Born in 1807, Thomas Cooke was largely self-educated and initially pursued a career as a teacher. At the same time he began making his own optical and scientific instruments and in 1836 he set up in business at 50 Stonegate Street in York with the aid of a £100 loan from his wife's uncle. In 1841 he moved to premises 12 Coney Street as his business grew, fuelled in part by the increased demand for surveying instruments caused by the growth of the railway network. In 1852 he set up his own turret clock business. In 1851 Cooke was elected a member of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, for whose observatory he had provided a clockwork-powered telescope the previous year. By 1860 he had acquired an international reputation for his instruments and was even selling complete observatories. He ran a nautical instrument shop in Hull and in 1861 opened a shop at 31 Southampton Street, London. In 1862 at the London Exhibition Cooke received an order for a 25 in. telescope (then the largest in the world) that was to prove the company's undoing. He underestimated the cost and it was uncompleted when he died in 1868, finally being finished in 1871. The company went bankrupt in 1879 and although his sons continued in the business they did not own it.
For further details see Derek Roberts (op.cit). Roberts further comments that the present clock has the only seven-legged gravity escapement he has seen.
A small longcase regulator by Thomas Cooke was sold these rooms 7 December 2005, lot 106.