What could possibly be the connection between the port of Lyttelton and the famous Big Ben in London?
The Lyttelton Post and Telegraph Office, designed by the ‘Colonial Architect to New Zealand’ William Henry Clayton, was built on the corner of Oxford Street and Norwich Quay in 1876. The Post Office (a victim of the 2010/2011 earthquakes) was a handsome, two-storied, brick and stone building. It had a clock tower with four dials and this bell, installed in the tower, rang out for the residents of the port town.
The bell was cast by John Warner & Sons, most probably at one of their London bell foundries. The Warner Foundry produced bells between 1788 and 1924 (with a break between 1816 and 1850) and sent them all over the world – including Lyttelton. Warners cast the clock chime for the Houses of Parliament at their foundry in Cripplegate. The larger Big Ben was cast at Norton near Stockton-on- Tees. The 16 ton bell then had to be transported to London. Having arrived survived the journey it cracked outside Westminster while being tested and had to be re-cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry!
The Lyttelton Post Office bell and clock tower was dismantled in 1944. In 1953 a new clock tower was erected (minus the bell) on the site of the old Lyttelton Gaol as a memorial to much-loved local resident Dr Charles Upham who had been distressed at the demolition of the Post Office tower. The Upham Clock has recently been restored.
The bell was donated to Lyttelton Museum by the Lyttelton Harbour Board.