I recently came across a very bad photo I took years ago of this elegant and ingenious dial in Magdalene College. My image is too awful to be the basis of a feature. However BSS has in its records this excellent quality photograph with a short account to accompany it.
A competition among first year engineering students led to the creation of this most striking double vertical dial, mounted in 1987 on the south-facing wall of Benson Court. It was designed by Will Carter in stone and stainless steel and features the motto: ‘Facilius inter philosophos quam inter horologia conveniet.’ (It is easier to gain agreement among philosophers than among timepieces – Seneca) The prize-winning design has the Equation of Time built into the gracefully curving hour lines. A spot of light shining through a pierced stainless steel sun marks the time on each dial.
‘Facilius inter philosophos quam inter horologia conveniet.’ (It is easier to gain agreement among philosophers than among timepieces – Seneca)
GSS Category: Vertical Dial; Double Dial; Modern Dial; Competition Dial
The attractive gardens of the Van Loon Museum contains 3 very different dials. In the centre is an armillary sphere (C19?). By the steps is a complicated early scaphe dial dated 1582. I have included B&W images, which can sometimes be useful for seeing details on multiple dials. The third dial with a weather vane is high up in the centre of the upper gallery overlooking the garden. I am trying to find out a date for it.
SCAPHE DIAL 1578
VERTICAL DIAL AND WEATHER VANE
GSS Categories: Armillary Sphere; Cube Dial; Multi Dial; Scaphe Dial; Modern Dial; Amsterdam Dial
A painted (gold Roman numerals and hour lines on white) vertical timber dial 1000 mm wide by 1200 mm high on the south wall of the courtyard of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham over the entrance to the dining hall. It has an ornate scroll gnomon also painted gold. The RHK, built in 1684, was in use as a retirement home for soldiers until 1927. Following restoration the building was reopened in 1991 as the Irish Museum of Modern Art .
I am hoping to be able to get more detailed / close-up photos of the dial…
GSS Category: Vertical Dial
Photos: Keith Salvesen; BSS Archive; Text M. J. Harley BSS
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
The Borough Gardens in Dorchester are close to the centre of town. They were laid out and opened in the 1890s as ‘pleasure grounds’, as they remain. There is plenty to offer for all ages in an agreeable undulating space. Lawns, tennis courts, a bandstand, paddling pool, playground, a fountain, a memorial obelisk and more.
Amongst the attractions, close to the bandstand, is a modern analemmatic sundial. I don’t know the date it was laid out, but the BSS record is 1998 with the note: The dial is laid out in the play area near the bandstand. Hour markers adjusted for longitude, an hour added for summertime use. Shows hours from 7am to 7pm.
When I visited a few days ago, several small boys were having a kick around, with the dial in the centre of the pitch. No other type of dial would have worked for the purpose. The dial was partly concealed by uncut grass and leaves – the latter covering each numbered stone completely (I had to move some). I liked the way that the dial has several roles: time-telling in an interesting way; an open invitation to be the gnomon; an educative function; and artful horizontal stonework blending in with grassy and leafy surroundings. And a ‘jumpers for goalposts’ pitch into the bargain.
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* † Built 1776. A fine, uncomplicated Georgian building externally; restored and much remodelled internally 1890s by Temple Moore. ‘Urbane and assured‘PEV. Original clock on the bell tower replaced by a memorial sundial dated 19†18. Selected for the cover image for Cumbria in Pevsner’s Buildings of England series. 8m N of Longtown. 55.0386 / -2.9543 / NY391719
This handsome church has a moving story to tell. The tower originally had a clock. In 1918, this was replaced by a commemorative sundial to honour the two sons of the Graham family from nearby Netherby, after their safe return home from WW1.
The dial has an inscription around the circumference that reads in two parts, and a Motto
FOR OUR TWO DEAR SONS FFG & RPG WHO LIVED TO COME HOME FROM THE GREAT WAR THANKS BE TO GOD ALONE
LUX POST UMBRAM
The motto and its sentiments are self-explanatory. The same – or very similar – formula has been noted in northern Italy MG; and (I notice) for abstract art works that contain both light and shadow…
The dial has an attractive design marking hours and 1/2 hours from 6 round 5. It appears to be hand-painted rather than machine made. The robust gnomon casts a clear shadow that also benefits sheep, cows, and salmon-fishermen in season.
GSS Category: Vertical Dial; Sundial Motto; Memorial Mottos
Credits: Keith Salvesen; Walter Baxter dial close-up Geo ; Alun Bull English Heritage PEV; Yale University Press (cover image)
A sundial on the terrace of this fine house, with its C17 origins and unbroken line of Digbys. The renowned gardens are especially worth visiting in Spring. It features a collapsible gnomon, an unusual feature not conducive to enhancing its primary purpose.