Victoria Clock Tower
Victoria Street And Montreal Street, Christchurch
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 1
Private/No Public Access
2nd April 1985
Reserve (Lawns Ornamental Gardens and Ornamental Buildings), Canterbury Land District
This clock tower was originally designed by Benjamin Mountfort to be erected on top of the first wooden section of his Canterbury Provincial Council Chambers. It proved to be too heavy for the building and it was placed in the courtyard of the Chambers until 1864. It was then placed in storage at the Council yards on Oxford Terrace until the Council decided, over thirty years later, to use it as a monument for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. In 1897 it was erected on a stone base at the corner of Manchester, High and Lichfield Streets. However it came to be seen as a traffic hazard and was moved to its current site in Victoria Street in 1930. At this time a new clock was installed.
The clock tower itself was made from iron by Skidmore and Sons in Coventry, England and sent out to New Zealand in 1860 in 142 packages. Mountfort's original design was somewhat modified due to the cost. The design becomes increasingly delicate as it ascends and originally the wrought iron railing and scroll work were covered in gold leaf.
In 1897 a competition held for the design of the stone base, on which the tower was eventually erected, was won by Strouts and Ballantyne. (Frederick Strouts is remembered particularly for his design of Ivey Hall, Lincoln and Otahuna at Tai Tapu. His partner, Robert Ballantyne initially trained under him).
The clock tower is an important landscape feature in Christchurch and significant as part of Mountfort's original design for the Provincial Council Chambers. The clock tower is also 'a remarkable example of High Victorian ironwork' and its association with Queen Victoria's Jubilee makes explicit the link between colonial New Zealand and Victorian Britain.
Mountfort, Benjamin Woolfield
Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort (1825-98) trained as an architect in England, in the office of Richard Cromwell Carpenter, a member of the Cambridge Camden Society (later the Ecclesiological Society). He arrived in Canterbury in 1850.
Mountfort was New Zealand's pre-eminent Gothic Revival architect and, according to architectural historian Ian Lochhead, 'did most to shape the architectural character of nineteenth-century Christchurch.' The buildings he designed were almost exclusively in the Gothic Revival style.
During his career he designed many churches and additions to churches; those still standing include the Trinity Congregational Church in Christchurch (1874), St Mary's Church in Parnell, Auckland and the Church of the Good Shepherd in Phillipstown, Christchurch (1884). In 1857 he became the first architect to the province of Canterbury. He designed the Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings in three stages from 1858 to 1865. The stone chamber of this building can be considered the greatest accomplishment of his career. He was involved in many important commissions from the 1870s, including the Canterbury Museum (1869-82) and the Clock-tower Block on the Canterbury College campus (1876-77). He was also involved in the construction of Christchurch's Cathedral and made several major modifications to the original design.
Mountfort introduced a number of High Victorian elements to New Zealand architecture, such as the use of constructional polychromy, probably first used in New Zealand in the stone tower of the Canterbury Provincial Government Buildings (1859). Overall, his oeuvre reveals a consistent and virtually unerring application of Puginian principles including a commitment to the Gothic style, honest use of materials and picturesque utility. The result was the construction of inventive and impressive buildings of outstanding quality. He died in Christchurch in 1898. A belfry at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Phillipstown, the church he attended for the last ten years of his life, was erected in his honour.
Erected on stone base
Moved from the corner of Manchester, High and Lichfield Streets to Victoria Street. New clock installed
15th August 2001
Report Written By
R.C. Lamb, Street Corner: A Study to Mark the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Founding of the Caxton Press, Christchurch, 1967
Ian Lochhead, A Dream of Spires: Benjamin Mountfort and the Gothic Revival, Christchurch, 1999
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.