New Zealand’s Quirky Claphams Clock Museum

When it comes to unusual visitor attractions, New Zealand’s quirky Claphams Clock Museum is worth a visit. If you’re heading to Northland and are interested in something a little different, then make sure you build Whangarei into your itinerary.

Claphams Clock Museum in Whangarei
Clapham’s Clock Museum in Whangarei

Claphams Clock Museum

The Story behind the Collector

New Zealand's quirky Claphams Clock Museum

This unusual museum owes itself to a Yorkshireman by the name of Archie Clapham. He emigrated to New Zealand in 1903. Trained as an engineer, for many years he oversaw the power plant that kept the Wellington tram system going. But outside work, he had another passion – clocks. An avid collector of timepieces of all shapes and sizes, Archie had amassed around four hundred of them by the time he left Wellington for Whangarei.

New Zealand's quirky Claphams Clock Museum

Archie bought a farmhouse and land. Of course, his collection came with him. He’d come into an inheritance and spent it indulging his passion, travelling the country to visit auction houses in search of new pieces. News of his hobby spread, and he welcomed many a visitor keen to view the clocks. It helped that Archie was a born entertainer, making such visits a pleasure. Many of his favourite pieces reflected that sense of fun in their quirky appearance or by doing something unexpected: dancing dolls, barking dogs and even Highlanders in kilts.

New Zealand's quirky Claphams Clock Museum

Archie bequeathed the collection to the local council, selling it to them in 1961 for a nominal sum. Today the collection has grown to more than 2100 items housed in a purpose built museum in Whangarei. That makes it the largest such hoard in the southern hemisphere.

Experience to Expect at the Museum

Claphams Clock Museum

Every inch of the walls and shelves are filled with clocks and timepieces of every imaginable shape and size. It’s amusing to reminisce about clocks you might have had in your own family. Tours are offered, with guides filling in some of the stories behind the exhibits. If you’ve got young kids, they will love finding out how the clocks and music boxes work. None of the clocks are set to the same time, so you’ll hear chimes and bird calls throughout your visit which just adds to the experience. Boring this is not.

And if you’re inspired to begin your own collection, the Claphams Clock Museum shop in New Zealand offers everything from London buses to Swiss-inspired cuckoo clocks. Get cracking – you’ve got a long way to go before your collection rivals Archie Clapham’s.

About JuliaHammond


Julia Hammond is a Geography teacher turned travel writer with a passion for places. Winning Mail Travel's Deep South competition was the catalyst to write for a diverse range of publications including Bradt's Bus Pass Britain Rides Again. She’s written Kindle guides to Cape Town, Peru and London for Unanchor and advice on Savannah for Wanderlust. When not travelling, she can be found at home in Essex planning her next trip, her two golden retrievers curled up at her feet.

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