Derelict clock tower shows Durban stuck in time

2012-02-15 12:40
The rusty arms of the Vasco da Gama Clock Tower have pointed at 12:58, a monument stuck in time, like many areas so far left behind in Durban's drive to re-invent itself. (Rajesh Jantilal, AFP)

The rusty arms of the Vasco da Gama Clock Tower have pointed at 12:58, a monument stuck in time, like many areas so far left behind in Durban's drive to re-invent itself. (Rajesh Jantilal, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Durban - For years the rusty arms of the Vasco da Gama Clock Tower have pointed to 12:58, a monument stuck in time, like many areas still left behind in Durban's drive to reinvent itself.

Many who live in its shadow don't know what it is.

"I have no idea what this beautiful shelter is," said homeless man Sipho Themba, who was sleeping near the tower. "I use it for shelter when it rains."

The clock tower was a gift from Portugal in 1897 to the British colonial government to mark the 400th anniversary of Da Gama's voyage to India, when he commanded the first European ships to round the tip of Africa.

The cast iron tower resembles a derelict wedding chapel, its intricate carvings and engravings rusted after decades in the sea air.

Its centrepiece drinking fountain, with a statuette of the biblical Samson, stands dry; chains that once held drinking cups hang limp.

Faded glory


"The clock is electro-mechanical but has long stopped working. Currently, birds have nested inside the clock," said Arthur Gammage of the city's architecture department.

The tower itself is not unique - rather it was chosen from a Macfarlane's Foundry catalogue, a renowned Scottish ironworks which shipped the entire structure to Durban from Glasgow. But the clock feature makes it unusual, Gammage said.

An aura of faded glory hangs over much of central Durban where architecturally striking buildings lie in varying states of disrepair.

The clock tower once anchored the entrance to Point Docks, gateway to Durban's harbour.

As the Point Docks slipped into a seemingly endless spiral of urban decay, becoming synonymous with drugs and prostitution, the tower was moved a few kilometres west to the Esplanade Gardens in the mid-1900s.

"The clock tower was relocated from the run-down Point Area to safeguard its historical value.

Ironically, the original site has been transformed as the Point Waterfront and the Esplanade gardens has deteriorated," Gammage said.

The Point is now an upmarket residential, business and tourist draw, where gondoliers ply the canal between posh new apartment blocks while holidaymakers splash at uShaka Marine World.

Forgotten

The beachfront stretching from the Point has also been spruced up, with a R200m facelift in the run-up to the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

The redevelopment projects have pushed the social ills that once plagued the Point to the Esplanade Gardens, where the homeless sleep during the day and drug dealers ply their trade at night.

The clock tower, like the neighbourhoods between the redeveloped strips, has so far missed out on the gains.

Though steeped in history, the clock tower goes unnoticed by passers-by.

"I have worked near the monument for over a year and I have never noticed it. Now that I am looking at it, it is a stunning piece of architecture that has clearly been forgotten," said Caelisha Harris, a 21-year-old graphic designer.

Now the city hopes to complete a R500 000 renovation and move the clock back to its original site next year, Gammage said.

Public consultations are under way on again moving the clock, which is a protected landmark, said Barry Marshall, head of the provincial heritage body which must approve any repairs.

If everything goes to plan, the arms of the Vasco da Gama Clock Tower will finally move beyond two minutes to one o'clock.
- SAPA

NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
24 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Tuesday Delft - 11:47 AM
    Road name: R300 Southbound
    ACCIDENT in the right lane before the Hindle Road exit
  • Tuesday Kuils River - 11:39 AM
    Road name: Polkadraai Road Eastbound
    ROADWORKS between the R102 Van Riebeeck Road and the R310 Baden Powell Drive exit - HEAVY DELAYS
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Deal of the Week!

Get bestselling John Green novels now just R99 each! Hurry and get yours while stocks last. Shop here.

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing deals on electronics!

Save up to 35% on electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Bold 9780

BlackBerry 6 Engage your world with BlackBerry 6 OS on the...

From R3049.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Something may come up to alert you of your security needs. It may be that you need to create a better structure for your finances...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.