VIDEO: Walking into clock makers' workshop is taking a step back in time
WALKING into the workshop in Ashbourne, where William Haycock Clockmakers has been based sine 1897, is like stepping back in time.
Much of the equipment in workshop is powered by a line shaft – a complex piece of machinery that covers the whole of the ceiling of the modest workshop.
Owner Neil Haycock has taken over the family business in North Leys.
Strewn across the work surfaces are tiny tools and clock parts that are difficult to identify.
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Neil said: "As a clock maker, you have to get used to your work being covered up.
"Traditionally, there's a case over the top and the mechanism is not on show.
"But you know all the work that's gone into it and know everything is perfect inside. It takes a lot to make a clock tick and keep going."
All the teeth on the wheels of the clock mechanism are made by hand either on a machine that originally belonged to 18th-century clock maker and scientist John Whitehurst, of Derby.
The machine needs all the movements to be done by hand.
The same job can also be done on a more modern machine run on the line shaft.
Neil said: "Whitehurst was a member of the Lunar Society and created the machine that put teeth into the wheels. It had to be calculated to an exact measurement where the teeth were in the blank wheel.
"The size of the clock depended on how big the wheels needed to be in the mechanism. All the wheels have to line up exactly to make the clock work.
"It's meticulous work and a lot of time goes in to it."
The latest creation that Neil has been working on is a skeleton clock, a clock that sits in a glass case, showing the craftsmanship in all its glory.
Neil, 45, said: "It's such an honour to have been working on this skeleton clock. They're so rare now, especially on this scale.
"All the moving parts are on show for all to see."
The clock makers believe it is the only company left in the world which has the casts for a skeleton clock.
Neil said: "They're very rare indeed these days, because they take so much work and craftsmanship."
Charles Haycock, Neil's father, ran the business for 40 years and still helps out in the workshop.
Charles said: "This is the first one that we've made since 1902. They fell out of fashion and no-one wanted them any more.
"They were very fashionable in the Victorian times and they were everywhere. But after that they fell by the wayside."
The latest piece was a commission for a customer in the south of the country.
As well as making clock mechanisms, William Haycock Clockmakers creates replica machinery from the Industrial Revolution.
When Richard Arkwright began building up his mill in Cromford in 1776, he turned to clock makers to create the machinery he needed.
Charles said: "When there is no industry, and no precedent for the type of thing he had in mind, the only people Arkwright could turn to were blacksmiths and clock makers.
"He advertised around the region for people to come forward and help build the machines he wanted.
"That's why, when you look at the famous spinning machines, they resemble the same sort of mechanism with the wheels and teeth."
Around 18 years ago, the company was approached by an industrial museum in Ratingen, Germany, to recreate the machinery of the Industrial Revolution.
When Arkwright was setting up in the 18th century, he was being spied on – industrial espionage – by Johann Gottfried, who set up his own Cromford in Ratingen.
And the museum was being set up to remember the German mill but none of the original machinery survived the collapse of the factory.
Neil said: "It was all sold off when the factory closed in the early 1800s. There was none of it left.
"We were approached by them to recreate six pieces of machinery in total.
"One of them, a water frame, works at the rough cotton, stretching it and twisting it to make it longer and strong.
"We did all the joinery and the tiny mechanisms for the machines, all of the machine was created here, by us.
"For the carding machine – which would could convert raw cotton into yarn – all we had to go on for this was a couple of pictures of the originals. We put so much research into them to make sure they were right.
"We didn't know the first thing about textiles machinery but we had to learn fast so we knew what we were doing."
Most of the work was done by Charles, as Neil did not work for the company full-time then.
Charles said: "It was a lot of work that took many years – and so much research had to go into it.
"But it was so satisfying when I stepped back and saw the finished article.
"Everything had to be in proportion and in working order because they wanted it to work – it's a working museum."
Charles also created a lantern, which was a drawing frame and was used in the cotton change process.
Neil said: "We made this from the pictures and knowledge that we found through all our research but we couldn't make it work.
"We tried everything and, over a period of months and moths, nothing would work.
"We knew everything was to scale and everything was right but it just wouldn't work.
"Then we had a visit from an academic who was an expert on Arkwright and the Industrial Revolution.
"He said to us: 'Oh, you've made a lantern, have you got it to work?'
"And we wondered how he knew we'd had so many problems.
"We told him we hadn't got it to work, and he said: 'Yes, I didn't think you would have, Arkwright never got it to work, either.'
"We didn't know that and realised that we'd spent months wasting our time. But we knew that we had got things right and it was the design that was flawed."
William Haycock Clockmakers is a family-run business but, for many years, Neil was not heading to working in the trade. Now, though, he loves his work.
He said: "I can't switch off from it. For Dad, it's his life and he's always in the workshop, tinkering and helping.
"That's what it's like for me now. Without me, the business wouldn't continue.
"It's a sense of appreciation of what the company is. We get a lot of people bringing in their old clocks that aren't worth anything but hold such an incredible sentimental value. They would pay anything to get them back to working order.
"It's work like that that makes you realise it's all worthwhile, restoring something to its former glory."