On March 3, 1954, the town clerk of Napier City Council wrote to Mrs and Mrs A B Hurst thanking them on behalf of the people of Napier "for your splendid gesture as conveyed through the Thirty Thousand Club – of a gift of a floral clock".

Arthur Benigo Hurst (1890-1964) was a Napier photographer, and during a trip to the United States and United Kingdom during 1953, Arthur and his wife Bosquet noticed floral clocks in California and England. While on their trip, the couple made the decision to gift one to the city of Napier on their return.

Floral clocks had become fashionable around the world in the 1950s.

Arthur was a member of the Thirty Thousand Club; whose focus became the beautification of the Marine Parade since the late 1920s.


It was through the Thirty Thousand Club that the arrangements for the clock were made, with the Hurst's donating the funds.

Gent & Co Limited of Leicester, England, were approached to supply the mechanism for the clock.

The company had begun in 1872 by John Gent, whose electric clocks were used in public buildings and railway stations all around the world.

And in the brochure, Gent's sent across to the Thirty Thousand Club of the various clocks they could supply, and some of their world-wide installations, there was a photo of Hastings's town clock in New Zealand. Gent's had supplied the striking and chiming equipment.

As the clock mechanism was to be near the sea, Gent's wrote that although they would heavily galvanise and paint the clock hands, they should still be painted regularly.

Originally the Thirty Thousand Club wanted the hands of the clock to be illuminated, and one way of doing this was to put electric lamps in the hands.

But Gent's advised that adequate insulation would have to provided due "to the high voltage involved". Neon tubing was then offered as an alternative.

But it was decided against illuminating the hands as Gent's advised, "On further consideration of this point we feel it maybe difficult to ensure that children did not interfere with the bands and bearing in mind the very high voltages involved, together with the close proximity of the earth, it could be dangerous and perhaps it would be better if this illumination of hands by neon tubing were not considered as an alternative."

The clock's long hand in 3.75 metres long, and the small hand measures 2.75 metres.

The cost of the clock was £423 ($23,000). Freight was an extra £110 ($6000).

At the ceremonial presentation for the floral clock, Napier mayor E R Spriggs received the clock on behalf of the citizens of Napier.

"The clock will fittingly take its place among the other donations to the city," said Mr Spriggs.

Arthur said that while admiring floral clocks around the world, he had always thought how beautiful they would look on the Marine Parade.

The job of installing the clock, which took several months, was given to Mr L Lannie, superintendent of the Napier City Council Reserves Department. Mr Lannie said, "It will need a lot of maintenance, but I am sure it will be appreciated by the general public."

Napier's floral clock would be quite unique, in that an insert section would be changed every day to show the correct date (since discontinued). This at the time was believed to be the only outdoor floral clock in the world that did this.

In 1995, when the War Memorial Hall forecourt was altered, the floral clock's position was changed to face the Sound Shell, where it remains today.

Present deputy mayor Faye White followed up on some discussion on Facebook during 2014 from Napier ex-pats on how the floral clock has lost some of its former glory. The Napier City Council then decided to give the floral clock area a makeover.

The clocks starts at 6.30am every day, and stops at 6.30pm, mostly to deter any vandalism.

Thanks to Ross McKelvie, grandson of AB Hurst.

- Michael Fowler will be at the Piece-makers market at 23 Napier Rd, Havelock North, today from 9am to 1pm selling and signing his latest book Historic Hawke's Bay.

The book is also for sale for $59.90 at the Hastings Community Arts Centre Gallery, 106 Russell St South, next to Westerman's café.

- Michael Fowler FCA (mfhistory@gmail.com) is a chartered accountant, contract researcher and writer of Hawke's Bay's history.