Sunday 15 January 2012

York's public clocks

Like London's, York's streets are well-supplied with clocks for the use of passers-by. Here are some favourites noticed on recent visits. 

The street facade of St Martin Le Grand Church is dominated by a large clock, topped with the eighteenth-century Little Admiral (although they're currently away for restoration). The clock was replaced in 1855, and later heavily restored after being damaged in a wartime air raid, but the tiny seafarer and his sextant survived all this intact. Nobody knows if he represents any particular admiral, but he has been taking a sighting from the sun since the 1770s.

Given the importance of the railways to York, it's not surprising that a rather fine clock was erected in the station. It has been restored, and after some problems with an outbreak of spikes is now looking very handsome. I particularly like the small clock face on its side, ideally placed for those crossing the footbridge between platforms. 

Much more modest is this British Rail clock, hanging above the doorway of a building now used as the National Rail Museum Friends' Office. 

In the 1840s, an officers' mess was built for the Yorkshire Hussars. The De Grey Rooms went on to have various social uses, and are now occupied by York Theatre Royal. However, dances continue to be held in the ballroom; guests can check that they are fashionably late with a glance at this colourful clock. It was made by George Newey in 1906, as part of an exhibition for the British Association for the Advancement of Science conference, and afterwards hung in High Petergate before moving to its current location. Newey's  grandson Geoff still looks after the clock. He also cares for other notable clocks in the city, and restored the Little Admiral clock in the 1960s. 

Here's another Newey clock, near the station. While the swirling brackets first catch the eye, the carved case holds the attention. 

After the elaborate brackets and housing of so many clocks, this one is striking for its relatively modest profile. The face, with its gilt flourishes, is set directly into the wall of St Michael's, Spurriergate (now the Spurriergate Centre).


Hels said...

Although the aim was to allow pedestrians to tell the time, there also seemed to have been a decorative flourish in mind. So while the Bell Yard clock seemed ultra plain and barely worth a glance, the St Martin Le Grand Church clock still looks splendid.

Anonymous said...

A nice collection of clocks.

Old clocks survive perhaps because as well as their aesthetic appeal and historical interest they also serve a useful purpose. I think too that there is a certain prestige attached to having a fine old clock on your building. The wonderful thing is that the rest of us can enjoy (and use) them for free!

CarolineLD said...

I'm sure you're right about the prestige element - hence the decorative flourishes, perhaps! It was good to see that these were mostly actually working, too (although the small face on the railway clock doesn't agree with the main dial).

Dani Middleton said...

I just wrote a post about the Mysterious clock of the Law Court. You took amazing photos of the York Clocks, superb!

Clock Master said...

What a brilliant blog - has all the things I like. Just come across it by following links to clocks. I have my own public clock photo project (see

CarolineLD said...

Nice post, Dani (linked to here), and excellent taste - that's one of my favourite London clocks.

Clock Master, that's a great blog: I'll be following it with interest!