Stratford Glockenspiel Clock Tower – Stratford, New Zealand - Atlas Obscura

Stratford, New Zealand

Stratford Glockenspiel Clock Tower

This mechanical clock performs "Romeo and Juliet" in a Shakespeare-themed New Zealand town. 

The Glockenspiel Clock Tower is one of many Shakespeare-themed features in Stratford, New Zealand, a town named after the birthplace of William Shakespeare. It also has the distinction of being New Zealand’s first glockenspiel tower.

It’s hard to walk around Stratford without being reminded of William Shakespeare. The town has 67 streets named after characters from 27 of the writer’s plays, including Juliet Street, Montague Grove, Capulet Place, and Hamlet Street. There are even toilets decorated in honor of the Bard of Avon. And all this because someone decided to name the town after Shakespeare’s birthplace back in 1877, just because it seemed like a good thing to do at the time.

Arguably the most prominent Shakespearean attraction in Stratford is the Glockenspiel Clock Tower, an Elizabethan-style construction built in the 1990s. Since 1999, the clock tower has been entertaining passersby with a short Shakespearean performance four times a day.

Following the striking of the tower bells at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., carved figures of Romeo and Juliet emerge from doors within the tower. As they do so, a recording begins of some of the most famous lines from the Balcony Scene, backed by some suitably Elizabethan music. Six different figures emerge in total (three of Romeo and three of Juliet) during the five-minute mechanized performance, with the last set standing hand in hand. The music plays throughout, with various lines from the play.

The music, along with the lines from the play, is piped out from a modern(ish) sound system. It is not played using a traditional carillon system of bells as found in more authentic towers of this type. In other words, don’t go along expecting the Rathaus-Glockenspiel.

But the Stratford Glockenspiel is a fun addition to the town and a popular attraction among visitors. Be prepared, however, to strain your ears against the noise of passing traffic—a situation that local authorities are trying to resolve.

Know Before You Go

The Stratford Glockenspiel is located at 278 Broadway in Stratford in the Taranaki Region of New Zealand's North Island. The tower performs four times a day, at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. For now, the best place to watch is from the footpath along Broadway across the road from the tower (just outside the Bank of New Zealand). Due to the traffic noise and safety concerns, local authorities are looking at ways to improve the experience, perhaps by installing a better sound system and/or building a dedicated viewing platform in front of the tower.

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