Eden firm lending a hand in repair of Liverpool landmark timepiece

Date: Tuesday 5th December 2017
Keith Scobie-Youngs with one of the hands from the Royal Liver Building clock
Keith Scobie-Youngs with one of the hands from the Royal Liver Building clock

AN Eden-based clock repair company is restoring the large iconic timepiece on Liverpool’s Liver Building,

Horologists at the Cumbria Clock Company, which is in Dacre, are overhauling the mechanism — and it is the first time the hands have been removed since they were first installed 106 years ago.

Keith Scobie-Youngs, who is 53 and lives in nearby Stainton, set up the company in 1990 with his wife, Lynn, and they have since worked on a range of historic clocks around the world.

He said he had looked after the one at the Royal Liver Building, which was the first electromechanical turret clock fitted to a public building, for the past 10 years.

The Grade I listed building is in the Pier Head area and, along with the neighbouring Cunard Building and Port of Liverpool Building, is one of the city’s Three Graces, which overlook the River Mersey. The clock face is 25ft in diameter — 6in wider than that of Big Ben.

“It’s very interesting, it’s a one-off,” said Keith, “and it has tested our skills here — you don’t know what you are going to encounter. There are no drawings, no manuals, no spares, nothing.”

Its hands were up to 180ft from the ground and they, as well as all of the cogs and inner workings, are housed within the firm’s Dacre workshop awaiting restoration.

Keith said they had a team of 15 people within the company and the clock would test everyone working on the project. He added: “There’s no doubt about it, it is nice to be involved with one of the iconic clocks throughout the country.”

He knew he wanted to be a clockmaker since he was 14 years old and studied horology at Birmingham Polytechnic.

After he qualified he moved to London where he worked on large clocks in churches and public buildings. While he was in London he met his future wife, who persuaded him to move north and they originally set up shop in Threlkeld.

He said they did some research and found there was nobody offering a similar service based in this part of the UK. He originally aimed to cover the north of England and the Scottish Borders but said: “That was the original plan but it ended up being completely different.”

His business deals with conservation of historic clocks, rather than building new mechanisms, and his first big break was the restoration of a Victorian clock in Salisbury Cathedral in the mid-1990s. He has since worked at Manchester Town Hall.

“We started to develop a reputation for conservation and started doing work for the National Trust, which eventually led on to us looking after Hampton Court Palace in the early 2000s,” said Keith.

Since then he has worked on the world’s oldest working medieval clock, which dates back to 1386 and is also at Salisbury Cathedral, and in 2007 he was involved with the restoration work on Big Ben.

Keith said his favourite clock was built in 1713 by Aaron Cheeseborough and can be found nearer home — in St. Andrew’s Church, Penrith. He added: “It’s a beautiful thing. I’ve always enjoyed working on that one.”

And in 2015 he was flown out to Suva, the capital of the South Pacific island nation of Fiji, to work on clocks in government buildings.

He said they were about to start working at St. James Palace, London, as well as at Kensington Palace, adding: “I am very proud of the lads who work for me.”