Clocks All Change This Weekend

March 22, 2018 Heritage, News, Public, Time, Traditional

With summer time changeover fast approaching, we are being kept very busy.

This year we will be putting the time forward an hour on 155 tower clocks. That’s a small number compared to the 4,000 or so we look after altogether. Some of our clients do the clock altering themselves, and many of the modern electrically driven clocks have automatic changeover.

On average it takes half an hour to change the time on each clock. The gears have to be released and moved to put the clock forward one hour in the spring. It takes a bit longer for the autumn changeover because tower clock gears cannot be moved backwards, so they have to be moved forward by 11 hours.

Quite a few of us here at Smith of Derby and our partner companies are involved in clock altering. Four planners in the office administer the changeover (as well as their regular planning work), and 12 out of our 18 service and installation clockmakers make the actual changeover visits. We aim to change all the clocks as soon as we can, given that access is always by arrangement with the owner, church or local authority.

Clock on St. Paul’s Cathedral, London

The official changeover time is 2.00am on Sunday morning which this year is 25 March, but the only clocks changed at that precise time are done by the owners or caretakers themselves.

The Stirling Tolbooth clock which we alter the time on twice a year.

Our clockmakers in Scotland do all the changeover contracts before the weekend, we do one (Sheffield Town Hall) the day before – Saturday.

We alter the time on Derby Cathedral and Nottingham Council House on Sunday morning, and from the Monday onwards we do the rest. In London it takes all week for 2 clockmakers to get round all the clocks there. They include St Pauls Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, plus army and barracks locations and many other churches and landmark clocks.

About the author

Mike Fitchett: Designer