Grafton Marking Time – The Grafton Clock Tower

The story below is another extract from one of my local history booklets “As Time Goes By-Grafton’s Fascination with Time-Pieces”,which I wrote and published in 2009, for our Sesqui-Centenary Celebrations of Local Government. This booklet has long been out of print, and I am now sharing some extracts on my blog.

In 1908 the Grafton Municipal Council was making preparations to celebrate their Jubilee and so a special committee was to set up to organize and overseer the celebrations.

The Mayor encouraged the citizens to suggest a suitable memorial to the occasion. It was finally announced a Town Clock Tower would be constructed as the memorial. At the March Council meeting it was voted after much discussion that £400 should be expended from Council funds on the Jubilee Celebrations. The major part was to be for the erection of a suitable Clock Tower for the city and also for the publication of a booklet on the history and progress of the Municipality. The other proposed functions would be funded by a subscription collection.

It is not known if local architects forwarded proposed designs for the tower, but at the end of April Mr E C Norrie, a local architect, presented to the Council a plan for a Clock Tower submitted to him by Mr S M Becher, a Sydney Architect. Sherard Michael Becher, born 1883, Grafton, was the second son of Richard Fane and Louisa Becher (nee Paton). Richard Fane Becher was the Baptist Minister at Grafton for many years. Sherard attended the Grafton Public School before the family moved to Sydney. He became an architect in Sydney, but continued to be interested in Grafton’s affairs. He acted as his own Clerk of Works and made several trips to Grafton to supervise the project.

Within a few days of receiving the plans, the Council had called tenders for the building of the Clock Tower at the intersection of Pound and Prince Streets. At the following Council meeting in mid May, the tender of J J Bender of £144 was accepted. However a special meeting was called within a week to discuss matters, as Bender had withdrawn his tender. The tender of Jacob Walter for £188 was then decided upon. Jacob Walter, the son of Franz and Sophia Walter, was born in Grafton in 1865. He worked with his father and brother as a bricklayer. He married Ellen Rosanna Franey in 1893. He died in Grafton in 1945.

At a Council Meeting in May, 1909,Ald Maxted moved that provisions be made for the laying of the Foundation Stone for the Clock Tower, and Mr Becher was quickly contacted. Mr Becher hurried to Grafton by the steamer, Kyogle and arrived early on Monday 7th June. At the special meeting with the Council on Friday 11th June,

Mr Beecher expressed the opinion it was too late to have an official laying of a foundation stone, but he suggested a brass plaque suitably inscribed to be attached to the completed tower, and that he was prepared to present such a plaque. His offer was accepted by Council. Mr Becher returned to Sydney by the Noorebar the next morning.

With these matters settled Jacob Walter then prepared to erect the tower,and brought loads of bricks from Palmers brickworks at the top end of Prince Street and started work. However these activities caused two sensational incidents, which were later reported in the local press.

“The stack of bricks and brickworks at the centre of the junction of Prince and Pound Streets, where the Jubilee Clock Tower is in course of erection, were responsible yesterday for two accidents, at least so it is alleged.

At about 8 am Mr Peter Cumming, baker, was getting into his cart after delivering some bread in Pound Street, when his horse shied at the bricks, and bolting across the road at full speed, brought the cart in violet collision with a tree, a sandstone gutter-bridge (both in front of Mr T Willan’s Freemason’s hotel,)and one of the verandah posts. The final impact was so great as to snap both shafts from the cart and, with these dangling from either side, the horse dashed madly along prince Street, in a northerly direction, but was fortunately stopped, and brought back unhurt. The body of the cart was left, loaded with bread and surrounded by glass-wreckage from the hotel verandah-lamp, on the footpath, whence, later on, it was removed. We learn with pleasure, that Mr Cumming escaped without injury.

The second accident occurred at about 5 pm. It appears that Mr and Mrs Stephen Schafer, formerly of the Royal hotel, South Grafton, were driving in a sulky from the Grafton railway station and were about entering Prince Street from Pound Street when the pony shied at the brickwork and, swerving suddenly into Prince Street, up-set Mr Schafer, who was driving, clean out onto the road. Mr Schafer fell face downwards, severely injuring his nose, and as the reins fell with him the uncontrolled pony bolted, and as it did so, a wheel of the sulky passed over Mr Schafer’s right hip and waist. The objective of the pony appeared to be the river, and Mrs Schafer, who had retained her seat in the trap, must have had a most unenviable time as the a frighted animal careered with the helpless lady to apparently certain death, or severe injury at least. Shopkeepers, their assistants and customers rushed out to witness the rapidly approaching catastrophe, and in a moment each side of the street was lined with horror-strickened people, some yelling bootless instructions to Mrs Schafer. Mr Rowley Smith was riding up Prince Street with a parcel of account books under his arm, when the runaway dashed past him. Instantly he dropped the books on the road and galloped in hot pursuit. The pony with the sulky was turning in towards the ‘Argus’ where Sergeant Dean was standing. The intrepid officer made a grab for the reins, but his effort had the good effect of causing the pony to swerve shortly towards the middle of the street, in doing so, the trailing reins touched the wheel and were promptly whisked right into Mrs Schafer’s hand, and the cool lady was actually pulling the runaway in when Mr Smith galloped alongside and seized its head. That settled everything. The people from the shops went back, and Mrs Schafer, escorted by Mr Smith, still holding the pony’s head and riding alongside, drove rapidly back to pick up her husband. Meanwhile Mr Schafer had been carried into Mr Weiley’s Market Hotel, where he received every possible attention, and from there he was afterwards taken home. It is hoped that his injuries will not prove serious.”

Mr Becher acted as his own Clerk of Works and returned to Grafton by the Kyogle on 5 July, 1909. He stated that the brickwork would be finished by the 8th July and that the clock mechanism would leave Sydney on the Saturday for installation the following week by Mr Otto Fuch. Mr Fuch had already installed the clock faces in the tower..When he installed the clock faces he wrote the date on the back of each , 29 June 1909. By co-incident in 1959, when the Municipal Council was having new clock faces installed and maintenance done on the clock in preparation for the Centennial Celebrations the day this work was carried out was on 29 June. No-one knew of this coincidence until after the job was complete and the pencil inscriptions on the old clock faces was noticed.

The names of the former Mayors of the Municipality were inscribed on marble tablets on the tower. This was brought up to date in in recent years.

Mr Becher presented a brass plate for the Clock Tower, on which ‘Erected July 20, 1909, to commemorate the Jubilee of the Incorporation of the City of Grafton. This also bears the names of the Mayor, Town Clerk, and Mr Becher.

The Tower rises to a height of 42 feet from ground level. It is on a solid concrete foundation 18 inches thick, set on 6 inches of sand placed in the bottom of the trench. In excavating for the foundation the Council’s large drain was met with only 15 inches below the surface. This was a nasty obstacle, and had to be over come by throwing a semi-circular arch over the whole width of the drain. The concrete was mixed and laid in one batch , thus ensuring a perfect foundation. The Tower is built of brick, with the exterior of Sydney open kiln facing bricks. At the base is an ornamental drinking fountain, while segmental arches, span the openings above, between the piers. Above these, on two sides, two marble tablets have been fixed, to take the names of past Mayors of the Municipality, with the dates of their holding office. Above the clock, cement cornices surround the parapet, formed by inverted arches, whilst at the summit of each pier is a round terminal.

The clock is lighted with four wrought iron bracket lights fixed in the centre of each pier. Originally these were gas, and were able to be lifted or lowered for the purposes of repair and cleaning. They were later replaced by fixed electric ones.

The clock was made by Messrs Angus & Coote, of George Street Sydney. It has four dials, and has special devices for winding and setting the works. The idea of having a clock tower to commemorate the incorporation of the city of Grafton met with a mixed reception. Still, the tower was erected.

Prince Street,Grafton

There were many who criticized the structure and claimed the clock would have been more serviceable had it been a ‘striker’. Some were so incensed that they took up their pen and wrote to the press.

To the Editor of the Argus

Sir- For twenty seven years I have lived in Grafton, and I take great interest in the memorial which is being erected at the intersection of Prince and Pound Streets. I think the Borough Council were taking a rise out of us poor fools when they palmed this concern on us as a memento of Jubilee enthusiasm and as a token of progression. One of my customers from ‘out back’ wanted to know ‘whaf-for’ the Council was building another water tank . I told him ’twas to water the streets from the top of the tower, as it saved the man from carrying the street watering apparatus about in the wheel barrow . ‘Ah’ said he , ‘then I suppose those holes are for the cove to stick the water pipe through’.

The Clock Tower was unveiled on the 20th July 1909 with great pomp and ceremony

The Mayor explained the significance of the tower, in that it marked the passing of the old, and introduced the new ways for progress in the city. He stated it was built from a design prepared by Mr S M Becher, architect, (Sydney), the contractor who erected it being Mr Jacob Walter, of Grafton. He stated that both the architect and the builder were natives of Grafton, the former being a son of the late Rev B F Becher, formerly baptist minister here. The erection of the Clock Tower cost about £300.

The special decorations for the occasion, included banners on each side of the Tower. The south face had the words, ‘Grafton Jubilee’; the north ‘1859-1909’; the east, ‘Advance Grafton’, and the west had a Royal Crown

The Mayor went on to describe the clock-tower itself. It was also stated that the whole concern was a creditable ornament to the city, and its significance as a memorial of the time should prove a perpetual education to visitors , and an incentive to the civic fathers to never cease endeavouring to advance Grafton.

Although with time people got used to the Tower itself, the clock was another matter, as it didn’t prove to be a reliable time piece.

A letter, perhaps with ‘tongue-in-cheek’, to the local newspaper a couple of months later reveals what some thought about the situation.


A story with a full 100 per cent of truth is going the rounds at the

expense of the horologe that adorns the municipal monument at the Prince-Pound Streets intersection. A visitor from up Richmond way who has toured a considerable portion of the North, sauntered along one morning, and scrutinising the face of the timepiece that is visible from the direction of host Weiley’s, thought he must have overslept himself or that Grafton was a little more ahead of its time than many gave it credit for. Hauling out his key-less lever, he noticed a wide discrepancy between Richmond River standard time and Grafton. Proceeding further up the street, he was astounded on beholding the Eastern face of that modern ‘timekeeper’ that he must have been travelling at the rate of something like 7minutes 27 seconds per yard. In order to become enlightened on the system of time gauging in Grafton, he inquired of a well-known frequenter of the Market Square how meal hours, knock-off time, hotel closing , and train departures were ascertained in the Queen City. He was solemnly informed that the clock was representative of the Labour Party, and only worked eight hours per day. He was advised also to have a look at the Northern and Western sides of the four faced machine that is supposed to provide Grafton folk with the correct time of day. Whether our visitor was more impressed by the influence credited to the Labour Party or to the quadruple method of measuring time by Grafton’s Jubilee Clock, has not transpired. Notes of his trip hither will probably contain the suggestion for the enlightenment of visitors that the several faces of this time-piece might be surmounted with an inscription indicating that Russian, Japanese, American and North Pole standard times are respectively represented on the several faces of the monumental clock.

The Grafton City Council finally resorted to having local watchmakers take care of the clockworks and coax the town clock to do it’s intended duty. So there were periods of time when the four clock faces worked in unison and the business people of Prince and Pound Streets felt confident to regulate their business hours by the Jubilee Town Clock, and all was right with the world.

One such businessman was W J Weiley of the Market Hotel, later just known as ‘Weileys’. He could observe the Pound Street ,eastern face from his bedroom window and rose early each day, by the clock to attend to the early delivery of goods, such as coal, beer, meat and vegetables and other sundry things.

One morning he rose as usual by the town clock, but was soon fretting as all the deliveries of goods seem to be much later than usual, and he finally remonstrated with a delivery man about the need for punctuality. Of course the delivery man was quite taken back that Mr Weiley should address him so, and advised him that he was very punctual. Mr Weiley then pointed to the time on the Town Clock, and was promptly told that the Town Clock was in fact an hour fast, and that some errant young louts must of changed the time as a prank. Mr Weiley was most vocal about the situation until he found the culprit was close at hand, and actually lived in his household. It was quite some time before he could really trust the Town Clock again, and on those occasions when it was fast or slow, no matter for what reason, he closely questioned his household over the matter.

Over the years there have been times when the Town Clock would be fast or slow and for a while the business people would put up with the inconvenience, while they waited for the City Council to call in the local watchmaker to attend to the maintenance. However if the Council took it’s time over the matter, they might be reminded by a newspaper article or by a ABC newsreader. On one such occasion Rupert Winwood-Smith was reading the news for the ABC. In those days the news bulletins were hand written or were typed, often on ancient typewriters, and so the print was not always clear. In the news Winwood- Smith stated that the ‘Town Clerk’ was late at the time of the last Municipal Council Meeting and was still running late at the time of the meeting held the previous night. It was reported it was most inconvenient to the businesses and citizens and called on the Councillors to act, and do something about this situation. Mr Wilfred Sheather was the ‘Town Clerk’ at the time and was most aggrieved as he was always very punctual in all matters. Of course the word ‘clerk’ should have been read as ‘clock’ as it was the ‘Town Clock’ which was the offending party, certainly not Mr Sheather.

In 1953, this great icon was decorated with flags and bunting as well as a huge crown, for the street parade in celebration of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. In recent years it wears a splendid crown of lights each year for the Jacaranda Festival.

Clock Tower


Grafton Marking Time – South Grafton ‘Shop Clock’

The story below is another extract from one of my local history booklets “As Time Goes By-Grafton’s Fascination with Time-Pieces”,which I wrote and published in 2009, for our Sesqui-Centenary Celebrations of Local Government. This booklet has long been out of print, and I am now sharing some extracts on my blog.

In the early years of the South Grafton Municipality the South Grafton residents invested heavily in ‘bricks and mortar’ in their fledgling town. Many fine homes and places of business were built, particularly in Skinner Street. Although many business in the Grafton Municipality also had branches of their businesses at South Grafton, there was a certain element of rivalry between the two municipalities. In 1909 this became very evident as new buildings began rising in Prince Street, Grafton after the devastating fires of 1908. Not to be left behind, South Grafton pushed on with a building program particularly with renovations and extensions to their hotels. This included Walkers Hotel, which was extensively extended and renovated to become one of the largest and well known hotels on the North Coast.

On the opposite side of Skinner Street, the City Bank, beside J T McKittrick’s, was opened and adjacent to that, Mr E Hennings, a jeweller and watchmaker built a most impressive two story establishment, which not only had a spacious residence up stairs, but three shops on the lower level. These were a hairdresser, tobacconist and newsagency, and watchmaker and jewellery shops.

The front of the new building above the balcony was decorated, and in panels across the building the words ‘E Hennings, 1909, Jeweller’ were written for all to see. On the top of the facade on an arched piece, was a clock face with metal hands. This ‘clock’ was to advertise the chief business of the premises. Inside his watchmakers shop, Mr Hennings had many clocks, but the showpiece was ‘a fine type of the English striking clock of Culver, London, 7 feet 6 inches high, with inlaid frame and silver dial’, which made it a very ‘handsome as well as a high class time piece’.

Ernest Henry Hennings married Hannah Perovich, on the South Coast of New South Wales, in 1892. They had three children before they arrived at South Grafton in 1903 to open a watchmaking business there. Three more children were born at South Grafton. By the 1930’s the Hennings family had moved to Sydney and the Watman Brothers carried on the businesses in that establishment. The clock on the outside of the building can still be seen today, high above the street, but it is no longer a working clock..


Grafton Marking Time- Post Office Clock

The story below is another extract from one of my local history booklets “As Time Goes By-Grafton’s Fascination with Time-Pieces”,which I wrote and published in 2009, for our Sesqui-Centenary Celebrations of Local Government. This booklet has long been out of print, and I am now sharing some extracts on my blog.

The Grafton Post Office Clock

Thomas Fisher had been the Postal Officer at Grafton at his store on the river bank between 1859 to 1870. The Telegraph Office was originally housed in the Court House in 1862 and was later transferred to rented premised in Prince Street in 1865. In 1870 the Postal Department was also transferred to the Prince Street premises and both services continued there until 1878.

In 1872, Thomas Bawden, the local parliamentary member was requested to approach the government to secure monies to build suitable premises for the rapidly expanding needs of the post and telegraph services at Grafton. He was successful and plans were prepared by James Barnett the Colonial Architect , with tenders being called soon afterwards. William Kinnear was the successful tender. John Sutherland, Minister for Works, visited the Clarence later that year, and Graftonians further petitioned him for a proposed a sum of £2500 to be provided the following year, but the project was very slow, and little had been done by the Government by September 1874.

Thomas Fisher was Mayor of Grafton and the honour of laying the foundation stone was bestowed on the Mayoress, Mrs Fisher. After the ‘time-gun’ affair preparations were quickly made and Mrs Fisher, laid the foundation stone on the 8 October 1874, amid great ceremony which was followed by an official luncheon and a ball that night. The building plans were a James Barnett design of a two storey impressive sandstone and brick building with the postal and telegraph departments on the ground floor and the Post Master’s residence on the first floor.

William Kinnear, the contractor pushed on with the building and stone work of the main and ancillary buildings, which were nearly completed by the following April. However, due to problems within the Post Master General’s Department the project came to a halt. By December 1875, the citizens in Grafton could see that a clock, time ball and signal staff were needed additions to the Post and Telegraph building and Thomas Bawden, Thomas Page and Thomas Fisher, travelled to Sydney to petition the Postmaster General about these matters. He replied that their concerns were being addressed and that plans of a clock tower, with a four dial clock, had been prepared, and the project would be pushed forward.

In July 1876, Grafton experienced serious flooding and there were further delays with the building. Much comment, concerning the lack of progress with this necessary addition for public convenience, was made in the local papers throughout 1877. Finally by early 1878 the main building had been been completed and the staff quickly moved in without permission or ceremony. There was no official opening of this building. However, although there was finally a clock tower it remained empty for over a year.

The clock was installed by the maker, Mr Tornaghi, in March 1879. ‘The four dial plates were of iron, four feet in diameter, painted black, with the hour and minute hands in gold. The bell which was fitted in the dome was made of the best bell metal, and weighed nearly 400 lbs. The bell was struck every hour by a hammer weighing 18 lbs making 156 strokes every 24 hours. The tone of the bell was extremely clear and could be heard at a considerable distance. The works were placed about 7 feet below the dials, the hands being turned by a perpendicular connecting rod, and were of an entirely new construction, specially adopted for this kind of clock- the movement being known as the ‘gravity escapement’. The works were kept in motion by two suspended weights, each of approximately 50 lbs, which run down inside the front walls of the building in iron groves. The pendulum, second and half movement, was about 7 feet long, and had a bulb weighing approximately 102 lbs.To keep the clock going these weights had to be hauled up daily from the ground floor to the clock tower, by a windlass manned by two of the Postal staff.

The Post Master’s residence was on the first floor, with the main bedrooms in the front of the building. Locals recall that one of the early Post Masters, when he discovered that the 102 lbs iron pendulum swung to and fro in the ceiling just above his bed, wasted no time in changing his bedroom.

Grafton Post Office

This clock when well maintained, kept very good time, but the Postmaster General’s department did not see the need to send a clockmaker to Grafton to do this work, so within a few years problems arose concerning the time variances. In April 1884, ‘A.B. McM’, a regular contributor of topical verse to the Clarence and Richmond Examiner penned the following:-

The Post Office Clock

I’ve had many troubles since I have been born,

And I oft scarce know what I will do,

When bad luck comes on me, and leaves me forlorn,

But the greatest misfortune I’ve had,

Was one when I get a hard knock

And I have been driven abstractly mad,

By that erratic old Post Office Clock.

When I rise in the morning ’tis just about six,

Then away to work I must go,

But I find I am late- and get into a fix,

As that clock is ten minutes too slow.

Then I have a row and get turned out by the boss,

9And my labour comes to a ‘dead-lock’,

Of course it is me that will suffer the loss,

Brought on by that Post Office Clock.

Some times I knock off for my dinner at one,

And think that my troubles are past-

But I meet my employer and know that I’m ‘done’,

As that clock is just ten minutes fast.

Then what can I do , when I have such bad luck?

My misfortune gives me a great shock.

Of course it is me that will suffer the loss,

Brought on by that Post Office Clock.

Some days it’s too fast-

Some days it’s too slow-

And some days it won’t go at all;

It is only lately we’re getting to know,

The value of it is so small

Yet I believe the Government paid a high price,

Which from my rates and tax’s they’ll dock,

But for the same money, we could get something nice,

In the shape of a Post Office Clock.

Surely someone in Grafton in the clock-making line,

Can put the erratic thing straight.

I remember one time, when it struck twenty-nine,

Yet both hands were pointing to eight,

I can’t see myself, where it’s been any use,

As our time it seems simply to mock,

And from housewives it gets a fair share of abuse,

Does this misleading, old Post Office Clock.

Let all concerned take heed of these lines,

And to make matter properly go,

Also let them think of the working man’s ‘fines,’

When the clock is too fast, or too slow,

And I’m sure I don’t want to write any more,

or give them another quiet knock.

What I want to see is, not faster or slower,

But ‘right’ by the Post Office Clock.

Finally the Postmaster General’s Department consented to have a local clockmaker attend to the maintenance of the clock, so for many years the old clock gave the city remarkable service with the correct time, striking in unison with time ‘pips’ broadcast over the radio.

Grafton Post Office Clock

Today, sadly nearly 138 years after the clock first chimed out over the city, it is still and silent. The Post Office building is now privately owned with Australia Post and Clarence Consultants as tenants, who are not responsible for the clock. To their credit the present owners of the building tried to get the clock mended and working again, but the works have finally worn out and the parts are no longer available and so another Grafton time-piece era comes to a close.

Grafton Marking Time-One O’Clock Time Gun

Last week I led a series of History Walks in our beautiful city. The Friends of Grafton Library organized these as part of the celebrations for the “History Near Me” Festival, which was celebrated throughout the Clarence Valley for the full week.

These walks were a great success, but there wasn’t time to tell many of the stories associated with some of the city’s icons and places. I promised to share some of these stories through my blog.

The story below is an extract from one of my local history booklets “As Time Goes By-Grafton’s Fascination with Time-Pieces”,which I wrote and published in 2009, for our Sesqui-Centenary Celebrations of Local Government. This booklet has long been out of print, and I will now share some extracts on my blog.

The One O’Clock Time-Gun

In the late 1860’s the Half-day Holiday Associations were being formed in many towns throughout New South Wales. Their agenda was to better regulate working hours for workers, particularly in shops and businesses by directly approaching business owners. By 1873 Grafton had formed a Half-day Holiday Association and had convinced most Grafton businesses to close mid-week on Wednesday afternoon.

The firing of the steamships’ gun to herald their arrival, as they approached Grafton, had been tradition since the first steamers arrived in the 1840’s. In 1873 the Half-day Holiday Association saw it as a solution to the problem of ‘standard time’ by using the telegraph office and a ship’s cannon as a ‘time-gun’.

In May 1873 the Half Holiday Association decided “that the Secretaries should communicate with the Clarence and New England Steam Navigation Company to ascertain whether the company was willing to dispose of the brass gun, lately used on the Susannah Cuthbert, to the Association for use as a time-gun.”

By July the time gun had been acquired by a ‘shilling subscription’ and securely fixed into place behind the telegraph office in Prince Street. The Superintendent of Telegraph, in Sydney, had been communicated with, and kindly promised to furnish the Grafton Office, with the time, as the one o’clock gun was fired daily at the Sydney Observatory.

MALH0022631 003

The gun was fired for the first time on 19 July 1873. It was subsequently fired each day at ‘one p.m.’. The gun was sufficiently loud to be heard all over the town, and the businessmen in particular saw it as a great boon to the place to have a ‘standard time. The Telegraph Master was Thomas Quirk, who had just been appointed to the office staff at Grafton. Isaac Hyam lived in part of the building in Prince Street that the Post and Telegraph Office occupied. Mr David Braham, who had a watch-making and jewellery business lived next door. A common passageway ran between the two businesses.

Not everyone was happy with this new ‘time-piece’. Women and children were scared out of their wits, dogs made themselves scarce, and those who lived nearby had to make preparations to save their precious belonging from falling from walls and shelves as the reverberating ‘boom’ was to be heard.Those who have seen the Disney film ‘Mary Poppins’ can have some idea of what the canon might have be capable of.

The gun would be readied and loaded with the cotton wad in advance, and all the operator had to do was to light the fuse, when the signal arrived over the telegraph wires. However, sometimes the man, ready at the gun, was not able to get the signal off in time, due to perhaps damp powder in inclement weather, and it would be several minutes after one o’clock before the explosion was heard. Or sometimes a call-up from Sydney over the wire was wrongly construed as the one o’clock signal and the gunpowder was lit too early.

Although throughout the following months, several complaints were made about the ‘time-gun’, it continued to make it’s daily presence felt until April 1874, when it became silent. On inquiry it was found that the constant recoil had dislodged it from its position and it could not be discharged without great danger to the gunner.Isaac Hyam was employed to secure the gun to better footings and on 20th May he began to pull a log through the common passageway to the telegraph yard. However an altercation ensued between Hyam and David Braham over the right of way, which finally ended up in Court with assault charges being laid against each other. After evidence was given by several witnesses the verdict was given for Hyam.

On 25 May a letter appeared in the Clarence and Richmond Examiner (now Daily Examiner),which was purported to have been written, by David Brahams to the Telegraph Office,demanding the firing of the gun should cease. However, Brahams refuted the claim that he had written such a letter.

A petition of over 600 names was sent off to the Postmaster General urging the return to duty of the time-gun. The following week the gun started being fired daily, but three weeks later it was silent again, when it was discovered that it had been ‘spiked’. The Half Holiday Association offered a reward of £5 for information on who had done this terrible deed. They also publicly thanked Edwin Cox, a blacksmith, living nearby, for drilling out and repairing the gun, so it could resume its duty.

By early September the gun had again returned to its daily ‘booming’, but a few nights later the gun completely disappeared. Some had theories that it had been thrown in the river, others thought it had been thrown down a well, however it was never found.

The Half Holiday Association immediately offered a reward of £50 for information on the whereabouts of the gun, and to the guilty parties, but all to no avail. When they advertised that they intended to replace the missing ‘time-gun’ with an 18 ton gun, an article appeared in the Clarence and Richmond Examinerr suggesting they give up this plan, as it would only lead to a further battle amongst the citizens of Grafton. The Mayor sent several telegrams to the Postmaster General urging him to intervene, and a few days later he sent a telegram announcing the immediate laying of the foundation stone of the new Post and Telegraph Office in Victoria Street.

Whether it was feared there would be a riot in the streets between the pro-time-gun and anti-time-gun factions, or that there might be a lynching if the time-gun had been found and the guilty parties brought to justice, is not recorded, but there was much rejoicing at the announcement of the building , of the new Post and Telegraph Office, and the ‘Time-gun’ period of Grafton’s history drew quietly to a close.


Place Names- Grafton Streets

Grafton is an historic city in northern New South Wales, and many visitors and residents alike enjoy its old world charm with its Victorian and Georgian architecture and peaceful setting on the banks of the Clarence River.

One of the frequently asked questions is, how did various streets ‘get their name’?

Below I have briefly outlined, how many of the streets were named.

In 1848 the government surveyor, William Wedge Darke was instructed to lay out a town on the banks of the Clarence River. This he did with maps and plans drawn up and lodged with the Surveyor General’s Department in Sydney between 1849 and 1854.

Charles Fitzroy was the Governor of New South Wales at the time and Darke sort to honour him by naming many of the streets of the newly laid out township after members and connections of the illustrious Fitzroy family.

The Naming of Grafton Streets

Prince Street, named for Prince Albert of Saxe- Coburg the husband of Queen Victoria. It began at one of the main landing places for ships coming to the north bank of the settlement, which was laid out by Darke in 1848, running northward to the then town boundary at North Street. Over the years it developed as the main commercial street in Grafton.

Victoria Street, named for Queen Victoria, (1819-1901). She was born on 24 May 1819, the only child of Edward, Duke of Kent, the fourth son of George III. She came to the throne in 1837 on the death of her uncle, William IV.

William IV was king from 1830-1837, and was the third son of George III, and the younger brother and successor to George IV.

Queen Street, was also named for Queen Victoria, the queen of Great Britain from 1837 to 1901.

Fitzroy Street, was named for the Fitzroy family. In particular, in memory of Augustus Henry Fitzroy, 3rd Duke of Grafton and grandfather to Charles Augustus Fitzroy, Governor of New South Wales, at the time when the settlement on the banks of the Clarence River was surveyed and laid out by William Wedge Darke in 1848.

Pound Street, was so named as it essentially followed the track from the main section of the North Grafton village, due west to Hewitt’s paddock, where the first Pound, for the impounding of stray and neglected animals, was situated.. Later when the entrance of Alumny Creek was closed off, a ‘pond’ of water, which had to be bridged at this crossing, caused townspeople in the 1930’s to believe that the street name was derived from the corruption of the word ‘pond’, but this was not so. By that time, some one hundred years after settlement the citizens were not aware of the fact that the original Pound had been at the western end of this street.

Bacon Street, was named for Sir Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam and Viscount St Albans (1561-1626), one of the greatest of English philosophers and statesmen. It is believed it was suggested to Darke as a consequence of a follow on from naming of Oliver and Fry Streets.

Oliver and Fry Streets, were named in honour of Oliver Fry, the second commissioner of Crown Lands for the area. He was a prominent government official in the area from 1842 to his death in 1859. he was just one of the prominent citizens that darke named streets after.

Dobie Street, was named for Dr John Dobie, the  first Public Health Officer, in the colony of New South Wales, and later one of the first pastoralists in the Clarence Valley, taking up firstly, Ramornie, and then Gordonbrook , before returning to England. He was also a Justice of the Peace of the colony and took a prominent part in the early history of the district.

Clarence Street, was named for the Duke of Clarence, (as was the river), who later became King, William IV.

Kent Street, was named for the Duke of Kent, who was Queen Victoria’s father.

Villiers Street, was named for Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, who was the mistress of King Charles II and the mother of Henry Fitzroy, the 1st Duke of Grafton, and therefore an ancestor of Charles Fitzroy the Governor of New South Wales.

Duke Street, was named for the Duke of Clarence and the Duke of Kent. This street is adjacent to Clarence and Kent Streets, both of which were named for the Dukes of Clarence and Kent.

Alice, Maud and Mary Streets, were named for Princess Alice Maud May, the daughter of Queen Victoria, who was born in 1843.

Turf Street, was so named by Darke as it essentially followed a track from Hewitt’s store and hotel, northward towards the roads to the Richmond River and Tenterfield. Some of the earliest match races between local horses took place along this stretch of cleared ground in Hewitt’s paddock. Hewitt’s Paddock stretched from the river to the town boundary on North Street.

North Street, was named at it was the northern boundary of the town of Grafton when it was laid out by Darke in 1848.

[Ref: pp 27-28 Grafton- First City on the North Coast, Our Unique Heritage]

South Grafton Streets

Darke also laid out a section of streets at the settlement on the south side of the river and named many of the streets there, but in stark contrast they were named after local features and townspeople.

Wharf Street, was named as it led straight to the principal wharf on that side of the river.

Spring Street, was so named because some part of it followed the track along the bank of Christopher Creek, to the waterhole, which was spring-fed and the only supply of fresh water at South Grafton.

Through Street, was so named because it followed the original track from William C B Wilson’s property on the top of what became known as Wilson’s Hill, ‘through’ the village to the cluster of cottages along the river bank towards Cowan’s property.

Darke later surveyed three more streets for the South Grafton section of the town. These were named Abbot, Skinner and Ryan Streets.

Abbot Street, was named for Sylvanus Abbot the Chief Constable for the Clarence River District in the early 1850’s. He had his residence on the river bank near this area.

Walkers Hotel, Skinner Street, South Grafton, 1909

Walkers Hotel, Skinner Street, South Grafton, 1909

Walker's Hotel South Grafton, 2013

Walker’s Hotel South Grafton, 2013

Skinner Street, was named for Dr Alexander Skinner who set up a medical practice at South Grafton on the river bank in this vicinity. It later became the main commercial street in South Grafton.

Ryan Street, was named for Thomas Ryan who owned Waterview Station and this street was aligned with the track that led from the settlement westward along the edge of the swamp to Waterview Station homestead. Ryan was a Justice of the Peace and sat on the Grafton Bench for many years.[p 28 Grafton First City on the North Coast, Our Unique Heritage]

Grafton – A Unique History


This year due to health issues, I have had a dramatic change of life-style. This included retiring as a busy community volunteer and the closing of my history research and publishing business, ‘Heritage Path’. Consequently, I have also taken down my website, also known as ‘Heritage Path’ . I’m always the optimist and am hopeful this will not be permanent.

Heritage Path

Only five of my seventy odd publications on family and local history are still available and can be purchased from me privately. These are: “The Eggins Family History” (1990) ; “The German Community in the Clarence River District” (1999) ; European Settlement in the Clarence River District before 1850″ (2000), “As Time Goes By – Grafton’s Fascination with Time Pieces” (2009) and ‘Life and Times of the Carr’s Creek Area 1839-2013” (2013).

Over the next few weeks I will share extracts and excerpts from some of my out of print books to help family historians put their ancestors into context, of time and place, on the Clarence River.

Grafton is a city situated on the Clarence River in Northern New South Wales, and is about 80 km inland, from the mouth of the river.

The first settlers arrived here in 1838 to cut timber from the banks of the river. Soon afterwards pastoralist arrived and took up ‘Runs’ or ‘Stations along the river, and the surrounding area.

A small settlement first appeared on the south bank of the river, but it wasn’t long before the north bank was also settled.

Some ten years later the settlers petitioned the Government to have a town laid out and the land surveyed to be sold by Government auctions.

In 1848, Surveyor William Wedge Darke was sent to lay out the town and survey land for sale. The town was called ‘Grafton’ in honour of Governor Fitzroy’s grandfather, the Duke of Grafton.

The first land sales took place in 1850. The town grew quickly as more land became available through Government auctions.

When the NSW Municipality Act was passed in 1858, Grafton was one of the first towns to petition the Government to form a Municipality. The petition was successful and the following year on 20 July 1859, Grafton was formally gazetted as a municipality.

Soon after incorporation, Grafton could boast to having, a Post and Telegraph office; a Steam Navigation Company; a Custom House; a Court House; a School of Arts; a National School; Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and Methodist churches; a gaol; a ferry; and a hospital. These being the first of their kind on the northern rivers of New South Wales.

Grafton was also the first city on the northern rivers. The foundation stone of Christ Church Cathedral was laid in 1874, and soon afterwards Grafton claimed city status. However, it was not officially proclaimed a city until 1885, several months after the opening of the cathedral in 1884. There were only six cities in New South Wales at the time:- Sydney, Newcastle, Bathurst, Armidale, Goulburn and Grafton.

Some fifty years later Grafton was to have another ‘first’. 1934 saw the establishment of the Jacaranda Festival, the first floral festival in Australia. Today the city is known the world over for its Jacaranda trees and festival.

The city grew from strength to strength over the years and in 2009 celebrated the Sesqui-centenary, or 150 years of Local Government.”

During 2009 I wrote and published three books on Grafton and its heritage, all of which, although some are long out of print, can be found in many town and family history society libraries.

The above extract is from the ‘Introduction’ of these publications.

Grafton-First City on the North Coast, Our Unique Heritage Cover

In the first book “Grafton- First City on the North Coast, Our Unique Heritage”, I explained not only how the city got it’s name, but the unique connection it has to the Duke of Grafton, of Euston Hall, Thetford, Norfolk, in England, even today.

There are also connections to other branches of the Fitzroy family. Although the following branch of the Fitzroy family is not the direct or principal line of the Dukes of Grafton, never the less it, has a very important connection with the city too.

Charles Fitzroy, born 14 July 1764, was the younger brother of George Henry Fitzroy, and the second son of Augustus Henry, the 4th Duke of Grafton and his wife Anne Liddell. Charles Fitzroy married Frances Munday. Their son, Charles Augustus Fitzroy, born 1796,grew up in the early years of the Napoleonic era. He entered military service and obtained a commission as a lieutenant in the Horse Guards when he was sixteen, and was a staff officer at the Battle of Waterloo.

In 1820 he married Mary Lennox, daughter of the Duke of Richmond for whom the Richmond River and Lennox Heads in Northern New South Wales, were named. Charles Fitzroy, was made a captain in 1820 and a Lieutenant-Colonel in 1825, when he became Deputy-Adjutant General at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

Returning to England in 1831 he followed his grandfather into politics when he was elected to the House of Commons as a member for Bury St Edmunds, but soon afterwards he retired from the army and politics, when he was knighted and was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Prince Edward Island in Canada. From 1841 to 1845 he was Governor of the Leeward Islands. On 20 February 1846 he was given a commission as Governor of New South Wales.

There were many important developments in New South Wales during Fitzroy’s term of office:-convict transportation ceased; ‘squatting’ became more systematised and regulated; railways were introduced; a steamer postal service with England, Scotland and Ireland was inaugurated; gold was discovered; a branch of the Royal mint was established; the building of the Sydney Exchange and the Fitzroy Dock was begun and the University of Sydney was founded.

It was also during his term that the important Acts of 1850 and 1855 took place that led to the ‘Constitution’ and responsible government in New South Wales.

The death of his wife Mary, in Sydney on 7 December 1847, when she was thrown from a runaway carriage, was a terrible tragedy. Fitzroy himself was injured.

It was he, in 1849, who conferred the name ‘Grafton’, on the newly planned town, on the Clarence River, in honour of his grandfather, the illustrious Augustus Henry Fitzroy, the 3rd Duke of Grafton.

Fitzroy’s term of office ended in January 1855 and he soon returned to England where he died in 1858.”

Governor Charles Fitzroy’s, younger brother, Robert Fitzroy also had a distinguished career.

Robert Fitzroy, born 5 July 1805, was the son of Charles Fitzroy and his second wife, Frances Stewart. He was brought up at Wakefield, the family estate in Northamptonshire, was sent firstly to Harrow, and then in 1818, to the Royal Naval College in Portsmouth. By the time he was twenty-three he was in command of the naval frigate, ‘HMS Beagle’. He was instructed to carry out surveying and the  exploration of the South American coastline, and invited his friend, the naturalist, Charles Darwin, to accompany him. It was during this voyage that Darwin made his observations, which provided the inspiration, for the many years of hard work, on which his theory of ‘evolution through natural selection’ would be based.

Robert Fitzroy retired from the navy and entered the English parliament for a short while before being appointed Governor of New Zealand. He was recalled and returned to naval service commanding the first screw-driven ship to be commissioned by the Royal Navy. He also developed an obsessional interest in meteorology. With his long sea experience and inquiring mind he developed the fundamental techniques of weather forecasting, designed the first barometer and ships thermometer, and invented the system of storm warnings and signals, which saved countless lives in the ensuing decades.

The ‘HMS Beagle’, under another captain, visited Australian waters during the 1830’s and undertook much exploration around the Australian coast line. Some early Clarence River settlers have claimed to have been on board during these voyages.”

There are places called ‘Grafton’ in other countries in the world.

“In Dublin, Grafton Street, named after the 2nd Duke of Grafton, is famous for the statue of sweet ‘Molly Malone’.

In New Zealand, Grafton is a suburb of Auckland and was named for the Duke of Grafton, who was a patron of William Hobson, the first Governor of New Zealand. Grafton Bridge is an iconic Auckland bridge spanning Grafton Gully and connects the suburb with Auckland itself.

There are also several small towns in the United States of America named ‘Grafton’, which are in New Hampshire, West Virginia, North Dakota, Massachusetts and Ohio.

Although some of these places are also named in honour of the Duke of Grafton, they do not have the continued close ties with the Dukedom in England, nor can they, use the Coat of Arms of the Duke of Grafton as their Municipal Coat of Arms, a privileged endowment our city of Grafton enjoyed for over 80 years before amalgamation of the Clarence Valley Councils in 2004.”

Grafton City Municipal Flag

I hope these extracts has whetted your appetite for more history on the Clarence River district.

World War I – Behind Enemy Lines – (Mrs) Louisa Creed-2

Louisa Creed continues her story:

“I got an American passport and set off in a cart with some Belgian peasants. We had gone as far as Ninone when we were stopped by some Germans. They questioned us and examined our passports, and then, to my horror, they let the peasants go on and arrested me. They took me into the chateau, where they were stationed, and I was marched upstairs to a bedroom. There a Red Cross nurse undressed me and took my clothes away, leaving me an old wrapper. She took everything except my hat- and my papers were all ,in the crown lining of my hat.

‘There I was left all night with a soldier guarding my door. They sent me some supper, and some breakfast, but I would not touch their food. Then the nurse brought my clothes back and told me I could go. I managed to get a lift on a car that was going along the road and so I reached Antwerp just as the bombardment had begun. The first thing I saw was the notice that there was no water. That seemed worse than the bombardment.

Two other war correspondents were staying at my hotel, Mr Frank Fox (Morning Post) and Mr Jones (Daily Chronicle), and they were so good to me. When there was no longer any question of Antwerp holding out, they begged me to go with them. It would have been suicide for them to stay, but there was far less risk for me, so I made up my mind to wait and see the Germans come in. Mr Fox and Mr Jones waited till Friday morning, and then they could not wait any longer. One of the last things they did was to push my big wardrobe in front of my window, to keep things from splashing in’. I was glad afterwards that they did, for all the windows of the hotel were smashed by a bomb bursting nearby.

When they had gone I felt very lonely, for I knew I was the only English woman, probably the only English person in town. I stood looking down the road watching for the Germans, and I saw a Belgian peasant woman running by with a figure in a little cart. I said to her, “Is that someone who is ill?’ and she called out, without stopping,”No, he is dead. He is my son. I have just got his body from the fortifications, and I want to bury him before the Germans come”. Then she went on.

Then the Germans came. First two young soldiers walked by and saw the familiar sign ‘Winter Garden’ over the door. I suppose it reminded them of home, for they pointed at it and smiled. It was so pathetic, the Belgians going and the Germans coming in, that I just stood and cried. Then more solsiers came, and one looked up and saw me crying and peered at me. And that was the worst thing I saw in Antwerp.

“I had arranged with the hotel people to stay as their maid, thinking that they would shut their doors and that I could just go in and out. Imagine my horror when they threw open their doors wide and welcomed the Germans with open arms. Then I found that the hotel was full of spies. The head waiter there was, and lots ofg others, waiters and grooms and men that I had thought good Belgian citizens. I don’t think the proprietors were really spies, they were just out to make money, and they didn’t care whose money it was. I saw them all sitting round the table, and the spies giving the soldiers papers and receiving money, and they were all laughing over it. And, worst of all, were two men who were marines, and who had been mixing with us as Englishmen for a week before. They spoke perfect English, and they wore the clothes of our marines, and had been out on the fortifications and when the Germans came they were Germans and spies. It made me furious, and I wanted to tell them to their faces what I thought of them; but instead, I had to keep out of their way for fear they should recognise me. Evidently the hotel people were afraid too, for after a couple of days they locked me in my room, for safety they said. They kept me there for two days. One of the days was my birthday; and I never felt so wild about anything. I could hear the Germans going up and down stairs, laughing and talking, and there was I, shut up in that room and not knowing when people would betray me. However, they were not so bad, and after two days they let me out. I got away from the hotel. I went out as the chauffeur’s wife. Two little girls came with us. I took one by the hand, and Francois (the chauffeur); took the other, and we walked out. Francois called me Louisa, and as we passed the Germans he said, “I have just found my wife; she has arrived this morning from Brussels”. They let us pass and Francois took me to a little inn, where the woman, who was a German from Luxemburg, was very kind. She put her arms around me when we were in the kitchen, and said,”Poor Madame!’I told her not to say Madame, but to call me Louisa. She did, and I stayed with her as servant for a couple of days.

By a bit of good luck, some people I knew gave me the key of their house before they left Antwerp. It was locked up, and the Germans did not touch any of the houses that were shut up. I met a man and his wife, who were homeless, so I took them to this house, and they, in return- the Belgians are the most grateful of people- undertook to get me out of belgium. The wife lent me her passport, and the husband borrowed a motor car, and took me as his wife. And one of my most dreadful moments was in that car. It belonged to a wealthy old man, who drove us himself. My ‘husband’ had told him that I had a most important mission for the good of the country, but the old man seemed a bit suspicious of me. We drove along for a little way, and then suddenly, out on the road, with the Germans all around us, he stopped, and said he would not take me without a security of 500 francs. I really was terrified at the moment; for I was afraid he would denounce me as a spy, and I knew that, if he did, they would shoot me. I didn’t know what to do. I only had 200 francs; so I turned to Francois, and quietly asked him for 300 francs. He gave them to me at once, and I handed them to the old beast. Then he went on. When we arrived at the village at the border. Francois told him I had to send a telegram. This was supposed to be ‘my important business. I went in to write it, and he came and looked over my shoulder. For a minute I could not think of anything to say; then, with a flash of inspiration; I addressed a telegram to Lord Kitchener, and said ,”Guard Ostend”. And signed it. When the old man saw it he grunted with approval, and then as we left him, gave me back the 500 francs.

“Of course, I’ve explained to the War Office since my return, but it was only one of the many thousand messages they get every day.

Louisa published these and other experiences in 1915 under the title – “A Woman’s Experiences in the Great War”. Her husband had died in 1914.

In 1916 she returned to Australia and over the next few years travelled  throughout the country speaking about her war experiences, while raising money for the Australian Red Cross.

After the war she remarried and continued to work as a freelance journalist, and published several more novels before her death in 1935, aged 65 years.