electric clock was set going in 1935.








Victoria Square. c.1875. B 7301.
Photographer Samuel White Sweet.








King William Street. c.1875. B 9174.
Photographer Samuel White Sweet.







Railway Station, North Tce. 1889. B 1723.
Photographer Ernest Gall

The size of the clock outside the old Railway Station would have been convenient for passengers catching trains.









Legislative Council Building, North Terrace.
1939. B 8596.

While I cannot be certain the 1889 Railway Station clock looks very similar to this one, photographed on the day it was removed.







Adelaide Railway Station, North Terrace.
c.1928. B 56245.

This Railway Station building was opened in 1928. All clocks in the building were controlled by a master clock.







Clock under the veranda of the Railway Station, North Terrace. 2004.

The importance of all clocks telling the same time is particularly important for the person judging when their train will leave.









Co-operative Insurance Company of Australia. Bentham Street. 1935. B 6599.

More recently Farmers Co-operative Executors & Trustees Ltd.









Commercial S.A. Property Group. Bentham Street. 2004.

When I checked this clock in June 2004 the clock was not in use.









Perhaps the newest large public clock in Adelaide is the one in the tower of the Myer Centre.
June 2004.








The Sealink building on thecorner of South Terrace and King William has a clock face on three sides.
June 2004.







The Advertiser building's King William and Weymouth St corner has a digital display. When not counting down to an advertised event it is used to display the time.









The Century Clock in Hutt Street between McLaren Street and Carrington Street was created by a local clockmaker Hendriku Stegenga.








Rundle Mall. 1977. B 35063.

The Myer Emporium clock was a longstanding landmark in Rundle Street.







Rundle Street. c.1890. B 16964/9.

Earlier photos show the clock as part of the James Marshall and Co building.










Rundle Street. c.1907. B 16784.

This postcard of a busy street shows how many people could see this clock. 









GW Cox My Jeweller. 99 Rundle Mall.

This is the only public clock in Rundle Mall today.








Rundle Street, north side. 1939. B 8202.

Gerard and Goodman, electrical engineers, Rundle Street building.








Rundle Street, north side. 1969. B 19487.

The building, on the corner of Synagogue Place, is now the Scout Shop.








Halifax Street, south side. 1968. B 18814.

This photograph has been cropped to show the clock on electrical engineers F.R. Mayfield's building. A 1954 photograph of does not show a clock. I remember the clock on a smaller building on the northern side.







Western corner of North Tce and Pulteney S.t c.1872.  Photographer Samuel White Sweet. B 10684.

Chalmers Church at the time the photograph was taken, the building had roundels in the tower where a clock could have been installed.







The City Messenger 3 July 2002 reported a large clock might be placed on a panel protruding from the building being built on the former Ruby's Café site in Rundle Street. A spokesman for the developers said the final design had not been decided but might include 'some sort of clock or timepiece".


The State Library's photographic collection is held in the South Australiana Database at The database contains references to textual material about South Australian topics, references to some photographs not yet scanned, and references to some 110,000 images that can be viewed on screen. Search by either keywords or subjects.

More Afternoon Delights

ABC Afternoon Delights at the State Library was a series about some of the more unusual items in the State Library. Carole Whitelock talked with Michael Talbot from the State Library in the 2.30 to 3pm timeslot on alternate Tuesdays. View an associated SA Memory page for each topic.





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