Mounted on the wall above the main entrance to De Grey House, you’ll find the wonderful Newey Clock. It was built by George J F Newey, a talented turret, or tower clockmaker who had a workshop in Bootham Bar in the early 1880s.
The internal mechanism is displayed in a purpose built cabinet in our Bowes meeting room, weight driven, its 100 kilogram weight drops through two floors in a specially constructed channel. Wound once a week with 150 turns of its huge winding handle, its maintenance is in the steady and dedicated hands of the York Clock Group.
An exhibition clock
In 1896 George Newey won a Gold Medal at the Trades, Industrial, Health and Art Exhibition held in Exhibition Buildings, located behind where York Art Gallery now stands. In 1906 George was invited by the British Association for the Advancement of Science to provide wall clocks for its York meeting. The Association’s gatherings, lasting over a week, included lectures, demonstrations and the public exhibition of the latest engineering expertise. It was in this atmosphere of competitive science and showmanship that Newey built the clock that now graces De Grey House. The clock didn’t win any accolades at the time, but, an exhibition piece, he mounted it above his Petergate shop front and continued to intrigue the public by showing the internal mechanism in his shop window for over fifty years. The beautifully engineered clock rejoicing in such elements as ‘Lord Grimthorpe’s celebrated gravity escapement’ and Jost Borg’s ‘piggyback remontoire’.
The ’timekeeper of York’
Illuminated at night and known for many years by locals as the ‘timekeeper of York’, in the 1950s, long after George Newey’s death, his son Basil closed the shop and removed the clock. Basil’s elder brother Roland and his son Geoffrey Newey then worked to re mount the clock and their choice was on De Grey House; close to its original home and George’s workshop where it was designed and built.
The York Clock Group
The York Clock Group was formed in 2011 by Edward Bacon to take over the weekly winding of turret and domestic clocks still carried out by Geoffrey, George’s grandson. The winding and maintenance of clocks in public buildings and large houses was a large part of a clock makers business and Geoffrey employed a Honda scooter to efficiently reach all the clocks needing regular attention. With Geoffrey’s health failing, already having taken on some of Geoffrey’s winding duties, his friend Edward realised they needed help and the York Clock Group was the answer.
Initially, there were four members: Edward, a hardware business owner, Andrew Carter, a composer and music teacher, Ken Pickering, a musician and civil engineer Mike Waters. Today, Edward and Andrew no longer wind and the group welcomed BT engineer John Cossins, railway engineer Andy Robertson and doctor Tony Rugg. John Cossins is also involved in the recommissioning of the Terry’s clock on the Knavesmire.
The turret clocks currently in their care are wound in rotation and include:
A fascinating role in the life of our City and built heritage, all too often we take for granted the many beautiful time pieces that surround us, as the York Clock Group quietly goes about its business to ensure that, when we glance up, we can still see the correct time.
The group are currently welcoming new members. No previous experience or knowledge of horology is needed, just interest and enthusiasm. Currently the clocks are wound weekly on a Tuesday and transport is needed for some of the outliers. If you are interested, please get in touch with Mike Waters to find out more. firstname.lastname@example.org
With special thanks to Mike Waters.