Have you noticed the clock on the wall of the Whittlesea Post Office?
Have you wondered where did it come from and what is the story of this old clock?
Here is my story.
I was made by Thomas Gaunt who was born in 1829, and arrived in Melbourne in 1852. By 1858 he had established his business as a leading watchmaker, optical, and jeweller. He also made thermometers, barometers, telescopes, surveying instruments and microscopes. His main business was directed at turret clocks for town halls, churches, and post offices.
He won many awards in the 1870s and 1880s, including an award for the turret clock at the Emerald Hill (South Melbourne) Town Hall in 1880-1881. His business was also appointed as watch and clockmaker to Lord Brassey, the Governor of Victoria, on 22nd June 1896.
His turret clocks in the City of Melbourne include; Melbourne General Cemetery 1869, Parliament House 1872, Melbourne Customs House 1877, Flinders Street Station ‘Watertower’ clock 1882, Melbourne General Post Office 1890, and Olderfleet Building 1891. He also made many more that are on suburban and provincial city public buildings. Not all of these clocks are still in existence.
He made the clock for the Melbourne Post Office Lobby, and was well known for installing a chronograph at Flemington Racecourse in 1876, which showed the time for the race accurate to a quarter of a second.
One of his best known clocks is in Royal Arcade in Melbourne. Although he had died when it was installed in 1892, the clock face between the figures of Gog and Magog bears his name. On his death in 1890 his estate was worth 41,453 pounds.
Thomas Gaunt and Sons’ business operated in Royal Arcade until the mid 1960s when it closed down.
When I arrived at the Post and Telegraph Office, Whittlesea had been proclaimed a Shire in 1875. There was a school, three churches, a Mechanics Institute, butcher, blacksmiths, General Store Newsagency, saddler, and hotels. With settlement came the necessity for roads to be made and bridges to be built. The Courthouse was the venue for Meetings of the Roads Board, as well as the inaugural meeting of the Shire of Whittlesea, held 20th January 1875 when Mr William Lockwood was appointed acting surveyor and treasurer. Subsequent meetings were held at the Picnic Hotel at Yan Yean.
Australia’s large Reservoir was completed at Yan Yean in 1857, to supply water to the growing city of Melbourne. A caretaker’s cottage was also built while the reservoir was under construction. Toorourrong Reservoir gave employment to the local community when it was built above Whittlesea.
There was also great excitement when the first train arrived in Whittlesea on Show Day in 1889.
William Lockwood was appointed Post Master in 1881. He conducted the business from the Postal and Telegraph Office on the corner of Church and Walnut Streets. Because he was also Shire Engineer, Electoral Registrar and Registrar of Births and Deaths, his daughter Wilhelmina fulfilled his postal duties during times when he was away on business. After his death in 1912 his daughter Martha continued operation of the post office until her health failed in 1925. Wilhelmina took on the role of Electoral Registrar and Registrar of Births and Deaths.
The Post Office was very busy with incoming and outgoing mail, incoming and outgoing telegraph messages, and sale of postage stamps at a time of strong economy.