Raben Footwear may seem like it’s been at this Haymarket corner location for a thousand years, but in a time before Doc Martens and skinheads, the site belonged to Richard Beaumont Orchard, a watchmaker, jeweller and politician. Orchard’s original building had been demolished by the city in order to extend Quay Street to George Street, so to compensate he was given this building. Not sure whose idea it was to add the cheesy orchard-themed clock, though.
Orchard was a Sydney personality in the early 20th century; a sailor, an actor, founding Commissioner of the ABC and Federal Member for Nepean (Lib). By all accounts he seems like the kind of guy who’d have the ‘My Family’ stickers on the back of his car. His skills as a sloganeer left much to be desired, however; ‘Orchard’s: where the watches grow’. These days, you can find Orchard at Rookwood Cemetery, where he was buried after his watch stopped for good in 1942.
So glad to see this entry! Richard Orchard was my great grandfather and my grandmother Jessie was born in the shop. It has a lovely facade with a tree on it and the motto was Orchards – where the watches grow. There was a wonderful and expensive display cabinet which was supposed to descend into the basement at the end of the day and keep the displays safe and secure. It descended after the first day – never to rise again!!
This is fantastic… He was my great, great grandfather but tere is some interesting, albeit quite sad, history around that era. My mother, aunt and I have been investigating and looking for Richard’s history and have colected a few watches etc
May be of interest http://collection.hht.net.au/firsthhtpictures/picturerecord.jsp?recno=42670
Nice! Readers: above link DEFINITELY OF INTEREST
Great to find this post. In the 1990s (before many people lived in the heart of the city), we were lucky enough to live in the building for many years. The King family then owned it, and Kings Disposals was located downstairs. In 1997, Raben bought the building and our glory days were over. We converted the 4th floor, and our architecture friends lived on the 5th floor and had their practice on the first floor. We were a hipster community for sure. Each floor had enormous bay windows, views to the country trains and wooden floor boards. The original pressed metal ceilings also featured, and stair case. The fifth floor has a beautiful turret which our architect friend used to shelve his record collection. It was just perfect. We all had to install plumbing and showers, and a kitchen (thanks to Ikea) because nothing else was there. The fourth floor where we lived contained Orchard’s jewel safe, which had never been moved. (Pity there were no jewels by then!) But the Kings family didn’t want it and left it to us. We have since moved, and it has moved with us. Only a safe moving company can move it, it’s that big. The original lift is probably one of the oldest and last operating manual lifts. We were pros at operating it. And it went down to a basement where all the jewellery would have been stored. It had an innovative window in the bottom shop, which allowed the jewellery cases in the front window to disappear beneath. Sadly, at that end of town we had mainly drunks passing through and at some point my bicycle was stolen from the basement. Not as secure as the jewelery days I guess. Raben began renovating the inside of the building, and then when their shop moved to the store – we all left. They wanted crazy rent, and the Raben store looked like a visual mess compared to what it could have been turned into. We used to bike ride along George Street in the dawn and you could hear a pin drop on Sunday mornings. What a memory, I’m glad I spent my 20s experiencing the heart of Sydney.
[…] we shared our building with the wonderful architects Sam Marshall and Stephen Varady in the old Kings Disposal Building at Railway Square, George Street…model making was at fever pitch. (Incidentally, we were the […]
[…] I look up at the Orchards Corner clock – it is 2pm but one of its faces says 5:20 and the other 7:25 – the crackle of a round […]
Of side interest, Orchard was the frequent supplier of Omega pocket watches to the NSWGR for use by Stationmasters, Guards, Drivers and Engineers. I have the Omega “Guards Lever” pocket watch issued to my Grandfather sometime in the 1920’s or 1930’s. It runs like, umm, clockwork.
I ennjoyed reading your post