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Bells ringing out across Rotorua central city

Bells ringing out across Rotorua central city

Rotorua District Council property maintenance officer Phil Hunt (left) and Bill Groves check the workings of the chimes in Rotorua’s Seddon Memorial Town Clock.

A couple of days of tinkering has brought the bells in Rotorua’s Seddon Memorial Town Clock tower back to life after about 30 years of silence.

The Westminster chimes in the tower of the iSite building – five solid brass bells weighing about 2.5 tonne in total – are sounding every 15 minutes with an hour bell also sounding on the hour.

Getting the bells ringing again has been Rotorua District Council property maintenance office Phil Hunt’s “baby” for about a year.

The fourth generation Rotorua resident well remembers the bells ringing and being a “tinkerer” himself, jumped at the opportunity to get them ringing again.

“It’s really great to hear the bells ringing again,” he says.

Mr Hunt comes from “a family of tinkerers” and managed to ring them manually a year ago.

“It took a lot of force – everything had seized up. I realised I’d need to get a specialist to go through the workings and see what needed to be done. It took a while but we eventually found the right people,” Mr Hunt says.

He’s “absolutely rapt” the bells are ringing again but says they won’t be running 24/7.

They will be trialled between 8.15am and 11pm daily, Mr Hunt mindful of guests at the nearby Princes Gate Hotel and other central city residences.

He called on watchmaker Bill Groves to take a look at the old clock and bells.

“It’s a lovely old clock and it was very satisfying to get them running again – they needed a good overhaul and there’s still a little bit more cleaning up to do but they are running well,” says Mr Groves, a resident of Rotorua for 12 years following 40 years in business as a watchmaker in Wanganui.

Mr Groves soon realised the overhaul wasn’t a one-man job and contacted fellow clock expert Michael Cryns, who maintains the Auckland city clocks.

The bells will operate on a trial basis for now. Earthquake-strengthening work in the iSite building hasn’t yet reached the clock tower and after initially thinking the bells would need to be removed to enable that work to be carried out, further investigation has found it may not, in fact, be necessary.

Seddon Memorial Town Clock

• Named in honour of Premier Richard Seddon who died in 1906.

• A project of the Seddon Memorial Committee

• Clock and its bells manufactured to specifications by J B Joyce & Co, a company located in Shropshire, UK and shipped to New Zealand.

• According to Council records it appears the clock and its chimes cost £300.

• Clock and bells, or Westminster chimes, installed in Rotorua’s then post office building in 1914, the same year the building was opened.

• The Government of the time had to approve allowing for a clock tower in the post office.

• The clock is still wound up once a week.


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