Gillett & Co – TURRETT CLOCK SYDNEY TOWN HALL

Maker’s background Gillett & Co have a long history which sees the company start life as a maker of small clocks in 1844. The huge growth and their move to the world stage occur more as a result of the bell work they undertake than their clockmaking alone but it must be said that the high quality of their clocks without doubt put Gillett clocks at the pinnacle of clockmakers.

William Gillett the founder of the company commenced the operation of the business in Hadlow Kent making small clocks but he saw the future of the business expanding into larger public clocks and the making of bells. Gillett moved the business from to Clerkenwell then to Whitehorse Rd in Croydon in 1844 and then at a later date to Union St Croydon where the business expanded to include the lucrative production of bells when Arthur Johnson became a partner. The company was joined by Mr Bland in the 1850’s and the company was known as Gillett and Bland until Blands death in1884.

The name Gillett & Johnson and Gillett & Bland seem to co-exist during the period when both Bland and Sydney Town Hall clock and the date of 1883 indicate that there was obviously a stage of transition between the various names used on the clocks. The Gillett & Co, Gillett and Johnson clocks went on to be sought after around the world.

The Gillett clock factory were the first to become steam powered in 1868 and they built a clock tower on the site as an advertisement for the company. Between 1844 and 1950 the factory produced in excess of 14,000 town clocks.

It the inclusion of the skills of Cyril Johnston that truly put the company on the world stage. The production of town clocks is accompanied by the requirement for the fitting of bells and Johnson is accredited with the tuning of bells by turning the bases. The bell carillons that Gillett and Johnson produce therefore become sought after around the world. The success of one side of the business help forge the success of the other and bell making and turret clock making strongly supported each other. The interesting fact is that the company reached its largest point and most successful stage between 1920 and 1930, the largest project to be undertaken (Ref; Chris Bennett Croydon Local Studies Library and Archive Service) was the 72 bell carillon for John Rockefeller in New York, and the 10 ton Freedom Bell for West Berlin’s town hall.

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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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