Smith of Derby clock engineers' race against time

Clock tower at St Paul's Cathedral Engineers will travel from St Paul's Cathedral to Newcastle Cathedral as part of their task to change 80 clocks across England and Wales
Derby Cathedral Derby Cathedral is one of the stops on the engineers' journey which will start on Sunday and finish on Wednesday
Astronomical clock at Leicester University The team will also manually change the astronomical clock at the University of Leicester

Related Stories

With the clocks going back this weekend most people will be looking forward to an extra hour in bed.

But a team of specialist engineers, from Derby, will be working flat out to turn back time on 80 clocks across England and Wales.

Specialist clockmakers Smith of Derby will be changing the times of clocks on famous landmarks, including St Paul's Cathedral in London.

A total of 18 field engineers were beginning the mammoth task on Sunday morning and are expected to finish on Wednesday.

Smith of Derby

  • The firm was founded in 1856
  • About 12,000 clocks in 50 countries all over the world were made by Smith
  • It services 4,750 clocks in the UK
  • Customers include the Queen of Tonga
  • Smith employs 60 people in the UK

The majority of the time pieces are public or church clocks, including those on Newcastle Cathedral and on Nottingham's Victoria Shopping Centre.

Bob Betts, the firm's managing director, said the team can get the job done relatively quickly.

He said: "It is difficult to do it [turn back clocks] at a predetermined time and all at the same time, so we work very closely with the town halls and the parish councils to find out when is best to do it for them and get everyone alerted to that.

Swiss Glockenspiel in Leicester Square Leicester Square's musical clock features 27 bells

'I'm sure there'll be people saying: 'Is that the right time or is that the wrong time?' But we get there."

He said some of the clocks were hard to get to.

"The nature of a public clock is that it's usually in a tower, so our guys will have to climb up those 150 or so steps.

"Some have difficult access and will need scissor lifts or scaffolding and so on.

Time facts

  • Up until the coming of the railways, people kept time by the sun. This was known as local mean time
  • It was only in 1880 that GMT was adopted countrywide
  • The idea of British Summer Time was floated in 1906 but not implemented until 1916
  • The British Summer Time Act 1972 stipulates that GMT begins on the last Sunday of October and BST on the last Sunday of March

"We take it very seriously the up keep of our horology for the country," Mr Betts said.

He said the engineers would mostly not be pulling back clock hands but altering them from a mechanism usually at the side of a clock tower.

The 80 clocks need to be changed manually but most of the 4,750 clocks that the firm is responsible for servicing will update automatically, including the Swiss glockenspiel clock in London's Leicester Square.

Customers of the firm include the Queen of Tonga, who commissioned the firm to build her what it says is the "most remote clock in the world".

It has also built what it claims is one of the largest mechanical clocks for a time-themed attraction in the city of Ganzhou in China.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

BBC Derby



Min. Night 1 °C

BBC Local Live

    18:00: Good evening

    Today's Local Live updates have come to an end. We will be back with more from 08:00 tomorrow.

    17:57: Tumbling temperatures Kaye Forster BBC Weather

    We could see a few wintry showers this evening and overnight.

    Some stretches could be icy too with temperatures dropping to about -1C (30F) in rural areas.

    17:42: Barker in action Owen Bradley BBC Radio Derby Sport

    Derby County's Shaun Barker played 45 minutes for Sheffield United's U21 side in their 2-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest earlier.

    Read more about it here.

    17:37: Car hits elderly pedestrian

    An 84-year-old woman suffered serious injuries when she was hit by a car in Derbyshire at the weekend.

    It happened at about 18:30 on the A444 in Overseal. Police have appealed for witnesses.

    17:14: Rams could need loan-strike cover BBC Sport

    Derby County are considering signing another striker on loan as cover for injured duo Darren Bentand Chris Martin.

    On-loan ex-England forward Bent (pictured) is expected to be out for up to a month with a hamstring tear sustained in Saturday's 2-0 loss at Fulham.

    Darren bent

    Fellow striker Chris Martin who has 16 Championship goals this season, also has a hamstring injury and is likely to be out for another two weeks.

    17:07: Feedback Gavin Bevis BBC Local Live

    BBC Local Live brings news, sport, travel and weather together in one place. What do you think of it?

    16:56: News on the hour Philip Churm BBC Radio Derby newsreader

    In my 17:00 bulletin, Derbyshire chocolate firm Thorntons suffers a fall in both sales and profits.

    16:45: Drugs law change Dean Pepall BBC Radio Derby presenter

    New drug driving laws came into effect today - meaning police in Derbyshire and East Staffordshire will be out using 'drugalyser' kits.

    Drug test kit

    I'll be finding out more about how the tests work at about 16:45.

    16:32: Derby water woes

    Severn Trent says it is investigating reports of discoloured tap water in parts of Derby.

    It says its teams are out taking samples in areas covered by the DE7 postcode.

    16:16: Thorntons 'well positioned'

    Jonathan Hart, chief executive of Derbyshire-based chocolate firm Thorntons, is remaining positive despite a fall in sales and profits.

    Thorntons shop front

    He said: "We are well positioned to take advantage of an improvement in consumer spending."

    Pre-tax profit fell 8.8% to £6.5m, with sales down 8.2% to £128.2m in the 28 weeks to 10 January.

    15:59: News on the hour Philip Churm BBC Radio Derby newsreader

    In my 16:00 bulletin, we'll have more on Thorntons suffering a drop in profits and sales.

    15:48: Barker's Blades opportunity

    Derby County's Shaun Barker has been given permission to play two U21 matches for Sheffield United.

    Shaun Barker

    The 32-year-old is recovering from a long-term knee injury but the Rams can only field three over-age players in U21 games - and those slots are needed for first team regulars returning from injury and fringe players.

    15:36: Child abuse claims: Derbyshire man charged

    A man from Ilkeston is among ten men charged by police investigating child sexual exploitation in Rochdale.

    David Law, 45, of Cotmanhay Road, is charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit rape.

    15:17: Council deploys gritters

    Derbyshire County Council tweets: Snow possible tonight so gritting secondary routes & primary routes this aft, then primary routes again from 2am

    14:57: News on the hour Philip Churm Newsreader

    Derbyshire chocolate firm Thorntons has reported a fall in both sales and profits, in what it described as a "disappointing" overall performance.

    You can hear more on this on BBC Radio Derby at 15:00.

    14:40: Sunshine and scattered showers Anna Church Weather Presenter, BBC East Midlands Today

    A bright afternoon but some occasional showers this afternoon.


    Scattered showers will continue, becoming increasingly wintry in places.

    14:18: Bent injured Owen Bradley BBC Radio Derby Sport

    Derby County striker Darren Bent is facing up to four weeks out with a small hamstring tear.

    Darren Bent

    Rams first team coach Paul Simpson says the club are considering a loan but there isn't much available.

    13:56: News on the hour Philip Churm Newsreader

    The Derbyshire chocolate firm Thorntons has reported a fall in both sales and profits.

    You can hear more on this in my 14:00 bulletin on BBC Radio Derby.

    13:43: Drop in GP trainees Sally Swinfen Newsreader, BBC Radio Derby

    A trainee GP from Swadlincote thinks more should be done to attract young doctors to general practice.

    There's been a 30% reduction in people training to be GPs in Derby - reflecting a similar situation nationally.

    13:31: Fatal crash man named Derbyshire Times

    An elderly pedestrian who died after a collision with a coach in Chesterfield has been identified.

    13:20: Thorntons' profits

    The chief executive of Derbyshire-based Thorntons said "there is still much to do" to turn around the group's fortunes after it reported a drop in sales and profits.


    Jonathan Hart tells investors it's a "mixed performance".

    International sales rose by 19.9% to £5.4m in the first half of the company's financial year, but UK commercial sales melted away by 12.4% to £54.7m.

    13:08: Rams interviews Owen Bradley BBC Radio Derby Sport

    I'm at Derby County's training ground where I'll be interviewing Steve McClaren and Ryan Shotton.

    12:54: News on the hour BBC Radio Derby

    In the 13:00 news bulletin: Derbyshire chocolate firm Thorntons has reported a fall in both sales and profits for the half-year - in what it described as a "disappointing" overall performance.

    12:46: Have your say Gavin Bevis BBC Local Live

    What do you think of BBC Local Live? We'd like your feedback about this service.

    12:36: Severe delays on M1 BBC Travel

    A broken down vehicle has led to a lane being closed on the M1 southbound between J29 and J28.

    12:24: Sunday night river rescue Gavin Bevis BBC Local Live

    Fire crews rescued a man who had tumbled 50m into a river in New Mills last night.

    River rescue

    Firefighters had to tread carefully on the slippery bank to pull the man to safety and help him into a waiting ambulance.

    12:11: Midlands councils to team up John Hess Political editor, East Midlands

    Significant new powers over transport, housing and the local economy are to be devolved to Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire by the government.

    It's the biggest shift in powers from Whitehall in generations, but the deal requires local councils to combine into one super authority. So what could it all mean?

    Read more in my latest blog entry.

    11:59: News on the hour Sally Swinfen Newsreader, BBC Radio Derby

    In my 12:00 bulletin, a Swadlincote GP says more should be done to encourage young doctors into General Practice.

    11:34: Your photos: Ladybower sheep Gavin Bevis BBC Local Live

    Thank you to Keith Bown for this fabulous shot of blue skies and sheep at Ladybower Reservoir.

    Sheep near Ladybower Reservoir

    If you've taken any great pics of Derbyshire, email them to or tweet us at @bbcderby

    11:18: Did your child get in?

    Derbyshire County Council tweets: Parents can log in to see their child's secondary school place for Sep. 98.9% have one of their preferred schools

    11:00: News on the hour Sally Swinfen Newsreader, BBC Radio Derby

    Derbyshire chocolate firm Thorntons has reported a fall in both sales and profits for the half year in what it described as a "disappointing" overall performance.

    Sally Swinfen

    I'll bring you more on this in my 11:00 bulletin.

    10:43: Stranger danger incident Derbyshire Times

    Police are appealing for information after a man tried to lure a 11-year-old boy into a car in the Peak District.

    10:28: Foolow land to be sold Gavin Bevis BBC Local Live

    The Peak District National Park Authority is planning to sell an area of land it was forced to pay £650,000 for three years ago to prevent it becoming a static caravan site.

    The land, in Foolow, was purchased by the authority in 2012 after it missed the word "touring" out of a planning consent notice and a private firm tried to buy it.

    Now it plans to sell the land to recoup the cost - but wants to amend its conditions to make sure static caravans are precluded this time.

    10:16: Pitchford champ after comeback Owen Bradley BBC Radio Derby Sport

    Chesterfield's Liam Pitchford has retained his men's singles title at the English Senior National Table Tennis Championships.

    Liam Pitchford

    He was 3-0 down to Paul Drinkhall in the final but saved two championship points to storm back and take the title by four sets to three.

    10:06: Breakdown leads to delays BBC Travel

    A broken down car is blocking a lane on the M1 southbound between J30 and J29a.

    09:57: News on the hour Sally Swinfen Newsreader, BBC Radio Derby

    In my 10:00 bulletin, Derbyshire chocolate firm Thorntons reports a fall in both sales and profits.

    09:48: Man bit police officers Burton Mail

    A reveller who had to be sprayed with CS gas after biting two police officers has narrowly escaped going straight to jail.

    09:27: Chocolate firm's profits dip

    Thorntons has reported a fall in both sales and profits for the second half of 2014.

    Thorntons shop

    The firm said supply problems at its new Derbyshire warehouse also affected its figures.

    09:12: McClaren: 'We go again' BBC Sport

    Derby County head coach Steve McClaren is remaining positive despite the 2-0 defeat to Fulham at the weekend.

    Steve McClaren

    "We'll have one or two more bad days at the office, I can guarantee that, but the key thing is we just shake it off and go again.

    We've missed an opportunity, but there will be others and we have to make sure we take them."

    09:00: News on the hour Sally Swinfen Newsreader, BBC Radio Derby

    A Derby woman who's been campaigning for mobility scooter drivers to sit a proficiency test says more needs to be done to make them safer.

    You can hear more on this in my 09:00 bulletin.

    08:50: Snake Pass crash BBC Travel

    The A57 Snake Pass is partially blocked in Bamford following an accident.

    08:37: Exasperation at Spondon potholes Derby Telegraph

    Residents in Spondon have described potholes in the village as an "absolute nightmare".

    08:15: M1 queues BBC Travel

    There are delays on the M1 northbound at J29 because of a broken down vehicle.

    08:04: Icy morning Anna Church Weather Presenter, BBC East Midlands Today

    A cold start with a Met Office yellow warning of snow and ice in place until 10:00.

    Anna Church

    There could be a few isolated wintry showers this morning but it should be a mostly dry afternoon with plenty of sunshine. Highs of 6C (43F).

    More details here.

    08:00: Happy Monday Gavin Bevis BBC Local Live

    Hi everyone. I'll be bringing you today's news, sport, travel and weather for Derbyshire and East Staffordshire.

    I'd really like to hear from you too, so email or tweet us at @bbcderby with your photos and comments.



Elsewhere on the BBC

  • StudentsBull market

    Employers are snapping up students with this desirable degree


  • 3D model of Christ the Redeemer statueClick Watch

    Using drones to 3D map the famous Brazilian landmark Christ the Redeemer

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.