Tower Clocks and Cooke of York

We live in a small village and the local church has a tall spire with a tower clock movement.  Some while ago my friend Dave and I were invited to have look at the workings of the clock which was quite interesting.   The clock is still hand wound twice per week and it does not have any added technology to maintain the time keeping accuracy.  This was some time ago and I thought nothing more of it.

My local village church and clock
Church clock movement by T Cooke of York in the village church

I am a member of the British Horological Institute (BHI) and attend the local meetings once per month.   Earlier this year the subject for the monthly lecture was the Tower Clocks of Cooke of York.   This was particularly poignant for me having spent my early years growing up in the York area.   To my surprise that evening I discovered that the clock here in the village was a Cooke clock.   For those interested the presenter of the talk, Darlah Thomas together with her husband have produced a book on the Cooke family containing a listing and description of the known Cooke clock installations and indeed the optical devices the company produced.  It is a splendid volume worthy of any coffee table collection.

ISBN 978-0-9573733-3-4
Turret Clocks of T Cooke of York by Steve and Darlah Thomas

So back to the story …. the village clock, a Cooke clock and I was living in its shadow.

At the meeting I met David Pawley who spends his life maintaining tower clock movements throughout the south of England.   You can read his website Tower Time here.  I mentioned where I lived and he asked if I would mind helping him with some maintenance on the village clock here in my village.   He had been waiting for the striking mechanism to wind down so the weights were fully dropped and the time was rife to lubricate and check the strike pulley system.   We spent a pleasant morning doing the necessary work and I enjoyed the experience.

During the activity David asked if I could further help him to remove the dials from another tower clock in the local area.   The tower was on a farm estate and of wooden construction.   The woodwork was in need of repair which necessitated a temporary removal of the dials and motion work.   Dave (my friend) and myself duly turned up on the day to help David Pawley and had yet another interesting time working on and removing the items in question.

What impresses me is that these clocks have run for years and years.   The technology available when they were designed and built was basic yet here are movements that keep to seconds accuracy after all these years.

I would not be offending David Pawley if I say he is not young and I would compliment him by saying that he carries an enormous accumulation of knowledge and skills.  One day his knowledge and skills will pass into history and I do not see a new generation filling that gap.   There are a lot of tower clocks in the UK and I can’t see a new generation coming forward to fill the need for maintenance.

Farm estate tower clock
Clock mechanism

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