King’s Cross – March 1952


I am spending every waking minute at present researching and writing about Smiths, owner of the English Clock Systems marque (ECS), Just now I came across an article about ECS in the March 1952 in-house Smiths magazine, and thought it worth sharing some of the accompanying images. Based on surviving clocks, ECS is perhaps now best known for: a range of master and slave clocks, similar in concept to the Synchronome; synchronous public clocks; and process timers (e.g. darkroom clocks), which often turn up on eBay.

I don’t think any pictures of the inside of the original ECS works on Wharfdale Road, King’s Cross, have been published in a long time, so here we go, with a small selection. The first shows Reg Boskett, showing off a modern clock dial for exterior use. In the next shot, Dolly Etheridge is shown operating a capstan lathe – Dolly joined the firm in 1942, and was also a competition dancer!

Dolly Etheridge machining

Reg Boskett, Exterior Clock Dept











The firm’s original business focused on importing and installing Ericsson time recorders, but little is reported of the time recorders manufactured in fairly large numbers by ECS all the way through to the 1970s. Another shot shows Jimmy James, an old-timer from the firm’s beginnings, in the time recorder department, with an array of movements.

Jimmy James, Time Recorder Dept


The final shot shows the most sought-after object, the ECS master clock, in the main assembly shop, with Jack Horsfall, foreman, using his Avometer to set-up the series resistance. At the time all these pictures were taken, the firm still had a successful future ahead of it, but in less than thirty years its market was eroded, and it was absorbed by Blick in 1980.

Jack Horsfall, Main Assembly


Martin Ridout, webmaster for the AHS, is also our resident expert on the English Clock Systems (ECS) marque. The current state-of-the-art knowledge appears on his web-site and is distilled in two technical papers published by the society’s Electrical Group, Nos. 68 and 82. Click here for details of the group and a full index of its papers. With luck, my continuing research will throw up some more flesh for Martin to add to the tale.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to King’s Cross – March 1952

  1. Russell says:

    Hi James

    Very interesting to find your article.

    I, like you, have been trying to find out all I can about the old Smiths English Clock Systems commercial/industrial clocks from the late 1940s and 50s.

    I currently have two of these old clocks from this era:

    English Clock Systems – (Looks like the square Trent model, but with no Smiths on the face) I believe it was one of the old special order Woolworths clocks removed in the 1950s, based on info I received from the person that runes the Woolworths Museum web site.

    Smiths English Clock Systems – (Looks like the Axe or Severn model) It is a meter in width with a glass dial.

    I remember being told some time ago that a lot of the original documentation materials were disposed of by Smiths as they saw no commercial reason to keep them hanging around – great shame…so obtaining any information is quite difficult. I did meet someone recently whose father was a personal friend of the original Smiths family and said he would try and see whether he could find out any clock info when the opportunity next presented itself to him – fingers crossed.

    I would be very interested to hear of any additional information you may have come across during your research. I have used Martins excellent ECS website on many occasions.


    • James Nye says:

      Dear Russell,

      Very glad to hear about your enthusiasm for ECS. We need to get you into the AHS and the EHG! I realise the blog posts where I have mentioned Smiths have not made explicit the fact that I am presently writing an officially commissioned history for the firm (1851-2007), which will be published nest year by Oxford University Press, to coincide with the hundredth anniversary of the firm’s flotation on the stock market. I therefore have access to all Smiths’ remaining archive material, in-house magazines, pictures etc, such as they are. There are significant gaps, but there is some ECS related material. I am not in a position to offer access to this, but I am hoping that in due course I can help get some more material published in one way or another.



  2. Russell says:

    Hi James
    Your work sounds very interesting and I will certainly be looking out for your finished publication.
    I have not heard of the AHS and EHG? Could you PM me details? I would also be very interested in finding any contacts regards replacement parts as the large Smiths English Clock Systems clock I’m working on is in need of a replacement motor for the movement which I’m having trouble finding.
    When your better able and if possible, I would be most grateful in any old engineer maintenance or parts list information for the Axe or Severn which could help assist me in locating a number of replacement parts. I really want to avoid the quartz movement option if I can.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>