State Library of South Australia logoDid you know heading
SA Memory. South Australia past and present, for the future

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.


B 17438






Holy Trinity Church, North Tce. c.1880.
Photo: Anson & Francis. B 17438.

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. 


B 22042






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.


B 45358






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.


B 1998







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.


B 9174







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


B 1723






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.


B 8596








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.


B 56245






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.


B 6599








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

More recently Farmers Co-operative Executors & Trustees Ltd.









Rundle Mall. 1977. B 35063.

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


B 16964/9






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

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


B 16784









Rundle Street. c.1907. B 16784.

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


B 8202







Rundle Street, north side. 1939. B 8202.

Gerard and Goodman, electrical engineers, Rundle Street building.


B 19487







Rundle Street, north side. 1969. B 19487.

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


B 18814







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.


B 10684






Western corner of North Tce and Pulteney St. 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.


Search for more photographs of clocks in the State Library's photographic collection

More Afternoon Delights

ABC Afternoon Delights at the State Library was a series in which Carole Whitelock talked with Michael Talbot from the State Library about South Australian topics, illustrated by items from the Library's collections. View the associated SA Memory page for each topic.




About SA Memory

Explore SA Memory

SA Memory Themes


My SA Memory


What's on