After the opening of Time+Tide’s Watch Discovery Studio in our hometown of Melbourne, I began fascinated by the town’s relationships with clocks and timekeeping. I can’t start to rely the quantity of occasions I’ve organized to fulfill individuals ‘below the clocks’ at Flinders Avenue Station, ‘below the clock’ at Melbourne Central purchasing centre, or ‘in entrance of the clock’ at Southern Cross Station. Having largely developed within the second half of the 1800s, colonial Melbourne relied on having quite a few public clocks earlier than pocket watches turned inexpensive and sensible for the inhabitants at massive. The person accountable for lots of these clocks was Thomas Gaunt.
Thomas Gaunt was an English clockmaker who got here to Melbourne in 1852, close to the start of Victoria’s gold rush. He started engaged on Elizabeth Avenue for the Latvian-born Henry Newman, a jeweller who’d arrived the identical yr. Though Newman’s enterprise was prestigious and well-known for their opal jewellery, it wasn’t too lengthy earlier than Gaunt’s personal expertise had been in vital demand. He opened his personal retailer on close by Bourke Avenue, buying and selling in every kind of specialty areas. His firm made watches, clocks, jewelry, and even some optics and glasswork, basically something which required regular arms and artistry.
T. Gaunt & Co. employed an important many individuals over a variety of many years, and among the merchandise you’ll be able to nonetheless discover in auctions or vintage shops embody marine chronometers, hydrometers and ornate candlesticks. However, these sorts of day-to-day gadgets aren’t what Gaunt is remembered for. Essentially the most well-known clocks of Flinders Avenue Station are people who had been moved manually to point out prepare departure occasions, however nearly as iconic is the Flinders Avenue Station tower clock. Positioned immediately within the centre on the finish of Elizabeth Avenue, you’ll be able to see it from blocks away within the purple and gold tower. It was constructed as it’s as we speak in 1910, and the unique water tower clock has since been moved to Southern Cross Station.
Because the official Clock Maker to the Victorian Authorities, T. Gaunt & Co. additionally made the clocks for the Normal Put up Workplace and the cities of Malvern and Camperdown. They branched out into South Australia as effectively, with tower clocks in Mount Gambier, Emerald Hill and ultimately Adelaide. Sadly, Thomas Gaunt handed away at his house in 1890, however he was fondly remembered for setting the Royal Arcade clock each morning from alerts despatched by the Melbourne Observatory. He’d additionally made a incredible chronograph for the Flemington Racecourse in 1876, which may time races right down to 1 / 4 of a second.
Though tower clocks are all the time a robust sight, T. Gaunt & Co.’s most fascinating set up needs to be the figures of Gog and Magog within the Royal Arcade, the place Gaunt’s store was on the top of his enterprise. Obvious down at consumers with intense and hateful eyes, Gog and Magog are legendary giants who’ve had numerous completely different legends attributed to them. Some say they’re the heralds of the apocalypse, that they guard the gates of the underworld, or that they are often symbols for any warring nations. In any case, they had been carved by Mortimer Godfrey and put in by T. Gaunt & Co. in 1892 on both facet of a clock face made by Frederick Ziegler. Each quarter-hour, they animate to strike iron bells.
After Thomas Gaunt’s loss of life, his firm continued to thrive for many years. They produced loads of helpful instruments alongside ornamental objects, and plenty of of them held nice status. They manufactured the Caulfield Cup for ten years, initially made out of over 650g of 18k gold. My favorite piece needs to be the scissors made for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Trans-Australian Railway in 1917, with a map of Australia formed into the handles. Nonetheless, as competitors grew and the financial local weather made luxurious items much less more likely to be commissioned, T. Gaunt & Co. closed its doorways in 1960. So long as Melbourne values its historical past, Thomas Gaunt and his firm’s work might be remembered.