Monday, July 21, 2008

Christchurch Past & Present # 2 Time Flies… Across Town

Clock tower looking south on Manchester Street, circa 1910

The Jubilee/Victoria Clock Tower was originally commissioned to be placed on one of the towers of the Canterbury Provincial Building. Designed by Benjamin Mountfort, it was made in England and arrived in Christchurch in 147 packages in December 1860. Iron tower and clock were separated when it became clear the structure was too heavy to be placed on top of the Provincial Building. The clock became the first “town clock”, curiously placed so that only the chimes could be heard but the face could not be seen. In the 1870s it was stored in the city council yard until someone had the idea to erect the clock & tower on the corner of High, Lichfield, and Manchester Streets to commemorate the 1897 Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria's coronation. The original iron tower was supplanted with a volcanic stone and limestone structure complete with ornate wrought iron work.

Clock tower looking northwest up High Street, circa 1910

A wider view looking in the same north-westerly direction.

The dog would be in violation of leash laws a century on, leaving its owner liable to a fine and the dog to the animal control officer.

With the growth of motorized transport, the clock tower came to be viewed as a traffic hazard, reducing vision at the intersection. The solution was to move the clock tower to the corner of Victoria Street and Montreal Street in 1930 where it remains to this day.

Clock tower at Victoria Montreal Streets - clock must have been stopped or broken this day because this picture was taken around 9pm in January 2007.

In 2004 at a ceremony unveiling restorative work on the clock tower, then-Mayor Gary Moore, conceding the word icon had been overused in New Zealand in recent times, observed that the clock tower was truly deserving of the iconic descriptor given its place in Christchurch tradition. It was also, he said, “a victim of many a committee decision over the years. It has known both glory and exile. It is one of the great political survivors of our city.”

And what of the former corner at High, Lichfield, and Manchester Streets? Phil Price's "Nucleus", flapping in the wind, er, kinetic sculpture. According to the artist, "the artwork is a celebration of place. The simple singular form made of four equal parts is a reflection of Christchurch, with its well planned and laid out built environment.... The plinth, with its exposed structure and beauty through function, is a celebration of Christchurch’s engineering and industrial base." A less fortunate committee decision, perhaps?

Price, "Nucleus"

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