Markham’s clock

This is another unusual and out-of-place post, but I can’t resist sharing these pictures of the inside of the Markham’s clock tower and mechanism (or lack thereof). This was at one time the highest building in Johannesburg and it was said that the clock face could be read from as far as Hillbrow. It was designed by George Ransome (who was well versed in Second Empire style) and erected in 1896/7 and is considered to be Johannesburg’s first skyscraper (even though it is only three storeys high plus the additional clock tower).

The clock itself was only installed two years after the building was completed due to the City Fathers lengthy debate to grant the necessary permission. The clock gave the building official status.

Markham’s, a then prestigious retailer, was founded in Adderley Street in Cape Town in 1876 and had an early branch in Johannesburg.

The building was nearly pulled down in 1978 but was saved after a public outcry and the work of various heritage groups.

The purpose of the visit was a preliminary look and how much it would potentially cost to restore the four clock faces and replace the engine and mechanism that drives the four clocks. The plan is to try out a crowdfunded solution to raise the money, but the project has to be within a reasonable price range and achievable.

Markhams building on the corner of Ellof and President streets.

Markham’s building on the corner of Eloff and Pritchard streets

The building in the early 1900s

The building in the early 1900s

Back of the clock

Back of the clock

One of the dated clocks

One of the dated clocks

To put in perspective, just the inner circle is 2 metres in diameter and the hands are solid steel. It evidently needs an engine pushing some serious horsepower to drive the four clocks simultaneously. In addition, each lead and glass clock face will need to be removed, restored and treated so that it lasts another 116 years. This will involve a crane to remove and replace them.

Remaining clock mechanisms. The clock hands are connected to that bar

Remaining clock mechanisms. The clock hands are connected to that bar

The roof of the clock tower. The entire structure is made from Oregon pine and what looks like oak

The roof of the clock tower. The entire structure is made from Oregon pine and what looks like oak

The trap door and ladder leading up to the clock tower

The trap door and ladder leading up to the clock tower

View of the Cuthberts Building from the level under the clock tower

View of the Cuthberts Building from the level under the clock tower

The interior of the angled wall room 2 floors under the clock tower

The interior of the angled wall room two floors under the clock tower

Old switches

Old switches on the roof

Thanks to James Ball from Heritage Portal for setting this up and also to Nigel, Diana and Marcus for their valuable input. We await costing estimates for the project to see if or how it can be viable.

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This entry was published on September 5, 2013 at 12:45 pm. It’s filed under Johannesburg and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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