University Clocks Up Another Towering Success

9 June 2010


The new clock on the University's North Tower will be officially started this Friday (June 11).

The final design took inspiration from the children's work but it also celebrates the principles of the University of Derby, in offering services and education well above the norm.

Bob Betts, Managing Director of Smith of Derby.

It's enough to win us a Blue Peter badge.

The three towers at the University of Derby's Kedleston Road site - part of the Derby skyline since the 1960s - have been given a sleek new look at a cost of £13.5m. A finishing touch for them has been the addition of a stylish £25,000 clock, on the side of the North Tower, designed and built by expert clockmaker Smith of Derby.

Now Derbyshire filmmaker, University honorary and former Blue Peter presenter Simon Groom is to officially open the towers and unveil the clock.

Simon will press a button to start up the clock, from the roof of the Multi-Faith Centre facing it, at the University's Kedleston Road site, at 2.30pm on Friday June 11. He will then unveil a plaqueat the base of the South Tower, to mark the three towers' official opening.

An invited audience will include the University's Vice-Chancellor Professor John Coyne, Pro Chancellor and Chair of Governing Council Dianne Jeffrey; Governing Council members, senior University staff and tower scheme contractors OPL.

Among the invitees will also be children from Chellaston School, whose ideas were among those which contributed to the clock's final design.

More than 500 Derbyshire schoolchildren took part in an 'Incredible Clock' design competition last year, jointly run by the University and Smith of Derby.

Professor John Coyne, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Derby, said: "Environmental improvement of our iconic towers was a priority for the University, as it sought to face the future.

"Commissioning Smith of Derby, clockmakers of distinction for over 150 years, provided a perfect link with our city's past. It also provides a link with our Buxton Campus, where the entrance to the Dome is dominated by a Smith tower clock from the 19th century."

Bob Betts, Managing Director of Smith of Derby, added: "We try to innovate in all our work when creating a new public timepiece.

"Working with the children in a competition format took this to another level. Many of their designs were incredible and I was delighted with this result. The final design took inspiration from the children's work but it also celebrates the principles of the University of Derby, in offering services and education well above the norm."

TV presenter and filmmaker Simon Groom said: "It was a very proud moment when I received my Honorary Award from the University earlier this year. I'm delighted to have been invited back to perform the official opening of the revamped towers and the wonderful new Smith of Derby clock.

"As well as looking forward to seeing the new environmentally friendly towers, and meeting up with colleagues from the University, I'm also looking forward to meeting pupils from Chellaston School who helped to design the clock.

"I'm sure the iconic, new look towers will remain an impressive feature on the skyline, as Derby continues its transformation into a vibrant 21st century city. Friday should be a memorable occasion."

The towers' refenestration took two years and was carried out by main contractor OPL. Replacing 1960s single-glazed windows and thinly insulated walls with state-of-the-art, heat efficient glazed panels has not only improved the buildings' look but also their environmental performance.

The work:

  • has made the towers up to 300% better at retaining their own heat energy, due to better insulation;
  • will cut carbon emissions by reducing energy wastage;
  • is expected to reduce the gas and electric bills for the North, East and South Towers by around £150,000 a year.

In addition the South Tower has been fitted with 200 square metres of photovoltaic (solar) panels and nine wind turbines, capable of generating a combined 28,807 kilowatt hours (kWh) of 'green' electricity for University use. A further, 65 foot tall wind turbine, will be built in the Kedleston Road site's driveway shortly.

The stylish new University clock, on the side of the North Tower - which is visible from Kedleston Road - was designed and created by master clockmakers Smith of Derby.

Unusually the University clock face is a semi-circle, rather than the traditional full circle. It also has only one sweep hand, to indicate both the hour and the minutes past, not a separate hour and minute hand.

The 4.2 metre long metal frame has a 0 at the bottom and 12 at the top of it, with hour markings in-between. The single hand will move along this length over each 12 hour period, instantly sweeping back to 0 to begin again once it reaches 12noon and midnight.

This is known as a 'fly-back' movement. It is thought the University's may be the largest 'fly-back' type clock movement on any building in the world.

The clock is mains powered with battery backup, and will be accurate to six decimal places. Computer controls mean its hourly chimes can be silenced altogether or programmed to emit a range of different tunes.

It is planned for the new electronic clock to chime on the hour but only between 9am and 9pm to avoid any inconvenience to nearby residents.

For further media information please contact Press and PR Officer Sean Kirby on 01332 591891 or 07876 476103, or email

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