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..

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