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You are in: North Yorkshire > History > Local history > York's 'Father Time'

Geoff Newey

York's 'Father Time'

Geoff Newey could be described as York's 'Time Lord'! He's spent his life looking after York's clocks. August 18th 2007 was the 65th anniversary of the day he wound up his first clock - at the Castle Museum - and he's been doing it ever since.

In an age when few people spend any real length of time in one job Geoff Newey is an exception. He's clocked up more hours than he cares to remember maintaining many of York's most prized time pieces.

Geoff Newey at the Castle Museum

Winding the Castle Museum clock

Despite being way past the age when people normally retire, he says he still enjoys helping to keep York ticking over and isn't planning to call time on his life's work just yet.

The Newey's have been involved in clock making in York for more than a century. Geoff's grandfather - George - began the family business in the late 1880's. His father joined in 1903 and at the age of 14 Geoff was taken on as an apprentice clock maker in 1942.

Apart from a couple of years he spent serving in the army in Egypt just after the Second World War, Geoff's been looking after York's public clocks ever since.

Geoff Newey at York Castle Museum

Geoff Newey

August 18th 1942 is a day he remembers well - it's the day he began his career! His father gave him the job of winding up the clock at what is now York's Castle Museum. Back then it was a far cry from the scores of tourists he sees every Tuesday afternoon when he makes his weekly visit to wind the clock.

In 1942 not only was the country at war, but the buildings which are now the Castle Museum were then home to hundreds of criminals. The clock which overlooks the Eye of York was part of what was then York prison.

"It was pitch black in those days" says Geoff looking round the clock tower "all the windows had been blacked out. When you shone your torch around you could see the rats' eyes staring at you. They were as big as cats, you could tell they were, their eyes were wide apart."

Henry Hindley clock, York Minster

Henry Hindley clock in York Minster

At one time Geoff Newey used to wind every public clock in York - including those in every church in the City centre - but even though he has wound things down a bit, he still looks after more than a dozen.

The biggest of these are at York Minster - the 1750 'Henry Hindley' clock in the North Transept and the clock in the Minster's South West Tower which was made in 1842 by John Moore of Clerkenwell. Other clocks he looks after include those at the Bar Convent, the De Grey Rooms, Heslington Hall and Middlethorpe Hall.

The clock at the De Grey rooms was made by Geoff's grandfather, George, after he was commissioned to "supply time" to a conference held in York in 1906 by the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Clock outside the De Grey Rooms in York

De Grey Rooms, York

The clock was part of an exhibition organised as part of the conference and held in  what is now the York City Art Gallery. Afterwards it took pride of place in his workshop on High Petergate (which was the first private premises in York to have the time signal delivered) and was later put in its current place, on the wall of the De Grey Rooms.

Has he got a favourite? "It's a hard choice" he says, but if pushed it would probably be the clock on St Martin-le-Grand church on Coney Street which Mr Newey rebuilt 1960s after the church was destroyed in a German air raid during World War Two.

"There's just about a year of my life in that thing, there's a lot of work in one of those things. That clock movement weighs getting on for quarter of a tonne, so you know, there's a lot of work in it. So I'd probably pick that one, I brought it into being so to speak."

Clock, St Martin-le-Grand, Coney Street, York

St Martin-le-Grand, Coney Street

Geoff Newey started work to rebuild the clock in October 1965 and finished it on November 4th 1966, on what he remembers was a "bitterly cold" evening. The figure on the top of the clock is known as the 'Little Admiral' and is an eighteenth century naval officer using a sextant.

At the age of 79 Geoff Newey is still repairing clocks as well as winding them. He was awarded the MBE in 2002 in recognition of his services to York. The Dean of York, the Very Reverend Keith Jones describes Mr Newey as "York's Father Time. We wish him many years yet." The manager of the York Castle Museum, Ian Carlisle, says it is "incredible" to think he's been working at the Museum for 65 years. "He's a one off and we wish him well for the future."

last updated: 28/03/2008 at 14:54
created: 16/08/2007

You are in: North Yorkshire > History > Local history > York's 'Father Time'



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