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At The Little Yellow Watch Shop

August 20, 2014
by the gentle author

John Lloyd, Watch Repairer

When you step into The Little Yellow Watch Shop in the Clerkenwell Rd, you discover yourself among an eager line of customers clutching their precious timepieces patiently and awaiting the moment they can hand them into the safe hands of John Lloyd, the watch repairer who has worked in Clerkenwell longer than any other. With his long snowy white locks, John looks like a magus, as if by merely peering down critically over his long nose at a broken watch and snapping his fingers, he could conjure it back into life.

While John works his charm, his wife Annie Lloyd fulfils the role of magician’s assistant with consummate grace, taking down all the necessary information from the owner  and keeping everything moving with superlative efficiency. Together they preside over a hundred watches a week arriving for repair, and thereby maintain the tradition of clock-making and repair that has occupied Clerkenwell for centuries.

John has worked in the Clerkenwell Rd since 1956 and remembers when every shop between St John St and Goswell Rd was a watch repair or watch materials supply shop. Today, although his business is now one of just a tiny handful remaining in Clerkenwell, it is apparent that there is a healthy demand for his services to sustain him for as long as he pleases.

“I’m from Shepherd’s Bush originally and my stepfather had a watch repair stall in Romford Market,” John admitted to me, “I was only eleven when I started to work with him, but I quickly took to it.”

“I first came to Clerkenwell in the nineteen-forties, when I did a three year course in Instrument Making at the Northampton Polytechnic, now known  as the City University. Then I joined A. Shoot & Sons in Whitechapel at seventeen years old, was conscripted for National Service at eighteen and returned to my job again in 1956. Shoot & Sons supplied watch materials from a tall thin building at 85 Whitechapel High St next to the Whitechapel Gallery, but in that year we moved to Whitworth Buildings in Clerkenwell and then to the corner of St John St & Clerkenwell Rd in 1959. At Shoot & Sons, I used to go to the manager Leslie Lawson at weekends and we stripped down antique watches together – not many people these days know the inside workings of a watch.”

In 1992, when Shoot & Sons Ltd closed after more than thirty years on the corner, John moved to the kiosk fifty yards away at 60 Clerkwenwell Rd which was even smaller than the current Little Watch Shop. He opened it in partnership with his colleague Barry Benjamin but, when Barry became ill after just three years, John continued the business alone until his wife Annie came in one day a week and then later joined him full time. What was once a miniscule kiosk has expanded into a tiny shop where John presides happily from behind the counter, surrounded by photos of old Clerkenwell and his step-father’s sign from Romford market where John started out in the nineteen-forties.

“People ask me when I ‘m going to retire,” John confided to me gleefully, “but I’m already past retirement age – I’m having too much fun here.”

John Lloyd – Clerkenwell’s longest-serving member of the watch business

John’s mother and stepfather in Brighton, 1954

At Shoot & Sons Ltd

Maurice Shoot, John’s boss from the early fifties until his retirement in 1989

Phil, John and Barry at Shoots

Shoot & Sons Ltd on the corner of St John St & Clerkenwell Rd in the eighties

The interior of the shop at Shoot & Sons Ltd

60 Clerkenwell Rd in 1900, note the watch and clock shops

Clerkenwell Rd in the sixties

Barry Benjamin outside the original Little Yellow Shop

Signs uncovered in the expansion of the Little Yellow Shop

John & Annie Lloyd

New photographs © Colin O’Brien

The Little Yellow Shop, watch service centre, 60 Clerkenwell Rd, EC1

You may like to read these other Clerkenwell stories

In Old Clerkenwell

At Wyvern Bindery

At Embassy Electrical Supplies

A Dead Man in Clerkenwell

Colin O’Brien’s Clerkenwell Car Crashes

At Clerkenwell Fire Station

Adam Dant’s Map of the History of Clerkenwell

9 Responses leave one →
  1. August 20, 2014

    Very exciting to read! My mechanical wristwatch (from the fifties!) still works fine — but good to know an excellent address in London in case of eventualities…!

    I hope John Lloyd will do his job a while longer!

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

  2. August 20, 2014

    Loved reading this. I go past this shop every day and you can tell it has character, so it’s fascinating to read about the man behind the Yellow. Perfect example of why I love this blog. Thanks for taking the time to unearth these nuggets x

  3. Neville Turner permalink
    August 20, 2014

    An intriguing story of a watch repair shop I passed often in the sixtie’s and always felt the need to look into the shop window.John and Annie Lloyd are true experts of the watch trade and truly seem to enjoy the buisness,like Achim very good to know where to go for a repair to a loved mechanical watch.

  4. Gary Arber permalink
    August 20, 2014

    For many years a watchmaker and repairer named Mr. Berg had a repair shop in Roman Road, E3.
    His workbench was the shop window where he had maximum light. It was interesting to pause and watch him with his eyeglass working with tiny components.
    He repaired a watch for me in the 1950′s, although it now rests in a drawer in this digital age, if I wind it up, it still works
    Gary

  5. Jade Lloyd permalink
    August 21, 2014

    I have loved reading this page!!! – This is my Grandad John, and he is a very hard working man and will never ever retire as he keeps telling us! He loves his job more than anything, and he is a very inspirational man and I would love to be like him when I get to that point!! – He is always happy and enjoying what he does and is also very good at the job he does!!

    Love this! and the photos are great!

    Jade

  6. puline boots permalink
    August 22, 2014

    very interesting piece. it’s lovely to see john and Annie doing so well. i have had the pleasure of knowing them both personally but have lost touch over the years. well done to you both keep going, lots of love sent your way xx

  7. Jasper Lloyd permalink
    August 22, 2014

    My grandad…on the internet…never thought I would see this lol. He is a fantastic manner and couldn’t be happier for him. He is hard working and deserves every compliment and congratulations he gets :) . Well done grandad john and Annie. Love you both xx

  8. Jason Lloyd permalink
    August 23, 2014

    Fantastic Article of my Father. It’s grt to see an article on what has been a lifetime passion of my fathers. I have fond memory’s of going to work with my dad at Shoots and Sons. I remember Clerkenwell being a hive of watch and jewellery workshops. Every were u turned there we’re watch traders. It was a very interesting place for a boy of a young age.
    So nice to see people taking interest in my fathers work and the history of Clerkenwell and I’m sure he is very humble that we are interested. Thanks dad for sharing some grt history and grt to see Annie and urself so happy in what u do. X

  9. Angie Mitchell permalink
    September 30, 2014

    Such a lot of history documented in this article, and lovely photos of John and Annie.These type of businesses don’t appear much now, its all about the personal service they provide!!!Don’t let them die!!

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