Landmark Clock Tower Keeps Time Once More

After a gap of 18 years Terry’s Clock Tower clock is keeping time once more for the city of York.

Thanks to the skills of specialist horologists and some deft detective work the mechanism needed to get the distinctive hands moving again has been reconstructed and was put back in place this week.

The Clock stopped working when the giant Terry’s factory – home of the famous Chocolate Orange – closed in 2005. The former chocolate works fell into disrepair until property developer HBD acquired the site in 2013. At the time of HBDs acquisition, all five listed buildings on the estate, including the Clock Tower, were on English Heritage’s Buildings at Risk Register. The rare Clock mechanism had also disappeared. HBD undertook the asbestos strip out and enabling works before partnering with P J Livesey Group who redeveloped and reimagined the former MSF and Clock Tower into residential apartments.

Georgina Lynch is managing director of specialist developers the PJ Livesey Group, which has been responsible for converting the clock tower into apartments and ensuring the clock was restored to working order.

She said: “This is a momentous day and we are very grateful to the team at Smith of Derby for providing the skills to make it happen.

“The Terry’s clock was once known as the ‘kitchen clock of York’ and part of the City’s heritage and we are very proud to have played our part in seeing it restored. Terry’s is synonymous with York and the buildings are now saved and repurposed for generations to come.”

Smith of Derby were commissioned to restore the clock faces and track down original parts to recreate the mechanism in a project that has cost more than £60,000, the cost of which has been borne jointly by HBD and P J Livesey.

Sales and complex projects manager for Smith of Derby, Martin Butchers, said: “This has been an amazing project that has required not just all our skills but some deft detective work by the team.

“Terry’s is a rare Waiting Train Clock, made by Gents of Leicester, which is powered by an electrical impulse from a master clock. It was a visionary concept, well ahead of its time, but by the 1940s had already started to fall out of use.

“When we came to remove the clock, we were absolutely heart-broken to discover that the actual mechanism was not there. Despite extensive inquiries and a great deal of effort by many, many people it was never found so we set about finding original parts to recreate it.”

This search involved speaking to horologists all over the country, chasing tip-offs and poring over auction house catalogues and eventually the team sourced the majority of the parts needed.

Martin said: “The workings of the clock are made up of the central waiting train and master clock, the trickle charger, low voltage warning bell and batteries together with connecting rods and joints.

“We had to find replacement parts from the same era and by the same maker – Gents of Leicester – to effectively replace, as far as possible, with like for like. We have achieved this with the exception of the connecting rods and a few joints so essentially, the working system will be pretty much as original.

“It has been quite a challenge but the excitement when one of us managed to track down a part was huge.”

The restored the original four clock faces etched with the words Terry York which were replaced in a massive operation in 2019.

Martin said: “It is hugely satisfying for everyone who has worked on the Terry’s project over the years to complete the job and see this magnificent rare clock keeping time for York once more. I hope Noel Terry would be pleased.”

Tom Wheldon, Director and Head of Region at HBD said, “The Chocolate Works is one of York’s most iconic developments; we’re very proud of the part HBD has played in restoring such an important heritage asset – the clock is an integral part of the development so it’s fantastic to see it working again.

“We look forward to opening the Clock Tower Museum and welcoming residents and visitors to the Chocolate Works to see the clock in action and find out more about its history.”

As a tribute to the incredible story of Terrys in York, the developers have created a gallery space within the clock tower which will become the Clock Tower Museum, open three days a year to allow members of the public to view the clock mechanism and read display boards telling the Terry family story.

The boards were compiled by local York resident, Stan Young.

The visitation days will be organised by the Clock Tower Museum Forum which will be comprised of the Clock Tower Management Company (Clock Tower residents) and hopefully some local volunteers.

Noel Terry’s Arts and Crafts style house, Goddards, sits on the opposite side of the Racecourse to the Clock Tower and it is now owned by the National Trust with the gardens open to the public and the house serving as the Trust’s Yorkshire headquarters.