$9.6m makeover give bells new appeal

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Traffic did not stop and nary a harried pedestrian lifted their gaze. But when the Sydney Town Hall bells let loose their clunky chime on Tuesday after 532 days of silence, the city regained a modicum of old world dignity.

Sydney’s oldest clock tower has been restored after 17 months of finicky work. Crumbling sandstone has been removed and replaced, carved into intricate motifs by expert stonemasons. Columns have been earthquake-proofed using high-tech stainless steel – the same used in submarine propellers – the glass clock faces have been restored and wonky hands bent back into shape.

The $9.6 million job, part of a $30 million remake of Town Hall, gives another century of life to the stately structure that has presided over George Street for 140 years.

Lord mayor Clover Moore said the 55-metre-high clock tower was “an important part of life in the city“.

There are traditions in Sydney – you meet people on the Town Hall steps, you listen to the bells … I think it’s quite emotionally important to Sydneysiders,” she said. ”People still like to hear it … [they] tell me they set their watches by the clock.

Master clockmaker Andrew Markerink restored the clock’s 1.8-metre-wide face and its inner workings.

When the clock tower was erected in the late 1800s, wristwatches were not yet common in Sydney and the clocks that did exist showed varied times. The Town Hall clock was “able to standardise time over the city because you could both see it and hear it“, he said.

In the lower chamber, four bronze bells ring out the Westminster chimes every quarter hour. A mammoth 1500-kilogram tenor bell in the belfry strikes the number of the hour, on the hour.

Paint scrapings of the clock face revealed the circumference was once gilded – a finish that has now been restored.
Expert stonemasons replaced 26 cubic metres of yellowblock sandstone using centuries-old techniques. New LED lighting will highlight the ornamental carvings.

(source: SMH : http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/96m-makeover-give-bells-new-appeal-20130903-2t38w.html . Sept 4 2013)

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About the Author:

For over three decades Andrew and his staff at Master Clockmakers have been involved in the restoration and conservation of timepieces from historically important clocks such as Sydney Town Hall and the clocks for Sydney Central Railway to small intricate ladies watches made by watchmakers such as Patek Philippe.

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