Buxton inventor marks 85th birthday with spectacular golden cake clock

A Buxton-born engineering pioneer whose inventions are used in millions of homes around the world celebrated his 85th birthday this month, and was presented with a very special cake to mark the occasion.

By Ed Dingwall
Tuesday, 23rd November 2021, 4:03 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 8:37 am

John Taylor started his career at Otter Controls, the company founded by his father Eric which is still going strong on the Tongue Lane Industrial Estate, before going on to found his own firm, Strix.

His work at Otter Controls led him to design the thermostat systems used in around a billion kettles and small household appliances every day, with more than 400 patents to his name.

But ahead of his birthday on Thursday, November 25, his colleagues came up with a surprise idea based on one particularly spectacular invention – a cake in the shape of a Chronophage clock which he created in 2008.

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Presented with the cake at a celebratory banquet, John said: “Isn’t it wonderful? I’m almost speechless. I’m absolutely blown away because it’s not only a cake, it tells the time.

“The dragon on top is all in icing sugar and I’m allergic to eggs, so I can’t eat royal icing because it’s got egg in it. In the middle here is the main cake and down there is my cake because it’s got no eggs in it. What a present.”

John is an avid horologist and collector of early English and Scottish clocks and is currently in the process of creating a photographic and video archive of his collection as an educational tool for current and future generations to enjoy.

With more time on his hands after retiring from Strix, John built the first golden Chronophage for his alma mater, Corpus Christi college at the University of Cambridge. Topped with a time-eating mythical ‘grasshopper’ creature on top, it has become a popular tourist attraction.

John Taylor, holds his personal egg-free mini cake in front of the main creation.

He has since made two more for private clients and another for his home in the Isle of Man – but only one has looked good enough to eat.

Measuring 1.5 metres in width and 2.8 metres in height, the fruitcake included electronic workings that meant it could have a moving pendulum and accurately display the time.

It was produced over several months by Sara Hay, of Antoinette’s Cakes, who specialises in extreme sculptures.

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John toasts his birthday with a cup of tea.
John with the late Stephen Hawking and the original Chronophage clock in Cambridge.