Historic timepiece marks a relationship going back 160 years

2010-08-31 00:00

THE Royal Agricultural Society of Natal (RAS) has been given the famous Church Street Banking Hall Clock by First National Bank (FNB) in commemoration of the Society’s 160th anniversary.

The handover of the clock took place at a function held at the Royal Show grounds yesterday evening.

The RAS has been a client of FNB throughout its existence and finds itself in the top five of the bank’s oldest continual clients.

Around 160 years ago, a Mr D. Scott from Norfolk in England established the Natal Bank in Longmarket Street, which relocated to Church Street in 1902. Scott was also the RAS’s first treasurer and is now seen as the primary catalyst behind the relationship that has prevailed between the RAS and FNB for more than one and a half centuries.

Although the persona of FNB has changed over this period from the Natal Bank to Barclays DCO and, more recently, FNB, that of the RAS has remained unchanged.

The Church Street branch was built from scratch in 1902 and the clock could be seen hanging on a wall in the main entrance of the building since it was opened. The clock was so high up on the wall that a ladder had to be used to reach it every time it needed to be worked on.

Exactly when the clock was made is uncertain. Respected city horologists who have worked on the preservation of the clock, Chris Morewood and the late Frank Seymour, confirmed that it is at least 110 years old, which falls in line with predictions based on the inception of the Church Street branch.

Before his death, Seymour had indicated that he thought the clock had a spirit of its own.

“I believe that I am preserving not only a piece of history, but the soul of an entity,” he said some years ago.

In 2003 the Church Street FNB branch was renovated and the clock was removed by Seymour for safekeeping and refurbishment.

It now finds itself in the conference room of the RAS and the society’s general manager, Terry Strachan, says it is an honour to have it there.

“We are so proud to be the custodians of this marvelous timepiece,” he said.

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