Black Rock Clock Tower T Valenta

The Iconic Black Rock Clock Tower

The Black Rock Clock Tower located on Beach Road, at the intersection with Bluff and Balcombe Roads is unique – there is no other landmark like it on Port Phillip Bay.

Designed and built in 1959, the Clock Tower was bequeathed by a Black Rock resident and former detective with Victoria Police, Horatio McWilliams.

He died in 1956 and bequeathed £2,858 ($5,716) to the Sandringham Council for a clock tower to be erected on the foreshore – ‘at a suitable site’. This equated to $104,322 in 2022 value.

Over time, the clock has faced many challenges, including sea air corrosion and hailstorm damage. Vandals shot at it with air pellets and threw rocks, which jammed the hands of the timepiece. The glass faces have been shattered and ultimately replaced by anodised aluminium. In 1992, the then Sandringham Council decided to build a double roundabout and the clock tower was moved to its current home in the centre of one of the roundabouts.

McWilliams lived at 60 Bluff Road, Black Rock. A large, two-storey house on the corner of Bluff Road and Stanley Street, it was built by McWilliams in 1926 and was sold to a solicitor who, in 1960, sold it to Don Chipp, who was a federal Liberal Member of Parliament from 1960 before establishing the Australian Democrats in 1977 and becoming the party’s leader in the Senate until retiring in 1986.

The Clock Tower’s site is historically significant. The electric tram service that commenced in 1919 took passengers from Sandringham train station to Black Rock and Beaumaris. It ceased in 1956 and was replaced by buses.

Despite its uniqueness, the Clock Tower is not heritage listed. Owned by the Bayside City Council, the Clock Tower is not in immediate danger of demolition. Nevertheless, perhaps it is time to have it acknowledged as an iconic landmark by having it listed on the Heritage Victoria register.

Tom Valenta

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