Smith of Derby Group

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Smith of Derby Group
Public Company
Founded 1856
Products clocks

Founded in 1856, the Smith of Derby Group are clockmakers based in Derby, Derbyshire, UK. The Smith of Derby business has been running continuously under 5 generations of the Smith family.[1]


John Smith (1813-1886), clockmaker and the original founder of today's Smith of Derby Group

The earliest origins of Smith of Derby’s history began before the company was established in 1856. John Whitehurst I started making clocks in England in 1708. His son, John Whitehurst II (10 April 1713 – 18 February 1788) was tutored in the art of clockmaking by his father and also became a clockmaker, innovator and renowned scientist. He started a clockmaking business in Derby in 1736 at 22 Irongate, Derby. The third John Whitehurst III then carried on the family clockmaking tradition.

John Smith (21 December 1813 - 1886)[2] became an apprentice to John Whitehurst III in 1827. He went on to be the founder of a new clockmaking company in 1856, first establishing his business in premises at 27 Queen Street in Derby.[3] The Queen Street premises originally belonged to John Whitehurst, and it was the Whitehurst family home. After the death of John Whitehurst III, John Smith became, through reputation and craftsmanship, his successor.

John Smith’s new company flourished during the industrial revolution. When he died in 1886, his two sons, Frank and John took over the running of the family business. Under Frank Smith, the company were responsible for building the huge turret clock for St Paul's Cathedral in 1893.[citation needed]

Frank Smith died in 1913, and the company was run by staff until Frank's son Alan was old enough to take over the running of the business. Alan Smith was succeeded by Howard Smith, who, in turn was succeeded by Nicholas Smith.

During the 20th century, Smith and Sons expanded through the acquisition of a variety of businesses. Clockmakers William Potts & Sons, Leeds were established in 1833 and acquired by Smith of Derby in 1933; laying claim to be the oldest clockmakers in the world, J. B. Joyce & Company of Whitchurch were responsible for many clocks internationally and were acquired by Smith of Derby in 1965;[citation needed] George & Francis Cope were established in 1845 as producers of chronometers for the Admiralty, they joined Smith of Derby in 1984.[citation needed] In 1985 they acquired B & H (Derby) Ltd and became today’s Smith of Derby Group.

Public clock installations in Europe[edit]

The Cathedral Clock originally manufactured and installed by John Smith and Sons in 1893 at St Paul's Cathedral in London

Public clock installations in Asia[edit]

Record-holding clocks[edit]

The world's highest building mounted clock above street level at the Boeing Headquarters in Chicago, by Smith of Derby. Photographer J. Crocker
  • Guinness World Records: The world's largest pendulum-regulated clock is the Harmony Tower in Ganzhou, China [5]
  • Guinness World Records: The world's largest steam clock is on the North Quay at St Helier, Jersey
  • The world's largest solar-powered clock is called 'The Beacon' and is installed as a feature clock at the University of Baghdad.[6]
  • The world's largest inclined clock is at Time Square in Al-Ain, UAE [7]
  • The world's highest building mounted clock above street level is 170 metres above street level and is mounted on top of Boeing's Headquarters in Chicago[8]
  • The world's largest mechanical tower clock is also the Harmony Tower in Ganzhou, China [9]
  • The world's most remote public clock is owned by the Queen of Tonga.[10]

In addition to these clock installations, Smith of Derby is also considered to be the manufacturers of the world's most expensive Islamic Prayer Clocks.[11] The Prayer Clocks are customisable and can be designed to include precious metals and gems.[12]

Other notable projects[edit]

The rotating globe kinetic sculptural installation at the Coliseum Theatre in London by Smith of Derby

Further reading[edit]

  • Craven, Maxwell (1996). John Whitehurst of Derby: Clockmaker and Scientist 1713-88. Derbyshire: Ashbourne. ISBN 0-9523270-3-1. 
  • Craven, Maxwell (2011). The Smiths of Derby: A Journey Through Time. Derbyshire. ISBN 978-0-9570846-0-5. 


  1. ^ Smith of Derby promotional brochure Smith of Derby - 5 generations of clockmakers
  2. ^ Horological Institute book review, January 2012 Chris McKay, MBHI, reviews the book 'The Smiths of Derby A Journey Through Time’ for the 'British Horological Journal'
  3. ^ Picture the Past website Picture showing location of John Smith's first premises in Derby
  4. ^ "Cardiff landmark clock in St Mary Street to be restored". BBC News. 20 July 2011. Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  5. ^ Largest Pendulum Regulated Clock, Detailing the Guinness world record held by Smith of Derby.
  6. ^ Craven, Maxwell (2011). The Smiths of Derby: A Journey Through Time. Derbyshire. ISBN 978-0-9570846-0-5.
  7. ^ Largest inclined clock in the world, The world's largest inclined clock in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates.
  8. ^ Highest building mounted clock above street level, PDF of Financial Times business guide to Derby - Smith of Derby appears on Page 8.
  9. ^ Largest Mechanical Clock, Guardian Website coverage of the Harmony Tower clock built by Smith of Derby.
  10. ^ About Smith of Derby, Video outlining all world records and patents held by Smith of Derby.
  11. ^ World's most expensive Islamic Prayer Clock, Luxury Launches Website coverage of the Islamic Prayer Clock launched by Smith of Derby in May 2011.
  12. ^ Islamic Prayer Clock details on Smith of Derby website, Details of the Islamic Prayer Clock on the Smith of Derby website.
  13. ^ Coliseum Theatre Rotating Globe, Rotating Steel Globe on the Coliseum Theatre in London.
  14. ^ Zoetrope sculptural installation, Zoetrope sculptural installation in Billinghay, Lincolnshire.
  15. ^ Bundock, Mike (2000). Herne Bay Clock Tower: A descriptive history. Herne Bay: Pierhead Publications. ISBN 9780953897704. Page 18

External links[edit]