Web Banner Tairawhiti

Town clock

Show Sidebar

Town clock

The town clock in Gladstone Road is one of Gisborne's most recognisable and identifiable heritage structures.

History of our town clock

Town Clock 03 2016

The clock tower was built in 1934. The town had been without a clock since severe earthquakes in 1931 and 1932 caused structural damage to the Chief Post Office, which at the time was home to the town clock. The original two-storey brick Post Office was declared unsafe and dismantled on the site of what is now Heipipi Endeavour Park. While a new electric clock replaced the Post Office clock, the bells installed on the tower were those which originally did serve in the Post Office.

After initially being turned down by central government for assistance.  In July 1933 the Post Master General advised that "after careful consideration the government had decided to donate the turret clock and chimes from the post office building to the Council for incorporation in the Robinson Memorial Town Clock tower.

Construction of the town clock began in November 1933 at a cost of £448.10 ($897.00) and was dedicated to the late R D B Robinson (Reginald Deason Blandford Robinson). 
Mr Robinson died in 1933 after serving as Town Clerk from 1891 to 1933. Mr Robinson had the distinction of being the youngest ever appointed to the position of Town Clerk, at the age of 19 and he held the position for 43 years.

The Robinson Memorial Town Clock was unveiled 20 December 1934.

Timeline of the town clock build

From Gisborne District Council's archive records.

18 July 1933 - Council had considered using an electronic clock but decided to utilise the old Post Office clock

1 August 1933 - the Post Office clock and chimes were handed over to Council

15 August 1933 - competition/design of the clock – architects were willing to do designs but objected to submitting them unless the designs were judged by the NZ Institute of Architects.  It was moved by Council that the Borough Council would judge the designs.

29 August 1933 - it was passed that the Council not call for competitive designs and that the Institute be notified that their services would not be required.

12 September 1933 - the Council engineer, along with his staff, submitted several designs for the clock. Councillor Maude and seconded Councillor Thompson that design number 2 submitted by the engineer staff be accepted.

26 September 1933 - tenders were called for the construction of the clock

24 October 1933 - 8 tenders were received to erect the clock, HT Reynold's tender was accepted for £448.10

30 January 1934 - tenders were called for the supply, delivery and erection of the electronically operated mechanisms for the clock.

1 February 1934 - there were 5 tenders and W Littlejohn & Sons tender was accepted for £354.5

13 March 1934 - the wood for the inside stairs was donated by Aickin & Sons

10 April 1934 - the clock was completed.

8 May 1934 - a quote was obtained from Kane & Griffins for a black granite tablet (clock plaque) at 2/6 per square foot.

23 October 1934 - the completed installation of 2 floodlights would be £37.10

20 December 1934 - the clock was unveiled at 2:30pm.
Copy of a letter sent to Mrs Robinson requesting her attendance [PDF, 211 KB]

The total cost was £1000 - £448.10 was labour only tender accepted. The costs were:

£448.10 - Borough Council (Contract 111) – was not just labour.  It was to build the whole clock including labour, some materials supplied by the contractor and some materials supplied by the Council.
£354.05 – electronic mechanism 
£37.10 - floodlights 
2/6 – black granite tablet per square foot   

The clock today

1954 - the original flood lighting was removed and replaced with neon lighting.

1963 - the tower was repainted in salmon tones.

1998 - the clock tower was repainted

2007 - the clock stopped at 8.55pm on 20 December 2007 when Gisborne was rocked by an 6.8 magnitude earthquake.

2016 - the tower was repainted in March 2016 in 2 tone grey to enhance the art-deco design.March 2016 repaint

Design and construction

The art deco 17 metre (56 foot) tower is constructed of reinforced concrete with a painted plaster finish. It was originally painted terracotta pink and white.

The clock components comprise the famous four-bell Westminster chimes every quarter hour and the fifth bell tolls the hour on the hour. The dial and hands are from the old Post Office building.  A new master-slave electric clock mechanism was installed at the time of construction. The structure is a fluted four-sided main shaft with anachronistic paired stylised doric columns supporting the top of the bell tower. 

Other links

Gisborne Photo News(external link)

2013 Memoir and local history competition entry(external link)