Monday, 25 July 2016

"Turret Clocks and Bells" - A History of Timekeeping in Dunedin (Third Part)


The New Zealand Industrial Exhibition
Building and clock tower, Dunedin, 1865
[Source : The Illustrated London News]

This continues my four part Blog series on early timekeeping in Dunedin and specifically of its early bells and turret clocks. Click Here to read the first instalment. This final part, which I have, due to size, had to split into two manageable blogs, focusses specifically on the highs - and unfortunate lows - of Dunedin's municipal turret clocks. I trust you will find the subject as interesting as I have.

As early as February 1855 the Otago Provincial Council had recognised the need to procure a town clock, placing the sum of £50 on the financial estimates "for the purpose of providing a town clock for the Town of Dunedin". On the 23rd March the "Appropriation Bill" approving "a sum of £50 towards the erection of a Public Clock and Bell in Dunedin, was read a third time and passed." But inexplicably the matter rested there. Cost may have been an issue as in November 1857 a correspondent calling himself "Sam Slick" writes to 'The Otago Witness' on this subject;

"Sir, On perusing the public report of the proceedings of the Provincial Senate of political wisdom, I observe with some degree of surprise that the item of [now] £150, placed upon the estimates for providing a public clock for Dunedin, has been erased. This erasure... merits of the contempt of every man who loves his adopted country..."

In February 1860, as mentioned in the second instalment of this blog, the Superintendent of the Provincial Council wrote to the then Town Board advising that they would subscribe £50 towards the cost of procuring a town clock for Dunedin provided the Town Board promised an equal amount. But this proposal appears to have been quietly abandoned once the necessary cost became evident;

"The clerk was instructed to inform His Honour that £100 is insufficient for the object as it appears from an estimate prepared by an experienced person, capable of judging in such matters, that a clock (exclusive of a clock tower) would be more likely to cost £400".

In March 1862 we find that Mr George Goodal of Anderson's Bay suggests that a town clock should be voted for by the town board; "I hope Mr Editor, you will lend your voice in the matter, as one paragraph from your pen will go much farther than mine".


Julius Hyman, 1826 - 1911,
Taken 1901
[Source "The Otago Witness"]

In September 1862, Julius Hyman (also featured in the second blog in this series) had in fact offered the Dunedin Town Board "a public clock", being "a very fine turret clock suitable for erection for public use, and as such a clock was wanted here, he thought it his duty to offer it to the board. who, if they resolved to purchase, should have it at a reasonable percentage on cost." The cost would be £50, fixing above the Town Hall £10, and winding and repairing £10 p.a. The dial was opaque and 24 inches (two feet) in diameter but a larger transparent dial of 36 inches diameter could be substituted at an additional cost not exceeding £5.

While Dunedin still lacked a municipal town clock interest appears to have waned as this example had "but one dial, about three feet in diameter, and not for illumination.", the board preferring "four illuminated dials". If this could have been the clock erected about 1863 over the Provincial Hotel mentioned in my second blog I do not know. And Mr Beverly, being a business competitor, supplied the old Post Office / Custom House clock in 1863 which is also mentioned in my second blog.

But quite surprisingly, we find that in 1863 the Provincial Council, at their own cost and without even then having any suitable building available, ordered a turret clock "for erection in the official and business centre of the town". The "turret clock, wheel and bell", costing the significant sum of £459.8.0. [NZD $49,596 in today's values] were shipped from Glasgow on the "Resolute" on the 9th December 1863, arriving at Port Chalmers on the 17th March 1864 after an 82 day (90 day port to port) voyage. So, while the clock would faithfully strike the hours there would be no melodic chimes. As the 25 cwt. bell [one source says 28 cwt.] carries the maker's name in relief, being "Bryson's Edinburgh AD1863", I would assume that the clock mechanism was also made by or for the same firm. The firm of "Robert Bryson & Sons" of 66 Princes street, Edinburgh were eminent "chronometer, watch and clock makers to the Queen" and I can find at least one turret clock to their name.


The 1864 Industrial Exhibition Building and clock
tower, probably taken not long after completion
[Source : Hocken Collections]

Dunedin was now benefiting from the Gold Rushes of 1861 - 1865, the population trebled in four years, and the city was quickly becoming the commercial capital of New Zealand. This wealth and importance would soon be reflected in the standard of new buildings which would begin to grace a rapidly expanding Dunedin which in fact became a city in 1865 due to its quickly expanding population. This new economic importance and a desire to promote the industrial and mineral resources of the province would, in this decade, be the prime motivator in organising a grand Industrial Exhibition for Dunedin.  And here our clock and bell would play a role, being placed in the tower of that grand edifice, the "New Zealand Industrial Exhibition Building" in Great King Street, a large and very imposing "twin-towered palazzo in stuccoed brick" designed by Architect William Mason.

We next read that in September 1864 a correspondent to "The Otago Daily Times" questions the decision to now "divert" the above turret clock to "Great King Street"; "This clock is urgently required for the purpose for which it was sent - to be erected in Princes street, so as to be of benefit to Government officials, business men, and the shipping in the harbour, and these classes should not be deprived of their right..."

So why the Exhibition Building in Great King Street, which is well north of then business centre of Dunedin?  The short answer is given back on the 22nd April 1864 when the Provincial Council Secretary advised a council meeting (in reply to a question) that "the only building upon which it could [then] be placed was the Exhibition Building". The building was in fact owned by the Provincial Government, having agreed to fund the construction of the building in order to house the Exhibition.

The ultimate intention for the permanent placement of the clock is confirmed in February 1868; "the clock and bell were ordered from Britain, by the Provincial Government , without any definite idea as to the building in which they were to be placed, except that it was to be a public building in the centre of the city; and that they were put up in the Exhibition Building (now the Hospital), only because they were lying idle at the end of 1864 when that place was being completed. It was at that time contemplated that the clock and bell should be removed to the centre of the city as soon as there was a public building fitted to receive them."

By August 1864 the tower of the Exhibition Building was ready to have the clock fitted by the afore-mentioned Mr Hyman, having been stored in its cases in the Provincial Government workshops at Bell Hill. With four illuminated dials of sufficient size to be seen at a long distance and with a large bell "expected to be heard all over the town" it would be "be a great acquisition for the northern part of the city". By November 1864 the clock had been "thoroughly regulated" and "keeps correct time".


The New Zealand Industrial Exhibition, Dunedin, 1865.
A view of a couple of the display courts. The Exhibition 
also included an interesting display of various clocks
[Source : The Illustrated London News]

The New Zealand Industrial Exhibition opened on the 12th January 1865 and closed on the 6th May 1865. Post Exhibition the building had intended to be used for "a public market" and a "rumour" even circulated that it might be destined to become the grandiose central administrative building for the New Zealand Colonial Legislature however that honour went to centrally located Wellington; "Dame Humour on that occasion was at fault". But what is certain is that in October 1864 the Provincial Council received a petition signed by 700 Dunedin citizens expressing the opinion that when the Exhibition closed the building would be "better applied... being converted into [Provincial] Government offices". Partly due to additional building costs being necessary, i.e. internal re-modelling costs plus two new wings, purpose built Provincial Government Buildings - without a clock tower - were built in Princes Street in 1867.

Rather surprisingly, we now find that the Exhibition building would house the Dunedin Public Hospital which was, with a rapidly expanding population, in dire need of additional space. The Provincial Council believed that this would be a better use for the building than a market. After a process of "conversion" the first patients moved into their new but always rather unsuitably arranged building in August 1866. As such a purpose had not originally been envisaged for the building this also then had immediate implications for the clock.


The large 25 cwt. bronze Clock Bell cast 
by "Bryson" of Edinburgh in 1863 and 
now located in the Meridian Mall.
[From my own collection]

It had been readily found that "the clock now at the hospital has 'striking' machinery, which was rather out of place considering the use of the building." With "a striking clock being injurious to the patients", the sound of the bell had had to be muffled with wire being wound around the arm of the hammer so "that the real sound of the bell could not be brought out".

In early February 1868 we read that the hospital clock would be replaced with a more appropriate non-striking clock and that the existing clock would be moved to the new Post Office building in Princes Street, being just next door to the newly completed Provincial Government Building. Plans for a new Post Office by local Architects "Mason and Clayton" had been announced in March 1864, a grand building "worthy of the Province" which would include "a fine clock tower" with four illuminated dials, a bell turret being placed above it. It was not intended to remove the dials from the existing hospital clock tower but simply "to change the works from one building to another".

To ensure the residents of the northern portion of the city would not be left without a clock, the Provincial Council agreed to pay for the purchase and fitting of a new non-striking hospital clock at a cost of around £170 to £180 This "will be nearly as large as the one now there" and would be built on the premises of Mr Julius Hyman of Princes Street by his assistant, Mr H. Lund "by whom all the work has been done". In March 1868 the Editor of "The Otago Daily Times" confidently writes; "We are assured that as a piece of mechanism and a correct time-keeper, the new clock is to be such as to bear comparison with anything that could be imported". As we shall read shortly this glowing assertion, with the benefit of hindsight, proved to be very far removed from the truth.

This new clock included a couple of novel improvements devised by the clockmaker and would be of eight days duration, and made of brass in an iron frame built on the "dead-beat escapement principle and [with a] compensation pendulum" along with iron or steel axles, all being "beautifully finished in every part". The time would be shown on five dials, the fifth being a small one with only a minute hand to assist in the regulation of the clock. Only the copper wires carrying the weight and the pulley were imported. Despite many "difficulties to contend with", this was proudly declared to be the first turret clock manufactured in New Zealand, and possibly, the reporter also believed, the first in the Australasian Colonies.

While Mr Hyman sold his business in November 1868 there is unfortunately no further mention of his skilled assistant Mr H. Lund who, I believe, does deserve some credit for his clock making skills. I do note an "H.P. Lund" [Henry Peter Lund], watchmaker and jeweller of High street, Christchurch who appears briefly from February 1866 to March 1866 and then completely disappears until 1874 when he is noted in Christchurch as a "working jeweller", and one final reference in 1887 before his death in 1918, aged 80 years. I have not accessed his death certificate but this would appear to be the most likely candidate. If so, he may also have been an immigrant from Norway with an anglicized name.


Both clocks "On [the] strike"
Otago Daily Times, 28 Nov 1868

As noted, the timekeeping of the Hospital clock soon became an issue. Throughout the 1870's and 1880's the clock often displayed the wrong time, sometimes with each clock face reading a different time so that "The time kept suited almost every country in the world as each face represented different times". One correspondent failed to see "how it could be termed a convenience, although it might literally be termed a 'late' convenience".  The "tin hands" were found to turn when there was a stiff breeze "as if they were intended to show the velocity of the wind, and have been frequently blown off altogether". The situation was not helped by pigeons sitting on them every morning! The "artisan" who looked after the clock was, in 1873, instructed to fit heavier duty copper hands to the clock faces.

In August 1878 the Dunedin City Council took over responsibility from the Hospital Committee for "that erratic and misleading thing, which is termed by courtesy the hospital clock" but clock watchers "were doomed to a cruel disappointment" as the timekeeping of "the apology for a clock" actually became worse. In 1879 it was sarcastically referred to as "clearly an outpatient of the venerable pile it adorns". In 1884 a tender was let to cover the clock faces with netting to overcome 'the bird problem' but was probably, I would imagine, not an aesthetic improvement.


The Hospital Clock and Tower, c,1890's.
Note that the balcony has been removed.
The lines are telephone wires.
Burton Bros. Photo
[Source Te Papa Tongarewa] 

Matters came to a head in February 1899 when the City Council Works Committee recommended that the "defective" Hospital clock which "never went right [and] was absolutely done" be replaced as it "was neither use nor ornament". The motion was put that the council replace it at a cost not exceeding £150. provided the Hospital Trustees contribute a third of the cost. The motion was defeated as although the council owned the old clock it was in a building the council did not own or control and if the Trustees wanted a new clock they should obtain the money for it from the Hospital Board.

By 1912, and at a meeting of the Hospital and Charitable Aid Board, the Medical Superintendent "drew attention to the vagaries of this remarkable piece of mechanism, which has for many years misled, puzzled, and irritated many of the residents of the northern part of the city". One frustrated board member sardonically suggested "remove the hands" while "many others of similar character followed". The question of whether its days of usefulness had ended "was finally referred to the Hospital Board". It appears to have survived this low point in its life as in 1919 the City Council appear to have recognized their obligations and voted money for extensive repairs but with the work and cost spread over two financial years. 

During the 1920 University of Otago Jubilee lecture Professor Thompson ruefully noted, "This confidence placed in local industry was not justified and further reference to this Hospital clock would be uncharitable." In 1925 a correspondent asks not only that the numbers on the town facing dial be repainted "to remove a glaring eyesore" but also that "some attempt at least should be made to have the clock regulated." I perceive his pleas probably fell on deaf ears as the old hospital [Exhibition] building, which by now was in an increasingly dilapidated state and being of necessity shorn of its fancy embellishments, was finally demolished in 1933. 

As to what specifically became of Mr Lund's unreliable but unique turret clock is, after the space of 83 years, unclear. There may be parts privately held in Dunedin but the link to the 1868 Hyman / Lund clock cannot yet - if ever - be reliably made. Period Otago Hospital Board or Dunedin City Council records from 1933 may yet uncover further information as to who it may have been sold to if it was not simply sold for its value as scrap metal. I am aware that further research on this clock by interested parties is ongoing.


The new "Post Office" Clock Tower, Princes street looking north
in 1870, then the Otago Museum and City Corporation Offices,  
Mr Beverly & Mr Hyman's old shop is the building 2nd from left. 
Burton Bros. Photo
[Source : Te Papa Tongarewa] 

At the new Post Office in Princes street, the bell was hoisted into the newly completed bell-shaped turret atop the tower on the 19th February 1868. The bell is just visible in the photograph above. In March 1868 I note the castings for the dials were being prepared for Mr Hyman by Mr Wilson of the Otago Foundry. The first of the four new dials was fitted up on the 17th August 1868, being of 5 foot 9½ inch diameter and of frosted glass for illumination. Light would be provided by six gas burners, the cost initially being paid by the Provincial Government for one year. The old 1863 mechanism was now to be moved to the Post Office "at once" and fitting the new clock at the hospital would only require some minor alterations to the old turret ready for fitting the new Hyman / Lund clock.

But the new Post Office building, which had cost the "General Government" the tendered price of £22.960, was never destined to serve this purpose as the Otago Provincial Council, under the leadership of their 'visionary' Superintendent James Macandrew, a fervent promoter of education, sought to purchase the building with the intention that it become the site of  "a college and a New Zealand University". But in July 1868 we find the south gallery being used as the first permanent Otago Museum with the "City Corporation" using the northern side between 1867 and 1871. From July 1871 to 1877, the building would at last fulfil Macandrew's vision and indeed become New Zealand's first university, now housing the University of Otago.

The last instalment can be read Here.


Further Information & Feedback :
Any further information on Dunedin's turret clocks and bells is welcome. I will update this blog as any new relevant information comes to hand. A link to my email is in the right hand menu bar. Any feedback is also appreciated.

Copyright : No commercial reproduction permitted without the permission of the writer. Excerpts may be freely quoted for academic use provided this site is acknowledged.

Sources :

- Papers Past [National Library of New Zealand / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa]
- Te Ara, The Enclyclopedia of New Zealand
- Heritage New Zealand / Pouhere Taonga
- Hocken Collections, University of Otago
- McNab Room, Dunedin Public Library
- Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin New Zealand
- Dunedin City Council Website
- Dunedin City Council Archives
- Otago Daily Times Online
- Diary of the Rev Thomas Burns 1847 - 1852, First Church of Otago Heritage Centre (electronic version held by the writer)
- "The Founding of the Otago Settlement - Its History and Development", 1898 (from my own collection)
- "The Cyclopedia of New Zealand", 1905 (from my own collection)
- "The Story of Early Dunedin" by A.H. Reed, 1956
- "Early Otago and Genesis of Dunedin, Letters of Rev T. Burns D.D. 1848 - 1865"
- "A Brief Account of the Origin and History and Also the Income and Expenditure of the Presbyterian Church of Otago", Rev T. Burns, 1865
- "A Great Coloniser - The Rev Dr. Thomas Burns" by E.N. Merrington, 1929
- "Cathedral in the Octagon - the First 100 Years of St Paul's 1849 - 1994" By G. Parry
- "Centenary of Invercargill Municipality 1871-1971"
- "New Zealand's Lost Heritage" by Richard Wolfe, 2013
- "Old Scottish Clockmakers 1453-1850" by John Smith
- "Post Office Directory - Edinburgh and Leith 1864-1865",
- Presbyterian Church Research Centre (Archives) website (Lost Archives)
- Te Papa Tongarewa
- Private individuals in Dunedin


Monday, 18 July 2016

"Turret Clocks and Bells" - A History of Timekeeping in Dunedin (Second Part)


George Young's 1871 Clock as it appeared in 1898
[Source : The Founding of the Otago Settlement"]

This continues my four part blog series looking at the fascinating history of early timekeeping in Dunedin New Zealand - and specifically - of its early bells and turret clocks. Click Here to read the first instalment. This instalment features Dunedin's early public town clocks while the next two instalments feature Dunedin's early Municipal turret clocks. This is a longer read, so grab a comfy chair and settle down for a good read. I trust you will find the subject as interesting as I have.

The need to procure a town clock for Dunedin had been discussed by the Otago Provincial Government Council as early as March 1855. But more on this in the final instalment. The subject came very much to the fore again in February 1860 when a letter from the Superintendent of the Provincial Government was read before a meeting of the Town Board directing their attention "to the importance of procuring a public clock for the town, and stating that the [Provincial] Government were prepared to subscribe £50 towards the object, on condition that the board would promise an equal amount".

But this proposal appears to have been quietly abandoned once the necessary cost became evident; "The clerk was instructed to inform His Honour that £100 is insufficient for the object as it appears from an estimate prepared by an experienced person, capable of judging in such matters, that a clock (exclusive of a clock tower) would be more likely to cost £400".


Dunedin's First Public Clock (downward arrow)
above "Beverly Watchmaker" (horizontal arrow),
in Princes street, Dunedin, taken 1860.
[Source : Te Papa Tongarewa]

We now find that private enterprise would come to the aid of the good citizens of Dunedin in order to remedy this now woeful deficiency. Historian A.H. Reed usefully informs us that the "Colonist" of the 12th October 1860 reports that;

"Mr Arthur Beverly has erected a capital clock over his shop front in Princes street, the dial was about two feet in diameter, and the figures visible at a considerable distance. It was understood that an article of such public usefulness could be obtained for £30. It is disgraceful that the Town Board should have turned a deaf ear to the repeated remonstrances made to it on that subject".

Mr Arthur Beverly (also mentioned in the first instalment), a Scot from Aberdeen, had emigrated to Victoria Australia in 1852, initially working on the goldfields before setting up a watchmaking and jewellery business in Melbourne. In early 1858, and at age 35, he emigrated to Dunedin New Zealand, setting up his new watchmaking and jewellery business in Princess street on the 1st May 1858. The story of his business covering the period from May 1858 to October 1864 and of the subsequent watchmakers and jewellers specifically operating from this site is best related in a subsequent and later Blog HERE.


The location of Beverly's Watchmaker's shop in Princess street
highlighted with an arrow. Photo by William Meluish, 1860.
[Source : Te Papa Tongarewa]

According to Reed, Beverly was, "a scientist who had an abstruse knowledge of mathematics, and whose attainments were recognised in the outside world. He died on 26th October 1907, and his bequest to the University of Otago still provides the annual Beverly prize."

A unique self-winding clock by Beverly, being driven using variations in atmospheric pressure, resides at the Dept. of Physics in the Otago University registry building and has never needed to be manually wound since it was made in 1864. Beverly also employed very skilled staff, Mr Robertson "of his establishment" patenting a lever movement used on one of his clocks exhibited at the 1865 Industrial Exhibition in Dunedin.

While Beverly was not, in 1860, the only watchmaker in Dunedin, Robert Hogg (previously Henry Perring business est. 1858, sold 1858-59) and James Reid (est. 1852) being the two known others, he is the only one I can find up to this date with a privately funded "public" clock actually outside their premises. Beverly's biography on "Te Ara" claims that the widespread financial crisis of 1864 forced him to "retire from business", selling up on the 31st October of that year to Mr Isaac Herman. I have however been informed by a knowledgeable source that Beverly simply sold his business in order to devote his time to private projects.


The Old Post Office on the corner of Princes &
Jetty Street, Dunedin. Note Mr Beverly's clock 
above the porch. Taken post 1867.
[Source : "The Founding of the Otago Settlement", 1898]

By putting up his clock in 1860, Mr Beverly managed to steal a march on the Post Office whose own small public clock was not ordered until 1863. A correspondent calling himself "New Iniquity" and writing in August 1862 via the public columns of the "Otago Daily Times" wished to; "Impress upon you [the Postmaster] the necessity which exists for a Post Office Clock, one which combines the ornamental with the useful."  The Post Office was then located just a block south of Mr Beverly's shop by the corner of Princes and Jetty streets. As the above photo includes the Provincial Government Buildings at left rear, being built in 1867, the photo would be taken on or after this date.

No action appears to have been taken until the 9th January 1863 when the Chairman of the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce drew attention to "the want of a timepiece at the Post Office, for the guidance of the public in posting their letters", there having often been a variance in postal closing times and "great inconvenience was often the result of this irregularity". A deputation were appointed to wait on the Postmaster who in fact had anticipated their visit "and had [already] given an order to Mr Beverly to supply a clock".

There had previously "been some discussion" as to how the clock would be paid for but the Postmaster, Mr Barr, "had taken the responsibility of the order" and "had communicated with the General Government as to the payment". While the deputation were advised that "a good clock was to be procured", Mr Barr would bravely appear to have taken some degree of personal financial responsibility in ordering the clock without first gaining Government approval for payment.

But in April 1863 we curiously find that a "town clock" had been "yesterday placed in front of the Custom House, a position selected for it; we must conclude, as being more central and prominent than the more appropriate location for such an object at the Post Office." It would therefore appear that Mr Barr's clock may have been 'diverted' by the Government to the newly completed Custom House, especially as the supplier was the same said Mr Beverly; "The clock shows a large, conspicuous dial-plate, and is made by Mr Beverly, of this city". Mention is also made of the lack of a transparent dial-plate so that it could not be "lighted at night, so as to be visible by night as well as by day".

I simply cannot locate any photographs of this clock and photographs of the Custom House (cnr of High street and Princes street) shows no evidence of a clock. An 1874 photo, which includes the Custom House, appears halfway down this page. The only other newspaper reference, being dated July 1863, states, "that a large clock has been constructed so as to peep out from the higher storey of the Custom House building, and thus prominently inform all of the progress of the old gentleman with the scythe."

My guess is that once the large Provincial Government owned turret clock was placed in the clock tower of the adjoining and intended new 'Post Office' building in February 1868 [this clock is featured in my next blog] the former was now made somewhat redundant and may have then been shifted to the old Post Office building as originally intended, being shown in the post 1867 image above. There is a reference (noted below) to the Post Office having an outside clock in March 1868.  

But Mr Beverly's 1860 clock above his premises in Princes street would still prove useful, the Speaker of the Provincial Government alluding to it at a meeting on the 1st September 1863. After the lack of a quorum at a four o'clock meeting necessitated his retiring from the chair for a few minutes (to comply with standing orders), the somewhat inconvenienced Speaker then advised the now full meeting that "It would be well if members would regulate their watches by the clock at Mr Beverly's". This clock was however further up Princes street opposite the Bank of Otago (now the site of the National Bank building) in the next block north from the present day Exchange and not visible from the Government offices.


The Provincial Hotel, Cnr of Stafford & Manse Streets, Dunedin.
Note the clock on the upper pediment. Henry Frith Photo, Jun 1867
[Source : Te Papa Tongarewa]

The Provincial Hotel on Stafford street appears to have had a clock added to the upper corner pediment after the wooden extension down to the Manse street corner was built in 1861. This clock appears to be an "add on" and not a concurrent addition so is more likely to have been put up some time later. Stagecoach operator Cobb & Co had an office on the ground floor with their coaches departing from here so a public clock would have proved useful. On another photograph taken from an oblique angle in 1874 there is a covered area with a curved top extending about three feet back from the clock face.

In November 1876, it was noted that, "the clock at the Provincial corner, on Mr Sibbald's hotel, which has told the same hour with unflinching consistency for many years, has at last been prevailed on by the clock-cleaner to record with regularity the flight of time."

The clock and decorative surround had been removed by the time a 1918 published image of the building was taken. I can, however, find no published reference to this clock being installed. Julius Hyman, watchmaker, had a turret clock with a three foot dial available for sale in September 1862 so this is a possibility.

As stated above, Mr Isaac Herman bought Beverley's watchmaking and jewellery business in Princes street (opposite the Bank of Otago) in November 1864. Herman, who was of the Jewish faith, had, until his death in 1867, been very much connected with the local Hebrew Church (formed in 1862). Herman's relatively short business tenure is further detailed in my above-mentioned new blog on Beverly and the subsequent Watchmakers and Jewellers who operated on that site. These were the days of the Otago Gold Rush and Dunedin was now a prosperous and rapidly expanding township and thus an attractive place for businessmen and skilled tradespeople to set up business. Dunedin is still the richer for the contribution such people have made to this city, particularly those of the Jewish faith, many having created a valuable legacy both in terms of business interests and philanthropy.


The premises of Mr Julius Hyman, Watch 
Clockmaker of No1 Chambers, Princes
Street, Dunedin, taken c.late 1868
Note the clock on the pediment and the
offices of Architect David Ross upstairs.
[Source : Jewish Museum Online Org]

But Mr Julius Hyman, another enterprising and entrepreneurial Jewish watchmaker also now enters the scene. In February 1862 J. Hyman, "watch and chronometer maker, jeweller &c." advertises that he had now opened a branch of his long-standing (since 1853) Melbourne watchmaking and jewellery business in Rattray street. By June 1862 he had closed his branch in Melbourne and in August 1862 moved to new premises at 1 Princes street. In September 1867 he moved further down Princess street to apparently brand new premises almost opposite the new Otago Provincial Government buildings. Above his two storied premises he placed a pediment clock.

On the 11th March 1868 the Chief Postmaster advised that henceforth "Wellington Time" would be kept at the Dunedin Post Office (around 20 minutes ahead of Dunedin time), and that "the clocks, both outside and inside the office, will be set daily at the time shown by the Telegraphic clock as Wellington time". This at least confirms the existence of a clock outside the Post Office at this time. But on the 18th March 1868 our Mr Hyman advised the general public via the 'Otago Daily Times' of a now confusing variation in timekeeping within the city;

"Having charge of the Provincial clocks, I waited this morning on His Honor, the Superintendent, to ascertain if it was his wish that the Provincial clocks should be altered to the Wellington time. His Honor informed me that he could not yet see any grounds for doing so, and that the time was to be kept the same as heretofore."

This anomaly would not last long as New Zealand adopted a nationally observed standard time on the 2nd November 1868.  

In November 1868 Hyman, who was also very active in the Dunedin Hebrew Church, retired from the watchmaking and jewellery business in Dunedin to concentrate on "his upcountry business" (Mt. Ida) and "the wholesale manufacture of clocks" but remained resident in Dunedin. In actual fact, from 1869 to 1873, he was the owner of the Pier Hotel on the corner of Jetty and Crawford streets.


The "Post Office" clock and Princess street, 1874
Hyman's shop and own clock is marked with an arrow.
The Custom House appears in left foreground
Burton brothers photo
[Source : Te Papa Tongarewa]

I note the small clock on the pediment in the upper photograph of Hyman's premises and although marked on the window "No 1 Chambers" this same building clearly appears (marked) in the above view taken of the "Post Office" clock tower at the Exchange in Princes street taken in 1874 by Burton Bros. But why a permanent looking veranda on the earlier circa late 1868 photo and not on the Burton 1874 photo? Another Burton Bros. photo dated 1870, which I have not shown here, clearly shows no veranda over Kirkpatrick's premises but the name of "Harrop" above the watchmaker's door, being the successor to Mr Hyman.


Mr Hyman's 1867 clock
 [Source : Jewish Museum Online Org]

Mr Hyman sold his premises to "Harrop and Neill as successors to Julius Hyman" in November 1868, David Ross moved to his upstairs premises above Hyman's shop in November 1868 and "Miss Ward's Millinery shop" took over the Kirkpatrick premises next door in Dec 1871. So my estimate as to a date of late 1868 would appear entirely correct. This clock was still in situ up to at least 1870 but a new three story brick building appears on the site in 1876.

What type of clock mechanism this was is unknown but at around £30 it would appear to have been a relatively simple movement. Mr Hyman quotes a "fine turret clock" with one dial for sale in 1862 at £50. But like Mr Young's clock described below I would imagine that the clock hands would still need to have been actuated by a "connecting rod" from the mechanism below so that it could be easily wound and adjusted as the clock sat right on the top pediment. I note in the above 1868 photo that "J Hyman" and "No 1" have also been added to the clockface.

In January 1866, George Young, who had established his Watchmaking and Jewellery business in 1862, took over Isaac Herman's former business in Princes street opposite The Bank of Otago. Young subsequently sold out to John Hislop in October 1867. This was of course the site of Beverly's old business and shop. An 1870 photo shows a much altered two story wooden building now with a two sided clock extending out from the shop and above the footpath. By 1880 Hislop's clock was surrounded by decorative scrolled wrought ironwork.


George Young's 1871 Clock "Arch"
as it 
appeared around 1880
[Source : Alexander Turnbull Library]

In April 1871 the above-named George Young, who had now occupied premises a few doors further up Princes street from Hislops, absolutely outdid Hislop's street clock when he put up "a massive and handsome clock pillar and arch". This was mounted in an extremely decorative semi-circular iron arch right over the pavement at right angles to his shop frontage so that it could hardly be missed, even at night, as two "handsome cut glass globes, each about one foot in diameter, are arranged so as to give a brilliant light upon the dial-plate".

George Young's 1871 Clock
and arch as it 
appeared in 1898
[Source : "The Founding of the 
Otago Settlement"]

"It consists of a richly carved and decorated pillar, about six inches in diameter, with open relieved capital and floral volutes; base resting on a well proportioned pedestal, secured in the line of the external kerbing of the footpath into a massive block of Port Chalmers stone... The arch is semicircular in its outer rim, and consists of double ribs, connected with open iron network of chaste design, except when close covered directly over the enclosed works... Connecting the spring of these arches ribs on each side with the upper portion of [enamelled] dial plates , are inner and flatter ribs, the four spandrils thus formed being filled in with light open scroll work of floral design, cresting with ornaments being secured in centre and over each dial plate.  


George Young's 1871 Clock "Arch"
as it 
appeared around 1903
[Source : "The Cyclopedia of New 
Zealand", 1905]

This magnificent piece of "street art" was manufactured by Messrs Smith and Son, iron-founders of Glasgow from a design drawn up by the noted Dunedin architect, Mr Robert A. Lawson.

"The clock itself, being a turret one, with dead beat escarpment, and of Birmingham manufacture - is placed in the premises over the shop. From the clock, a connecting rod extends parallel with the front wall, a length of five feet, to a connecting wheel which transfers the motion to a second connecting rod nine feet in length. This rod runs from the premises to the dial plates, and sets in motion the machinery which turns the hands."

The "G&T Young clock" (but sadly minus the arch) remained a marked feature of their shop frontage at 88 Princes street then at 73 Princes street after 1938. It remained, according to "Built in Dunedin", at the latter address until as late as 1990, Young's having moved to George street in 1988. I do hope the owners of this firm, or of the building, preserved the 1871 "Birmingham turret clock" mechanism although there is of course no guarantee the same mechanism drove the clock until 1990. I would love to know what became of this mechanism.The clock face was replaced at some later stage from black Roman numerals on a white background to white on black.

Sometime after 1900 the decorative arch at 88 Princes street made way for a permanent veranda with the clock being placed above it but closer to the street for visibility with the existing lighting globes being retained and now attached to the edge of the veranda. One so wishes that the original elegant Lawson designed 1871 configuration could be reproduced today, even as a quite stunning and complete museum piece were the clock still extant. While John Hislop, another Watchmaker of 74 Princes street, received approval from the City Council in February 1869 "to erect a clock fronting his shop door" I can find no images of either this clock or of his shop. But judging by the attention given to the Young clock it appears not to have been an elaborate affair.   

As an interesting aside, I note that after a petition having been presented in Dec 1866, the Provincial Government authorised payment of £100 for an "Astronomical Clock" and £10 for a "Time Ball" for Port Chalmers, being installed at the  "Observatory" (on the bluff overlooking the wharves and harbour) at Port Chalmers in April 1867. While there was some discussion on whether the ball should be in Dunedin it was noted that Greenwich time could be sent via telegraph, the Signal Master at Port Chalmers being quite competent to do all that was necessary. Being used to accurately set ship chronometers, the balloon would be dropped daily at 1pm except Sunday. The ball had fallen into disuse by 1909.

While Toitū Otago Settlers Museum now hold the said "astronomical clock" which bears the name of George Young of Dunedin, I would however seriously question their attribution of Young as the maker without further research. This is a complex timepiece which they also incorrectly date as "about 1861". At this time it was usual to add the name of the supplier to the face of a clock rather than the manufacturer although the cases were often made by or for the supplier. I would suggest Young as the supplier as communication had been made with Melbourne for an astronomical clock and time ball mechanism but that "the instruments should be obtained from England". It appears to have been obtained by Captain Robertson "at much less expense" than originally estimated by Captain Thomson with the sum of £50 then being voted by the Provincial Council on the 20th May 1867. The definitive answer might be hidden in Harbour Board or Provincial Council records.

In 1880, the above Mr John Hislop (Watchmaker of 74 Princes street), who had imported and set up the Dunedin Town Hall clock, intended recommending to the Government that a time-ball for Dunedin was "absolutely needed"; it could be set up on the roof of the Custom House and that it would cost nothing to operate. Although Dunedin was then a busy port in its own right the Government obviously did not heed his recommendation.


The next blog in this four part series look at the equally fascinating history of Dunedin's municipal turret clocks over the period 1863 to 1969. Click Here to view.

This Page Updated 11 Dec 2016

Further Information : Any further information on Dunedin's early timekeeping, bells and clocks is welcome. I will update this blog as any new relevant information comes to hand. A link to my email is in the right hand menu bar. To quote the Rev. W.J. Comrie, Presbyterian Church of NZ Historian, "Accuracy has been aimed at, but no doubt imperfectly attained."

Copyright - No commercial reproduction permitted without the permission of the writer. Excerpts may be freely quoted for academic use provided this site is acknowledged.

Sources :

- Papers Past [National Library of New Zealand / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa]
- Te Ara, The Enclyclopedia of New Zealand
- Heritage New Zealand / Pouhere Taonga
- Hocken Collections, University of Otago
- McNab Room, Dunedin Public Library
- Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin New Zealand
- Dunedin City Council Website
- Otago Daily Times Online
- Diary of the Rev Thomas Burns 1847 - 1852, First Church of Otago Heritage Centre (electronic version held by the writer)
- "The Founding of the Otago Settlement - Its History and Development", 1898 (from my own collection)
- - "The Cyclopedia of New Zealand", 1905 (from my own collection)
- "The Story of Early Dunedin" by A.H. Reed, 1956
- "Early Otago and Genesis of Dunedin, Letters of Rev T. Burns D.D. 1848 - 1865"
- "A Brief Account of the Origin and History and Also the Income and Expenditure of the Presbyterian Church of Otago", Rev T. Burns, 1865
- "A Great Coloniser - The Rev Dr. Thomas Burns" by E.N. Merrington, 1929
- "Cathedral in the Octagon - the First 100 Years of St Paul's 1849 - 1994" By G. Parry
- "New Zealand's Lost Heritage" by Richard Wolfe, 2013
- "Centenary of Invercargill Municipality 1871-1971"
- "Old Scottish Clockmakers 1453-1850" by John Smith
- "Post Office Directory - Edinburgh and Leith 1864-1865",
- Presbyterian Church Research Centre (Archives) website (Lost Archives)
- Te Papa Tongarewa
- Private individuals in Dunedin

Monday, 11 July 2016

"Turret Clocks and Bells" - A History of Timekeeping in Dunedin (First Part)


"Time is Short" - The 2nd Bell Hill Bell of 1851 
as it appears today in the grounds of the First 
Church of Otago. Note the fracture in the rim.
[From my own collection]

This four part blog series takes a look at the fascinating history of early timekeeping in Dunedin New Zealand - and specifically - of its early bells and turret clocks. I trust you will find the subject as interesting as I have.

Descending the escalator in Dunedin's Meridian Mall in George street down to the basement level there is a large bell mounted incongruously - and rather forlornly - on a low plinth. A small plaque gives a short resumé of its history and that it once hung in the old "Exchange" Building in Princes street, being demolished in 1969. This bell has always intrigued me as what became of the turret clock mechanism? While I initially set off to research the history of this clock I was quickly drawn into the fascinatingly compelling and sometimes turbulent history of early timekeeping in Dunedin.

While my research has taken a considerable amount of time and effort I do appreciate that were someone to fully research this subject there is a considerable quantity of primary and period records that would still need to be searched out. I hope that someone may be spurred on to attempting such a comprehensive work in the future, perhaps with the eventual aim of a small commercial publication.


The Cannon Originally Used on Church Hill
[Source :- Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin]

But let us first go back to the beginning. From the very founding of Dunedin as a Scottish Free Church settlement in 1848, and under the very capable and astute leadership of the Rev Thomas Burns, the town had relied on various methods of timekeeping. The first had been a 12 o'clock gun. According to Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, where the cannon is now on public display, it is probably of early 1800's English manufacture, had been a relic of the Napoleonic wars, and was then brought to Otago in 1848 with the first Free Church settlers on the "Philip Laing" with the specific intention of using it for timekeeping purposes.

A.H. Reed in his authoritative 1956 work "The Story of Early Dunedin" writes that around 1849 and "Having no means of maintaining standard time, they (the settlers) devised a plan of their own. On the top of Church Hill, an old cannon, placed among the flax, was fired at noon. This, Dunedin's first timepiece was soon afterwards replaced by a bell".


Mr James Adam (1823 - 1908), responsible for
firing the Cannon on Church [Bell] Hill
[Source :- Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin]

The reminiscences of Mr John Adams, being published in 1923, provide an interesting period recollection of the cannon and of the bell :

"...Bell [Church] Hill, where long ago the cannon at the touch of the magic wand wielded by the mighty, ay, and much respected, hand of James Adam, was want to tell out the hours of 12 noon and 5 in the evening, and perhaps other hours, and where afterwards the Bell Tower held the veritable bell itself, which used to tell us schoolboys that the hour had come for us to make the hurried, even if undignified, rush for the school door."

The cannon would however, continue to be fired on special occasions such as at New Year. If it was as loud as the current Robbie Burns cannon used in the Octagon at New Year (Hogmanay) it would definitely have been heard!


The "Jones" bell
[Source :
- Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin]

The bell Reed refers to had been previously owned by the pioneering and enterprising early settler, "Johnny" Jones of Waikouaiti, having originally come from a Botany Bay convict ship before Jones fitted it to his brig, the "Magnet", to signal the watches. This ship also conveyed the early settlers to Waikouaiti in 1840. It was then used through the 1840's by the Wesleyan Mission Station. Apparently "putting himself to some considerable inconvenience to accommodate the Otago public", Jones presented the bell to the Rev Burns on the 15th July 1850; "Mr Jones called and begged me to accept the bell as a present [illegible] the church which I did with thanks". The Church Session book also confirms the gift on the 21st July. This bell was then placed on the 42 metre high "Church Hill" reserve (becoming commonly known as "Bell Hill" after 1861) where it did duty until a new bell arrived from Edinburgh in December 1851.


John Buchanan (c.1804 - 1880)
Dunedin's First Town Bell Ringer
 [Source : "The Founding of the Otago
Settlement", 1898]

Toitū state that John Buchanan, as "Minister's Man" [beadle] at "First Church", was responsible for "keeping town time" by ringing the bell at set times with his daughter Isabella sometimes assisting him, taking her father's watch with her up the hill. The family had come out from Scotland with Burns on the "Philip Laing" in 1848. Such was the importance of accurate time keeping that Burns even makes specific mention of a Mr James Buchanan having lost "a watch and other things" in a house fire on the 8th June 1848. Keeping time was important with a timepiece being a treasured possession. I recall seeing the Rev. Dr. Burns' own very large and old fashioned looking pocket watch in the former Dix family private museum at Waitapeka some years ago now (ex Bannerman family) and thinking of the history that went with this very historic timepiece. [This historic timepiece is now on display in the First Church of Otago Heritage Centre in Dunedin]


The Octagon Dunedin from the top of Church ("Bell") Hill.
William Meluish Photo, Taken 1861
[Source : "The Cyclopedia of New Zealand", 1905]

Reed notes that at a public meeting in December 1851 the New Zealand Company had, "during it's régime", paid to have the [Jones] bell rung at stated times during the day, being 8am, 12 noon, 1 pm and 5 pm, but that this practice had since been abandoned, except on Sundays when it was "tolled at the expense of the Church trustees". In the absence of any other means of ascertaining standard time this had been a public utility. As the fee to have the bell rung had only amounted to £5 it was suggested that "one shilling a year from every household in the town would suffice".

While the "Jones" bell is now on public display in Toitū Otago Settler's Museum in Dunedin they cannot confirm who actually donated it to them. Merrington, whose own historical research appears to have been quite thorough, simply states that it was given to the [Toitū] Otago Settlers Museum which was however only founded at late as 1898. As Merrington obviously knew it was already held by the OSM he would perhaps not have attempted to uncover any of its more recent history as this was a little outside his brief.

But Reed informs us that "When it ceased to be for the common good of the town, [it] was given to the English [Anglican] church, erected close to where the Gaol now stands". Reed states that the Anglicans first worshipped in the old gaol before moving to the original courthouse which they purchased and converted into the first St Paul's church in 1855. But I do note that St Paul's received a new bell in 1910 so it may very well be St. Paul's that donated the bell to the museum. The late Gordon Parry makes no mention of it in his 1994 history of the parish but does note some missing Church records at this period in time. Still, Reed must have stumbled across a specific reference to it somewhere.

In December 1851 Burns received a larger 3 cwt. bell cast by the Whitechapel London foundry of C & G Mears by way of a gift from Free Church friends in Edinburgh. With the existing small church in Dowling street "not being considered of sufficient strength to bear the strain of ringing a bell of such proportions" it was placed in "a wooden tower" on Church Hill now replacing the smaller "Jones" bell. Although Merrington, in his 1929 history of the Rev Dr Thomas Burns, claims it was this second bell that was first placed on Church [Bell] Hill all evidence points to it merely replacing the "Jones" bell. I also note that in Dec. 1851 "The Otago Witness" publicly thanked Jones "for the bell hitherto in use". The new bell, which had "a rich full and clear tone", would continue to be rung on special occasions, to ring out the hours of work for the early settlers, and as a call to Sunday worship.


The 2nd 'Bell Hill' Bell of 1851 as it appears
today in the grounds of the First Church of Otago
[Source : NZHistorySearch]


The Rev. Dr. Thomas Burns himself described the history of the bell when speaking at a First Church soirée on the 16th Feb 1865 :

"A few kind friends of ours in the home country subscribed for and sent us out a most excellent church bell. But when the bell arrived, it was thought to be far too good for our old queer-looking fabric of a church. Our office-bearers, accordingly - partly with a view to its being better heard, and partly by way of taking legal possession of the site of our future church - proceeded forthwith to plant the bell on top of church hill.

"As an accommodation to the inhabitants of Dunedin leave was granted to the authorities on week days to make use of the bell to regulate the working people's time. This use of the bell came gradually to be regarded as its proper and principal use, and the hill itself to be spoken of as if its only use was to be the site of the bell."

Curiously, Reed tells us that "In May 1855, an announcement was made that 'in consequence of the extreme inconvenience which has been experienced for some time past from there being no means of ascertaining the correct time, His Honour, the Superintendent has ordered the custom of firing the gun at noon on Saturdays to be resumed'." Why was the bell not being rung?

In July 1857, "The Otago Witness" newspaper makes mention of "the extreme inconvenience arising from the cessation of the practice of ringing the bell at certain hours in the day. Apart from the daily inconvenience, its effect is to destroy every thing like punctuality at public meetings from the great variation in time. A good town clock would be a great convenience to the public; but until one can be obtained, we suggest that one of the constables be instructed to ring the bell at 12 o'clock on Saturdays so that the inhabitants may ascertain the correct time at least once a week." Reed suspects that "the bellringer had became disatisfied with his honorarium and had 'thrown up his job".

Procuring a town clock for Dunedin had in fact been discussed by the Provincial Council as early as March 1855 but it would be 1863 before a clock was actually ordered.


The brass plaque attached to the plinth
under the 2nd 'Bell Hill' Bell
[From my own collection]

In July 1859 reference is now made to the ringing of the bell; "For some time past the time as set by the ringing of the bell, has been before the sun. We are authorised to state, that on and after Monday next, the correct time will be ascertained by Mr Beverly, and the bell will be rung accordingly." The need for a town clock is again mentioned at this time. Mr Beverly, a watchmaker and jeweller of Princes street in Dunedin, will feature again in this story.    

It is worth mentioning that an article from 1882 claims that the early 1848 Free Church settlers did not bring a bell with them for their new church and that "this was an overlook". It also claims that the Jones bell had been obtained for the church after "the never failing resources of Mr John Jones were appealed to" in order "to supply the deficiency". The fact is that the Presbyterian church, then down by lower Dowling street, already had a bell. The Rev Burns notes on the 1st January 1850, "a good deal of noise" bringing in the New Year, with "some scamps" repeatedly loading and firing the 8 pounder cannon on the jetty and clambering onto the church roof "until they caught the rope and rang the bell".

It would be interesting to see if the extant inventory of items brought out for the construction of the first church / school building, being lodged in the Presbyterian Church Archives at Knox College, does in fact include a small church bell. And what became of this pre 1850 church bell? I would assume it was given to a newly established local Parish Church when no longer needed but which one?


The Original "Church Hill", Dunedin, taken from the Octagon.
The 2nd Presbyterian Church manse is shown atop the hill.
Taken 1862
[Source : Hocken Collections]

Interestingly, Burns also mentions in his 1865 speech that the inscription on the bell and the fact that it had been erected on Bell Hill did in fact later assist the church to confirm their right to ownership of "Bell Hill" ("Reserve Block No 4" laid aside by Cargill in July 1848), such doubts, through time and lapse of memory, having been discussed in the Provincial Council. A Crown Grant was then issued for "Church [Bell] Hill", the Presbyterian Church having sufficiently proved their right of "ownership" of what would later become the site of the present First Church of Otago and grounds.
With ownership now safely confirmed. Burns and his family moved into a new manse erected on Bell Hill in August 1862, being visible in the image above. But their tenancy was inconveniently cut short as they had to vacate the manse in August 1863 in preparation for the levelling of the hill by the Provincial Government. The bell was then also removed.


"Bell Hill" in the process of being lowered.
Princes street runs between the two remaining
'hillocks'. Taken mid 1860's
[Source "The Otago Witness"]

The Provincial Government had decreed in 1862 (obviously after the manse was built) that the now so called "Bell Hill" should be reduced in height by 14 metres, this work not being completed until 1868. This removed an impediment within the town while also providing very useful stone fill for harbour reclamation. Where the 1851 bell was placed until this work was completed is unclear. The bell is noted as having last been in use in the (current) First Church of Otago belfry in 1882.

Reed then notes that "after serving for some years this bell met with a misfortune, suffered a fracture, and now rests mute beside First Church." There appears to be no newspaper reference as to when the fracture occurred and when it was mounted in this manner. The first reference to it being cracked and in the First Church grounds is June 1895. The First Church Deacon's Court [who managed the church property and finances] minute books up to 1900 have most unfortunately been missing since prior to 1930 which is unhelpful [interesting that Merrington appears to have used these records in 1929]. And while I am no foundryman or metallurgist, the approx. six inch "fracture" into the rim looks like a distinct cut a good few millimeters wide which leaves me wondering if someone had attempted to repair it. While Burns notes that "the bell needed a repair" by a tradesman prior to 1865 he states that it was not taken down from the then belfry on Church Hill so this presumably does not allude to a fracture.

So, for probably the last 120 odd years this historic bell has stood silent, being mounted on it's concrete plinth in the grounds of the First Church of Otago on the now truncated Bell Hill. While one side bears, in relief, an inscription attesting to the 1851 gift by "a few Friends of the Free Church of Scotland", the other side simply reads, "Time is Short".

The next Blog in this series explores Dunedin's very early town clocks. Click HERE to view.


Further Information : Any further information on Dunedin's early timekeeping and bells is welcome. I will update this blog as any new relevant information comes to hand. A link to my email is in the right hand menu bar. To quote the Rev. W.J. Comrie, Presbyterian Church of NZ Historian, "Accuracy has been aimed at, but no doubt imperfectly attained."

Copyright - No commercial reproduction permitted without the permission of the writer. Excerpts may be freely quoted for academic use provided this site is acknowledged.

Sources :

- Papers Past [National Library of New Zealand / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa]
- Te Ara, The Enclyclopedia of New Zealand
- Heritage New Zealand / Pouhere Taonga
- Hocken Collections, University of Otago
- McNab Room, Dunedin Public Library
- Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin New Zealand
- Dunedin City Council Website
- Otago Daily Times Online
- Diary of the Rev Thomas Burns 1847 - 1852, First Church of Otago Heritage Centre (electronic version held by the writer)
- "The Founding of the Otago Settlement - Its History and Development", 1898 (from my own collection)
- "The Story of Early Dunedin" by A.H. Reed, 1956
- "Early Otago and Genesis of Dunedin, Letters of Rev T. Burns D.D. 1848 - 1865"
- "A Brief Account of the Origin and History and Also the Income and Expenditure of the Presbyterian Church of Otago", Rev T. Burns, 1865
- "A Great Coloniser - The Rev Dr. Thomas Burns" by E.N. Merrington, 1929
- "The Cyclopedia of New Zealand", 1905
- "New Zealand's Lost Heritage" by Richard Wolfe, 2013
- "Cathedral in the Octagon - the First 100 Years of St Paul's 1849 - 1994" By G. Parry
- "Centenary of Invercargill Municipality 1871-1971"
- "Old Scottish Clockmakers 1453-1850" by John Smith
- "Post Office Directory - Edinburgh and Leith 1864-1865",
- Presbyterian Church Research Centre (Archives) website (Lost Archives)
- Te Papa Tongarewa
- Private individuals in Dunedin


Monday, 4 July 2016

Clydesdale Horse Prize Medals, 1903


The large Silver medal won by John Watson, 
Candermains, Stonehouse, Scotland for 
best colt or filly, Lanarkshire Farmers' 
Society Fair, 1903
[From my own collection]

[I have a new two part historical Dunedin blog coming up that has taken some intense research but should hopefully be ready to post next week]

The showing of horses has always been a popular pursuit and my Scottish family were no exception as evidenced by two ornate silver presentation medals in my possession.

Both date to 1903, but the first medal was presented to my maternal Great Grandfather John Watson at the prestigious Lanarkshire Farmers' Show, apparently one of the oldest established of such associations in the west of Scotland.

A newspaper account in "The Scotsman" handily records the event, being held in the "policies of the Duke of Hamilton" [ie, property owned by the Duke] at Hamilton in Lanarkshire on the 15th May 1903 :

The weather, though showery in the earlier portion of the day, cleared up by noon, and settled into a fine warm summer day. There was a large attendance of spectators, with a sprinkling of ladies. Compared with previous years the entries showed a substantial increase, amounting to 543 in all… Not in numbers alone, however, was the standard of the show maintained, for the animals shown were of a higher type than any collection ever previously brought together under the auspices of this show. 



Reverse of Silver medal won by John Watson,
Candermains, 
for best colt of filly, Lanarkshire
Farmers' Society Fair, 1903

[From my own collection]

The Clydesdale section was a strong class, 136 horses being forward this year, compared with 88 at last meeting… Mr John Watson Candermains [sic Candermains], Stonehouse, came first in the special prize for the best yearling colt or filly got by the Duke of Hamilton’s premium horse…

The large silver medal is engraved on one side, “Lanarkshire Farmers’ Society, For Best Colt or Filly Got By Duke of Hamilton’s Premium Horse. Donor Herbert Webster Fence Houses. Won by John Watson Caudermains [sic] Show 1903”   


As this photo is taken around 1903 I believe it to show
the prize-winning colt(?) with it's mother. The man
shown in the image is John Watson Jnr.
[copied from the original glass plate negative]

This terminology simply means that Mr Herbert Webster of Morton House, Fence Houses, Durham, a very well known and successful horse breeder himself, donated the medal. The yearling (one year old) colt or filly, for which my Great Grandfather no doubt had to pay a hefty fee, had been sired by the Duke of Hamilton's own "premium horse". 

The reverse side has an engraving of a Clydesdale draught horse with stamped silvermarks.



Silver medal presented by D.W. Taylor,
at the Calderwaterhead Farmers' Society 
Fair, Shotts for best horse or mare, 1903
[From my own collection]

The second silver medal was presented at the "Calderwaterhead Farmer Society Fair" held at Shotts in North East Lanarkshire, also during 1903. 

This medal is engraved “Shotts, Calderwaterhead Farmers Socy 1903 Best Horse or Mare Bred by Exhibitor”.


Reverse of Silver medal presented by D.W. Taylor,
at the Calderwaterhead Farmers' Society Fair
Shotts for best horse or mare, 1903

[From my own collection]

The reverse side reads,“Presented by D.W. Taylor Won by John Watson Cander Mains”. 

Winning two prestigious horse classes in the same year was quite an achievement in the face of what would be very stiff competition.

It would appear that John Watson had no further success until the Stonehouse Fair on the 30th June 1905 when I note he won "...Mare 2nd  & 4th, Foal 1st, gelding two 2nds, filly 2nd”". No doubt being card prize certificates these have not survived.


Copyright : All images are from my own collections and may be freely copied for non-commercial use provided this site is acknowledged, thank you.


Sources :

- Watson family artefacts and photographs in my possession
- "The Watson Family Annals - The Story of the Watson Family of Lanarkshire Scotland and Heddon Bush New Zealand", by the writer, published 2014
- "The Scotsman" 16th May 1903 ["The Scotsman" Digital Archive]

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