Gent of Leicester

Though he died half my life ago, I see my paternal grandfather nearly every day.  I'm not turning supernatural, even in Britain's 'most haunted city'.  It's simply that I'm often in York railway station, and when I check the clocks there, I go time-travelling.

York railway station, 26th May 1958.

Grandpa was a lovely man who I remember with great fondness, but he died before I was old enough to know him properly.  There are lots of things I'd like to ask him about his life, but I can't.

One thing I do know, though, is that he was a charge-hand at Gent and Co. in Leicester.  A charge-hand was a workman responsible for supervising a particular piece of work, normally a grade below that of foreman.

As for the business itself, Gent and Co. was founded in the 1870s by John Thomas Gent.  The company first produced heat detectors and call systems, but by the early 20th century had moved into manufacturing clocks.

They soon built up a reputation as builders of high-quality time-pieces, particularly master clocks for the telecommunications network and the railway system.  As York was one of the hubs of the British railway network, precision horology was required, and Gent's stepped up to the plate.

Main clock outside York railway station (Made in Le'ster, apparently).

Gent developed two time-keeping systems that were apparently revolutionary: the Pul-syn-etic and Waiting Train systems.  I'm not enough of a technically minded soul to understand their full significance, but if you are technically minded, click the links for further info.

By my reckoning, York station has five Gent's clocks in total.  The main one outside the station (above) is the grandest, whilst at least two of them are Pul-syn-etic:

The Gent Pulsynetic clock on the main concourse at York railway station, above W. H. Smith's.

One of them (below) is rather less grand than the others, but its condition doesn't worry me unduly.  The fact the clocks are still there and still working is testament to the quality of Gent's workmanship.

The rather grubby clock on platform 6.

Grandpa knew how to repair watches, but I'm not sure if he actually worked in the time-keeping department.  It doesn't matter.  Every time I visit the station I see the giant time-pieces and think of him, and smile.

These will always be my grandfather clocks.


P.S. Having written all this, I have suddenly remembered the first destination I visited by train after moving to York.  The Belgian town of... Gent.

P.P.S. Doreen Deacon wrote a rather lovely recollection of working for Gent and Co in their Kibworth factory, which you can read here.

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