The RAAF Memorial Clock Tower | Repair and ongoing maintenance

  • Getting the Memorial Clock in working order and finding an effective and permanent solution to its ongoing maintenance has been an issue pursued by the Prince Henry Community Association Executive Committee for some considerable time. 
  • In late 2016, social media wash awash with well meaning residents wanting to get the clock up and running again, many unaware of the CA EC's significant efforts to date. 
  • The Clock Tower is Crown Lands responsibility. However, it advised the EC some time ago that it did not have the funds to repair the clock and take care of ongoing maintenance requirements. 
  • The EC then approached Randwick Council, which kindly undertook extensive investigations as to what would be required to repair the clock and take care of the ongoing maintenance.
  • Council sought advice from three Master Clockmakers on the works required to repair the clock. They advised that the existing mechanism is set up to be run by mains power. However, there is currently no power running to the tower and the power supply has been removed.
  • The Master Clockmakers recommended that a modern powered winding mechanism be added to the clock internals to ensure the clock runs reliably and with low ongoing maintenance costs. This option requires mains power. 
  • A quick assessment into the running of the power underground revealed that there are heritage listed air-raid shelters under the ground in this area. This may be the reason that the power line was previously run overhead. Council did not make additional investigations for this option.
  • If power were to be connected underground into the adjacent building, an Archaeological investigation and involvement would be required. 
  • The assessment of the clock revealed that the work required to repair the clock tower requires a power source, the running of power to the tower, new equipment and a commitment to pay the associated power costs and maintenance costs. 
  • It was estimated the remedial works would cost $20,000-25,000. And, there would be further costs for power and ongoing maintenance.
  • Council will not fund this quantum of capital work and make a commitment for ongoing energy and maintenance costs for an asset that it does not own or manage.
  • At the EC meeting held on 14 February 2017, it was agreed to approach the Heritage Council rather than Veterans Affairs in the first instance. As Crown Lands owns the asset, it will be necessary for the CA to work closely with that agency to achieve a desirable outcome.
  • The Prince Henry Site Conservation Plan is a very large document created to inform the Prince Henry Master Plan. The CP states that the Memorial Clock Tower is ranked ‘Exceptional Significance’ in heritage terms. The CP further identifies key attributes of each Prince Henry heritage item and major issues and management policies for each one. The CP goes on to say, among other things, that the Memorial Clock Tower is to be retained and conserved in its open setting and that a maintenance strategy be implemented.
  • During its investigations, the EC unearthed a map dated 24 February 2010, detailing ownership of various Prince Henry Lots. Lot 44 (the Memorial Clock Tower) is designated a ‘Heritage precinct area to be managed by the Trust (we believe the Trust to be The Prince Henry Reserve Trust) using recurrent funds from Treasury and reserved for heritage purposes’. Very interesting indeed! 
  • On 27 March 2017 an email was sent to Crown Lands detailing investigations th EC had made into funding the repair of the clock. The main issue is that the CA does not own the Memorial Clock and is therefore unable to come up with a solution unless in partnership with Crown Lands. 
  • Having received no response to the 27 March 2017 email, a follow-up email was sent on 6 April 2017 to Crown Lands emphasising the heritage importance of repairing and maintaining the Memorial Clock. 
  • On 11 April 2017, a follow-up phone call was made as well as another email sent. Subsequently, Crown Lands has undertaken to speak on the phone with the EC Chair on Tuesday 18 April 2017.
  • At the EC meeting held on 11 April 2017 it was agreed that if no progress were achieved within a reasonable time-frame, a letter would be sent toThe Hon. Paul Lawrence Toole, the Minister for Lands and Forestry, providing full details of the problems relating to the Memorial Clock Tower, and pointing out Prince Henry's other built items of heritage significance that are also being neglected.

It's important to note that overhead cabling is not permitted at Prince Henry. The cable previously powering the clock was disconnected — by whom, no-one seems to know. However, Council removed the cable on a request from the CA EC because it achieved nothing, was unsightly, and was sinking lower and lower as time went on, with the potential to become a risk to public safety.

It was agreed at the EC meeting held immediately after the AGM on 13 December 2016, that the Department of Veterans Affairs should be approached to discuss the potential for it to take on responsibility for the Clock's repair and ongoing maintenance.

WWII heritage air raid shelter images at right courtesy P Armstrong 21/01/2007.

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