Historic university bell comes 'home'

University of Otago 150th anniversary project co-ordinator Kerry Buchan (left) and convener Prof...
University of Otago 150th anniversary project co-ordinator Kerry Buchan (left) and convener Prof Helen Nicholson with the historic bell - a centrepiece of the celebrations. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD
The historic University of Otago bell has come "home'' to the campus, and will take pride of place during this year's 150th anniversary celebrations.

University Property Services workers installed the bell in the courtyard between the university's clocktower and geology buildings on January 25.

University of Otago north campus facilities manager Michael Porter had been familiar with the bell in his former role as Meridian mall manager, but had not realised its association with the university.

The bell had been on display in the mall's food court for 20 years.

"When I discovered that it was the old university bell, and with the 150th anniversary celebrations coming up, I asked if we could have it,'' he said.

The bell was removed from the Meridian in September 2017, using a spider crane, and stored until its new place was prepared.

"It has been quite a logistical exercise, but it's great to have it back in its rightful place,'' Mr Porter said.

"It is one of the earliest known artefacts associated with the university, so it was always intended for this site.

"It has just taken 148 years to get here.''

Ordered for the city in 1863, the bell was initially part of the New Zealand Exhibition in 1865, before being moved to the post office building in Princes St in 1868.

The building housed the University of Otago from 1871 to 1877, before being sold to the colonial bank and later the Dunedin Stock Exchange.

After the demolition of the stock exchange building in 1969, the bell disappeared into obscurity until resurfacing to be placed in the Meridian mall food court in 1997.

Mr Porter said he was intrigued by the mysterious disappearance of the bell for those years, and he hoped someone in the community might know what happened to it.

"It would be good to have that mystery solved.''

University of Otago 150th anniversary celebrations project convener Prof Helen Nicholson and co-ordinator Kerry Buchan are delighted the bell has finally reached the campus.

"We wanted it to be accessible to students and people visiting campus, especially during the 150th celebrations,'' Mrs Buchan said.

BRENDA.HARWOOD @thestar.co.nz

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