Clock Tower, Murray Street 61

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Fast Facts
Address: 67 Murray Street
Town or Locality: Gawler
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Twenty-eight years after the first settlers arrived in Gawler, the first dedicated post office was officially opened. Gawler had always had a mail service. The first building in Murray Street, The Golden Fleece Hotel (later the Old Spot Hotel) served many purposes including as a place for the acceptance and delivery of the town's mail. During the early 1840s the owner of the Old Spot Hotel, Henry Calton, served as Gawler's first postmaster. Henry Gozzard became postmaster during the 1840s and continued into the 1850s. He operated the post office from his bakery shop in Murray Street. After his death his assistant, Henry Dean, was appointed acting postmaster.

In the early 1860s the post office business was moved to the telegraph Station (now the National Trust Museum). At this time Mr W Rossi was appointed as the first official postmaster. this arrangement did not suit some of the residents of Gawler and moves were made to have a dedicated post office built.

In the 11 May edition of the South Australian Register, the Gawler "Correspondent" reported on a meeting of a committee that had been formed to collect signatures on a 'memorial' to the South Australian Government requesting the construction of a post office in Gawler. It was suggested that if the building had a cupola or tower of some sort, the people of Gawler would raise the funds to put a clock in it. The Gawler "Correspondent" thought that this would "be of immense advantage in the town to regulate time, as at present everyone in Gawler seems to keep his own time and sometimes miss a post or a train in consequence". (South Australian Register, 11 May 1865, p.2).

By August 1863, the South Australian Government had agreed to build a post office and the site next to the Telegraph Station was confirmed (South Australian Register, 22 August 1865, p.3).

With much ceremony the foundation stone was laid on 8 August 1866. Copies of newspapers of the day and coins were deposited in a bottle and laid under the foundation stone together with a document stating that the Mayor, Mr J Mitchell, and other dignitaries were present.

The Bunyip of 7 September 1867 reported that the new post office was completed and would be open for business on 9 September 1867. The building had cost 2395 pounds, the architect was Mr W Hanson, the builders were Pett and Gray and the overseer of works was "Mr O'Mahony".

Within the building a winding staircase led to the clock tower. Wendt's of Adelaide had supplied the "fine piece of mechanism" at a "very moderate cost of about 150 pounds". the clock consisted of four dials (facing north, south, east and west) made from the "best milk white glass, 3 feet 6 inches in diameter". An interesting fact that is not mentioned in The Bunyip report is that during manufacture an error was made and on the eastern face the number four is in the place where the six should be.

The Bunyip report went on to describe how, at 4 pm on 6 September 1867, the pendulum was started and the clock struck the hour of the day for the first time. This occurred in the presence of the Mayor, Councillors, "a number of the principle (sic.) inhabitants of the town", Mr wendt and his two assistants, all of whom somehow squeezed into the small space.

After the new post office was opened in Tod Street in October 1973, the old building was occupied by various businesses and the clock mechanism was converted to electric winding. It was maintained by an Adelaide clock company which visited biennially. This was not an ideal situation as problems often arose between visits and the clock time was erratic.

During 1998 suggestions that the clock be maintained locally were made. Mr Aub Kaesler, an almost-retired watchmaker, rose to the challenge and the Corporation of the Town of Gawler accepted his offer of voluntary service to maintain the clock. During 2002, under the auspices of Council, the Clock Tower Committee was formed to restore and maintain the clock. This was not a moment too soon because in May 2002 the clock stopped due to a broken tooth on a main gear. As a result, the decision was made to completely overhaul the clock. The electric winding mechanism was dismantled during the overhaul work allowing the clock to be wound by hand. This continues to be done by members of the Clock Tower Committee on a roster system.

There are more photos of the Clock Tower available here.


In 1839 a German migrant, Mr. Scheibener erected the first building in Gawler. It was an Inn. This is now known as The Old Spot Hotel. In 1845 the Inn became unprofitable and lost its license and was eventually sold to Mr. Henry Calton, a new arrival in the town. He soon made the hotel the collection point for the town's mail. He was appointed the official post-master on December 31st 1841, and he arranged for a mail service between Adelaide and Gawler. This was by way of a stage-coach, which was initially driven by Mr. John Harvey, the founder of Salisbury. The coach driver was held to a tight schedule and was fined for every minute he was late. This was quite a problem because the roads were so bad that things often went wrong with the coach, which also carried passengers. If the coach were to break down, in order to get the mail through on time the driver would unhitch a horse and ride it to his destination carrying the mail. The passengers, of course, would have to wait in the coach. Under ideal conditions the coach would leave Gawler at 5 am. arriving in Adelaide at 10 am. The fare (in 1855) was ten shillings ($1) each way.

Mr. Calton soon became an imposing figure in the community, being quite involved in the early development of the town, and also by owning quite a large proportion of the town. It must be pointed out, however, that he did the job of post-master without salary.

In 1848, the post office moved across the road to the bakery of Mr. Gozzard, who became the second Post-master. His premises were on the northwest comer of Murray Street and Walker Place. After Mr. Gozzard died, his assistant Mr. H. Dean held the position until the Post Office was moved into the new telegraph building in 1863.

It was in 1857 that the telegraph wires were introduced into Gawler and the first telegraph office was set-up in the Globe Hotel (presently the "Kingsford Hotel").

The first operator was a Mr. Lewis, followed by Mr. David Sands when the Telegraph office was re-located to a room of the Gawler Implement Company. An official Telegraph Station was built in Murray St., constructed of local stone, and opened on the 1st. of July 1863. The Post office was also moved into the Telegraph Office. and Mr. W. Rossi was the first official Post and Telegraph Officer.

It is interesting to note that in 1866, a signal was set up to announce the arrival of overseas mail and that was the firing of a cannon by Dr. Popham, whose home was situated on the hillside over-looking the town.

At about this time a parcel of land fronting Murray Street, measuring 65 1/2 feet with a depth of 175 feet (towards High Street), was bought from Mr. Robert Milne for 15 pounds per foot frontage - 982 pounds and ten shillings - to be used for the building of Gawler's first official post office, which was to also incorporate the telegraph office.

The Post Office building was contracted to be built by a local company 'Pett and Gray' for a price of 2395 pounds. The telegraph office became the mail coach driver's residence, and later the school of mines, the Gawler adult education centre, and is now the Gawler Branch of the National Trust, housing a museum of local history.

On February 6th, 1867, a committee was formed to arrange the purchase and installation of a town clock. The council imposed a levy on ratepayers of 3 pence in the pound, to raise the required funding. The clock was in place and ready to go on September 6th. , 1867. It was supplied and installed by Wendt's Jewellers of Rundle Street, Adelaide, at a cost of 150 pounds. Research suggests that the council got a good price because the clock was "in stock" due to the previous customer going bankrupt before it was installed. The four dials were of the best quality milk glass, three feet-six inches in diameter facing north, South, east and west.

An interesting point is a mistake, during manufacture, on the eastern face, which shows (in Roman Numerals) a four where the six should be. On the afternoon of 6th of September 1867, the Mayor of Gawler and a number of councillors and invited guests joined Mr. Wendt and two of his assistants in the clock tower. No mean feat considering the confined space available. A few minutes before 4pm the 4 pendulum was set in motion and the clock first struck the hour at 4pm.

The party then strolled across the road to the Globe Hotel to toast the clock with champagne and cheers and congratulations all round, particularly to the clock tower committee.

For a number of years all went well, but it is worth noting that on Sunday 28th of July, 1878, fear was expressed from a number of older women who felt the end of the world was being heralded when the clock struck one hundred times!

The clock is powered by two weights suspended on cables wound on drums attached to the clock mechanism. These cables have to be wound once a week.

On The 28th of February 1878 Sir Charles Todd made the first telephone call between Gawler and Adelaide as an experiment. This was made a permanent feature on 19th of February 1889, with three telephone subscribers in Gawler, these being Harris and Sons, the Albion Mills, and James Martin. By 1891 this had grown to 9 - including the Police station, May Brother's foundry, and Dr. Popham, the Railway Telegraph office, Gilbert & Co. and Pierce Wincey & Co. The fee was 25 pounds per year.

In 1939 a repeater station was built at the rear of the post office and in 1956 the exchange was converted from magneto telephones to central battery and then to automatic and STD on the 15th. of May 1968.

In October of 1973, the post office and clock tower parted company when the new post office was opened in Tod Street, built on the site where well known Gawler photographer, P.J.Marchant's home had been situated.

After the new Post Office was opened the old building was used by various businesses (including the Gawler Tourist Information Centre- before their new building was erected on Lyndoch Rd.)

The clock mechanism was converted to electric winding and was maintained with biennial visits by a company called Adelaide Clock and Parts Supplies. This, however, was not an ideal situation as problems often arose between visits and the clock time was quite erratic.

During 1998 an article in the "Cit" section of the Bunyip suggested that it would be a good idea, and, much better, if a Gawler person were available to regulate the clock. This was picked up by local resident Steve Kaesler who thought his father would fit the bill quite well and wrote to the paper to "dob him in". His father is Aub Kaesler, a soon to be retired watchmaker.

On the 15th. of September 1998 Mr. Kaesler Snr. wrote a letter to the Gawler council offering his services as a volunteer to help with the Town Clock. They answered, saying that the clock was under a maintenance contract, and his letter would be kept on file. It was six months later that a letter arrived in his mailbox from the council asking if he would consider regulating the clock. Upon closer inspection it was evident that the mechanism required some running repairs to be carried out. These were done by Mr. Kaesler who then continued to maintain the clock.

At Mr. Kaesler's suggestion a clock tower committee was once again formed, this time not to buy and install the clock, but to maintain and restore it (and the clock tower as a whole) back to its former glory.

The first meeting of the new committee was held in the council chambers on Wednesday March 13th. 2002. The committee consists of Aub Kaesler- caretaker, Sheila Willox - Gawler Council, Bob Clinch- secretary, Ian McDonnell - photography/historian, with Paul Modra, Colin Holbrook and Norm Tregenza as the clock winders. This committee is known as “The Friends of The Clock Tower".

In May of 2002 the clock stopped due to a broken tooth on a main gear, which required the complete dismantling of the gear case. As a result of this breakdown it was decided to completely overhaul the clock. This work was done predominantly by Aub Kaesler with the help of the new committee. The project took six months and was completed in November 2002. The work included disconnecting the less than satisfactory electric winder, to allow the clock to be again wound by hand, on a roster system by the clock winders.

Researched and compiled by the Friends of the Clock Tower, Photos by Ian McDonnell 2002. Additional information supplied by Bev Burke and John Clift.

Click here to read Gawler Machinery Restorer's Club Newsletter relating to the Gawler Town Clock.

Click here to view photos of the Clock Tower.

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Memories of Clock Tower, Murray Street 61

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