GRADE II* † C11th-century, built by monks of Holy Island as a chapel of ease. C13 / C14 pele tower added as protection from incursions by Scots. C19 restorations. At some time (? when the tower was built) the fine Norman entrance was blocked. Extensive views from the tower’s parapet. 3m S of Berwick-upon-Tweed. 55.7001 / -1.998 / NU002451
A weathered C18 vertical dial with a short gnomon that casts a very visible shadow. The shape of the dial stone, with its pedimented square, is very pleasing. The lines are enclosed in a frame, with Arabic numerals from 6 to 6 around its edge. The use of Arabic numerals rather than Roman suggests a later dial of this period. 9 lines are detectable, some only just. Only 6 numerals are clear. I can’t make any sense of the remains of the inscription. I wondered if some of the sandstone – especially LLQ – is repair or natural deterioration. Expanding this very good photograph, I think the latter: the dial is showing the signs of its age.
GSS Category: Vertical Dial; Old Dial; Gnomon Design
Credits: Erika Clarkson for introducing me to this church and for her photos that begat this post, so to speak; James Towill for his photo of St Anne’s uploaded to Geograph cc; Walter Baxter for his excellent close-up of the dial uploaded to Geograph cc and for his specific use permission to reproduce it full-size
GRADE I † Founded by St. Aldhelm in AD 705 as a Saxon Cathedral, Sherborne Abbey became a Benedictine monastery, and following the Dissolution of the monasteries, a Parish Church of some splendour. Of all the architectural features, the astonishing [earliest majorPEV] fan vaulting is arguably the finest. This is not the place for discussion of the merits of the church. The Wiki entry is a helpful source for an overview of SHERBORNE ABBEY
The large Vertical dial at the E end is impressive and visible from some distance. The Old Shirburnian Society records:
The south-facing vertical dial on the south-east end of Sherborne Abbey was erected in 1745 by Sherborne School at a cost of £5.5s.0d. It was built by the Sherborne architect Benjamin Bastard (1690-1776), son of Thomas Bastard of Blandford Forum.
The modern gnomon is effective and casts an attractive shadow; it could be argued that its style and fixings do not quite do justice to a C18 dial.
The gallery above might suggest overuse of saturation, but the photos – at various distances to show other features – were taken on an iPhone on a bright sunny early winter’s morning, and are un-enhanced (not always the case, I must admit). We were fortunate enough to be married in this glorious building.
Broughton Grange dates from early C17. Gradual development resulted in a fine house with an extensive estate owned by the Morrell family and associated with the Bloomsbury Group via Lady Ottoline. The whole estate was bought in the 1990s. New gardens have been beautifully landscaped and an arboretum created. The property is renowned as one of the finest contemporary private gardens, to which there is public access. You can find out more here: BROUGHTON GRANGE 3m SW of Banbury 52.0415 / 1.3776 / SP4338
The dial stands at the centre of the Parterre and Rose Garden, overlooking the smart box hedges. It is dated MDCCLI (1751). I’ve spent some time trying to figure out the inscription, some of which cannot be read even with a magnifying glass. I have settled (provisionally) on Tempora Servio, ‘I Serve the Times’ or a similar conjunction of tempus and servere. This formulation does not specifically appear in eg the expanded edition of Gatty; however tempora is in common usage, often with its companion, mores. Any other suggestions welcome, a definitive ruling would be ideal.
GRADE I † Late C13; C15 enlargement and alterations. Tower c1730 with a plaque over the doorway: This Steeple was Built The Bells set in Order and Fixt. At the Charge of Robert Thinge Gent. Lately Deceased A.D. 1731-1732. Dial undated. 8m NE of Ipswich. 52.1133 / 1.2459 / TM223510
The vertical sundial is immediately below the clock. As David Ross has written, what is immediately obvious as you walk up the path to the door is a large sundial set against the south wall of the tower, below a Victorian clock – as if the Victorians did not quite trust the sundial. Both timepieces are set below a round-headed window that would be perfectly at home in a railway station. (David Ross, Britain Express)
PEV (Suffolk E) is also unenthusiasic about the tower, which showed how the Georgians could be every bit as insensitive as the much-maligned Victorians.
HOW THE DIAL WORKS (1)
The break-arch shaped dial has a motto within the arch that reads: Life pas’s like a shadow. Roman and Arabic numerals are used to show the time. At the gnomon base are two arcs showing the time elsewhere. Analysis indicates that the scale with Roman numerals suggests Damascus; the scale with Arabic numerals suggests Barbados.
The main dial shows 5am to 4pm in Roman numerals, divided into quarter hours. The gnomon rod has an ‘S’ shaped supporter and a ball nodus. This is associated with the 11 declination lines numbered 8, 9, J0, J1, J2, J3, J4, J5, J6 (8 to 16 for daylight hours), with outer lines unnumbered.
The above notes are based on BSS records. The complete entry is below
HOW THE DIAL WORKS (2)
This break-arch shaped dial on the south wall of the church tower, below a clock, declines about 23° to the east. The tower dates from 1731-32, but it is not known whether the dial is contemporary.
A motto within the arch reads: LIFE PAS’S LIKE / A SHADOW. Scales around the gnomon root show the time at two other places, but they are not named. The outer scale, with Roman numerals for 8am to 7pm, using XII and IIII, shows the time at about 37° E, so may be intended to show Damascus time. The inner scale, with Arabic numerals 1 to 12, shows the time at about longitude 60° W, possibly for Barbados.
The main dial shows 5am to 4pm in upright Roman numerals using XII and IIII, divided to quarter hours. The gnomon rod has an ‘S’ shaped supporter and carries a ball nodus, which is associated with nine declination lines numbered 8, 9, J0,J1, J2, J3, J4, J5, J6 (8 to 16 for the hours of daylight).
The nine vertical lines crossing these are for azimuth, the nodus shadow showing the direction of the sun. They are also unlabelled, but will indicate bearings of SEbE, SE, SEbS, SSE, SbE, S, SbW, SSW and SWbS.
A report in September 1983 found the dial completely bare, presumably prior to a restoration.
LIFE PAS’S LIKE A SHADOW
A rare variant of the many inscriptions that link Life with Shadow(s). Pas’s is said to reflect the Suffolk dialect at the time. There is another example of the ‘misspelling’ (as we might say now) of the word pass. At St Mary, Bucknall, Shropshire, the 1712 dial is inscribed Tyme Paseth.
Tempus Fugit on the C19 clock is… comfortingly familiar
If you want to find out more about St Mary and other churches in Suffolk, I recommend the website of Simon Knott SUFFOLK CHURCHESa journey through the churches of Suffolk
Wolfeton House (sometimes Wolveton) is a fine Grade 1 Elizabethan manor house with medieval origins. It stands amidst the the water meadows of the River Frome near Charminster, just N of Dorchester. Admired by Hardy. For more about the house, its history, and how to stay in the Gatehouse (dated 1534) see:
Some time ago we went to Wolfeton in connection with the the Pevsner Buildings of England series. I was able to photograph this most interesting sundial, though with a rather rustic camera and in low light. The dial is not in the optimum place for its primary purpose, but with its pleasing symmetrical design it suits where it stands.
The inscription is an intriguing mystery. At the time I was less engaged with dials, or I might have made more effort to record the details and to take a decent photo. As it is, I cannot make much sense of it. The initial letter U… could perhaps be the start of Umbra? But that assumes the words are in Latin. I have checked the main motto resources including Gatty (original, and revised & expanded); and various less comprehensive sources. I will add the translation if I can make any more sense of the text. Meanwhile, any ideas would be welcome. Actual knowledge, the more so.
UMBRA VIDET UMBRAM VIVE HODIE. A shadow marks the shadow. Live to day.
As it turns out, Gatty did record this dial, attributing it to a neighbouring village Bradford Peverell rather than Charminster. She noted the inscription is somewhat defaced. The dial was possibly erected by George Purling about 1815-20, when the garden was laid out). The same motto is on the tower of Broughton-Gifford Church, near Melksham,
HOW THE DIAL WORKS
This is a polar dial, with the end edges of the cross pieces acting as gnomons (cf the polar dial at Tintinhull). The dial should be oriented so these point north, ie with the inscription on the south face. However, it is clearly not orientated like that, so it now acts as an interesting garden ornament. John Foad (BSS) has kindly marked up a photo to show how the dial would work if correctly positioned.
The inscription might give a clue to the dial’s date. My amateur guess is that it is somewhere between mid-C18 and early C19.
GSS Category: Multiple Dial; Old Dial; Garden Dial
All photos: Keith Salvesen; *John Foad BSS for additional material / expertise (see Addendum)
The Museo Galileo‘s Monumental Sundial was built as a mathematical ornament in 2007. The slender bronze column (stele) is in fact formed from two matching columns closely aligned, symbolising day and night. The (mid)day stele faces south, with a vertical meridian line on which the shadow is cast by a lizard’s tail (actually, an imaginary half-lizard, half-viper). The night stele faces north and signifies the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor that enable the Pole Star to be identified.
The encircled quadrant design on the pavement at the base of the bronze columns indicates the geographic orientation. This glass base of the gnomon, and also the Zodiac signs in the meridian line (below), are up-lit after dark.
The Museo explains the meridian line in helpfully simple terms: A travertine and brass meridian line is drawn on the pavement, flanked with glass and marble signs of the Zodiac. The meridian line extends for about 15 metres from the museum entrance, where the winter solstice is marked, to the base of the gnomon, where the summer solstice is marked. The travertine curves crossing the meridian line indicate the date. The brass radial lines forming a grid with the two solstitial curves indicate the hours.
The seasons and the four elements are symbolised by the choice of materials: travertine for the earth and autumn; glass for the water and winter; grey stone for the air and spring; bronze for the fire and summer.
LIZARD / VIPER GNOMON ON THE SOUTH FACE OF THE COLUMN
This extraordinary sundial stands by the Arno with the Ponte Vecchio (which itself has a wonderful dial LINK) close by to the west. For anyone with even a minuscule interest in or curiosity about the gradual development of scientific instruments and techniques from medieval times onwards, pay a visit to the excellent online gallery LINK. Look in particular for the two astronomical telescopes made by Galileo himself.
The North American Sundial Society has very good online information about this unique dial. You can watch a short animation of how this gnomonic sundial works here LINK
For those interested in finer details of the way the dial works, the museum’s detailed account is included at the end of this article.
NASS (North American Sundial Society) Video: Filippo Camerota, Luise Schnabel, Giorgio Strano
How the Sundial works
The shadow cast by the glass polyhedron atop the large bronze gnomon indicates the date and time. The hours from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM are marked out by radial brass lines. The date is indicated by the travertine traversal lines which mark the Sun’s diurnal course for various periods of the year – precisely when the Star enters the signs of the Zodiac. The shadow cast by the gnomon changes in length during the course of the days and seasons, and indicates true solar time for the place where it is located, which is a different time than that of our wristwatches, known as mean time. In respect to mean time, true solar time has a periodic variation that can exceed a quarter of an hour.
Moreover, during daylight saving time, the hands of a clock are moved forward one hour. For example, true midday in the month of February would be indicated by the sundial around 12:28 AM while in the month of July it would be indicated around 1:20 PM daylight saving time.
To read the hour and date, you have to identify the hour lines and the calendrical lines closest to the gnomon’s shadow. When the shadow does not fall exactly on a hour line, you can read the half-hours and quarters with close approximation by ideally subdividing the space between two hour lines in two or four parts. The date can also be read by referring to the Zodiac signs and the start of the months marked out along the meridian line.
The WATTS GALLERY in Compton, Surrey showcases the work of artist G. F. WATTS and his wife MARY WATTS, exemplar of the Arts and Crafts Movement. The enterprise has expanded hugely since I last visited and took photos of the sundials there. The Gallery link above will give all the current information you could wish for.
You can find out about the remarkable Scaphe Dial at the gallery HERE
The dial is above the front door of a house in the village, with a stone ledge above it. It doesn’t give the impression of being old. There is little sign of weathering or erosion and the incisions are all equally clean. BSS gives it as C18?? and suggests it may be a replacement for an earlier dial. Given the design, I wonder if it is actually a modern C20 direct copy of the original?
The dial is canted to face south and provide an accurate reading. Noon is marked, as often, by a cross. The archaic use of IIII for IV might also suggest a careful copy of an old dial, as may the flourishes in the lower corners.
GSS Category: Vertical Dial; Canted Dial; Dial on house
GRADE II* † C14 / 15 origins, with later / C19 enlargement. Besides 2 scratch dials there is a vertical dial on the tower dated 1706. 6m NW of Leicester. 52.6832 / -1.2292 / SK522097
The scratch dials are both on the S side. One is on SW corner of the tower; the other on the lower part of the L jamb of a window (I don’t have a more precise location at the moment).
Dial 1 gives the impression of a spider, with legs radiating from the (blocked) gnomon hole in the centre of the dial stone. The clearest lines are at 11 and noon, the latter faintly extended. The others are rather randomly placed. There’s a line in the top L quadrant; and the hint of a line very roughly extending the noon line upwards. The 2 pocks don’t seem to be part of the design.
Dial 2 is more conventional ‘morning dial’, with 6 more or less evenly spaced lines descending (but not very accurately) from a large filled style hole. Only one of the lines is after noon. Simple and straightforward.
Set on the SE edge of the second stage of the tower, close to the intersection with the roof of the nave. Slate, made by Thomas Woodcock in 1706. Deeply cut and in excellent condition for its age. Initials I K. Cross for 12 noon. Quarter hours marked. The angles of the Roman numerals are carefully graduated as they descend and ascend, suggesting the work of a skilled craftsman dial-maker.
BSS notes very similar dials at Breedon on the Hill and at Leicester, all three being within a few miles of each other.
This interesting dial has been analysed and recorded in some detail by BSS:
The dial is fitted with iron dog nails to the south face of the tower, at the south-east corner, adjacent to the nave junction. The date 1706 is across the top, and being of the local slate, the dial is in remarkable condition for its age. Initials ‘I K’ are on each side of the date. Upright hours VI – + – IV – VI are aligned to the hour lines, which are drawn to a large semicircle around the gnomon root. Short lines mark the half hours, with fleur de lys or arrow heads, and quarter hours. The rusty iron bar gnomon has a straight horizontal support.
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Vertical Dial
Photos of church and scratch dials, Erika Clarkson; vertical dial from BSS archive
Selborne in Hampshire was home to the C18 naturalist GILBERT WHITE (1720 – 93), renowned naturalist and considered to be one of the earliest ecologists. The link above will take you to the Wiki page about him. The history of the garden can be found at SELBORNE. If you are in the area, Selborne is well worth visiting. In particular, the extensive park contains examples of White’s propagation and conservation ideas that were way ahead of their time. And two very different dials.
Much the most interesting feature at Selborne for present purposes is the Winter Obelisk, based on an idea by White. The structure is designed to ‘mark the position of sunset on the shortest day as viewed from the Great Parlour‘. Possibly it is a unique example of an obelisk dial having such a special – and limited – purpose. Perhaps it doesn’t count as a dial at all (cf Stonehenge / summer solstice). Seeing the shadows cast on the grass by the structure, perhaps there is scope to mark out a different kind of dial with a wider application (though not necessarily when viewed from the Great Parlour).
The second dial at Selborne is conventional and very much a park dial, standing above the Ha-ha. Is the dial contemporary in the historic sense, or in the modern sense (there are similar early C20 dials)? The former it seems: Both the ha-ha and the stone sundial standing on the lawn above it were features of White’s ‘New Gardens’. HE