A Tudor-style clock tower isn’t what one expects to see when driving through a small New Zealand town. When one realises the town’s name is Stratford, however, it makes perfect sense.
The Stratford Clock Tower is unique in New Zealand. It houses a glockenspiel. On the hour, human figures made by Nigel Ogle pop out of various windows to recite lines from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Most of Stratford’s streets are named after Shakespeare characters. We stopped at the entrance of Prospero Place to watch the glockenspiel perform. Due to the traffic passing in front of the clock tower, it was sometimes difficult to hear, but it was something different, at least.
The performance lasts for about five minutes. You can catch it at 10am, 1pm, 3pm and 7pm.
The public toilets behind the clock tower are a bit different too.
Stratford-upon-Patea is in Taranaki, right next to Egmont National Park. As such, it boasts fabulous views of Mount Taranaki. It’s also the last place to get petrol before embarking upon the Forgotten World Highway.
One place in Stratford I really wanted to visit was the Taranaki Pioneer Village. It’s a living museum made up of authentic Victorian buildings. There’s a church, a courthouse, a hospital, a jail, a school, a forge, a bookbinder’s… even a vintage railway.
There was hardly anyone else there when we went, which made the village seem really eerie. It was good for getting an idea of how the European pioneers of New Zealand lived. Seeing the walls of a two-roomed homestead covered with old newspaper, presumably because it was their only means of insulation, was mildly harrowing, as was discovering how school mistresses were expected to live!
We couldn’t go in the church because it was being used for a wedding, but we could catch a ride on the little train. I spent some time hanging out with the village’s free range chickens and a pair of very demanding sheep.
I imagine the village would have been a lot more interesting if we’d gone on a ‘live’ day, but their website doesn’t seem to have any listed. Seeing people walking around in period costume would have been wonderful.
If you have plenty of time to spare in Taranaki, the Pioneer Village is a nice place to spend an hour or two. If your time is limited, however, you’re better off spending it at Nigel Ogle’s Tawhiti Museum. That place is freakin’ awesome.