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
GRADE I † C13 et seq, on early C12 site. Gradual development but (unusually) with little obvious C19 workBHO. Good C16 bench ends. S porch built c1440, originally thatched, with the cube sundial added later. The scratch dials of St Margaret will be written up separately from this unusual dial that, in fact, is not strictly cubic. 5m NW of Yeovil; just S of dread A303. 50.9746 / -2.7156 / ST498197
I wrote this piece without access to the BSS dial records, temporarily unavailable online. I had originally described this dial rather broadly as a cube, aware that it wasn’t quite right. Having now got back into the archive, I am better informed (if not wiser). Some of the points I raise below are clarified. Here is the official entry:
There are 3 polar scaphe dials on the porch gable. Possibly C17 or C18. The dial probably showed all hours of sunlight when correctly installed. Now the orientation is incorrect, the polar axis points East and the dial is shaded by a yew tree. The stone is heavily lichened.
The large block of stone cut as a sundial is balanced (as it seems) on the end of the S porch roof. Its usefulness as a dial nowadays is reduced by it being partly obscured by the shadows of nearby trees. I have not seen similar dials in England but I believe there are a few in Scotland.
I originally confessed that I had no idea how this dial might have worked in practice, nor could I comment on the design, nor suggest how many dials (3?) or even ‘shadow casting edges’ there are. John Foad BSS has kindly marked up 2 images which help to understand the way the dial functioned.
The WATTS GALLERY in Compton 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. This remarkable scaphe dial had been moved inside to protect it from the elements.
Some years ago, BSS published an article about the dial and its context. It is evident that the dial has been skilfully restored from a slightly forlorn state when the article was written. Possibly the title should be ‘Another Dial Pedestal by Mary Watts surmounted by a small Scaphe Dial from a shop in Chelsea’?
Passing through Wilton on a tedious A30 journey, I paused to visit St Mary**, a partial ruin in the historical Market Place in the centre of the town. On the E side of the churchyard was a tall monument. On closer inspection it turned out to be large multiple dial, badly eroded and damaged. And as with cube dials, it is rarely possibly to get clear shots of every side of a multiple dial. Later investigation revealed much more of interest, considered below.
BLB dates the structure pre-C18. It is hard to imagine how the dial must have looked originally, or the shape of the various elements, or the location and angles devised for the metal gnomons. There appear to be 6 scaphe dials, and plenty of angles for casting shadows. It’s hard to read much more than that. Fortunately BSS has records of the fine dial at Moccas, Herefs for comparison. It has a broadly similar design, and is in superb condition.
In a way, though, the dilapidation of the Wilton multiple dial goes rather pleasingly with the ruins of the adjacent church.
In due course I researched the dial in more detail, discovering that it had at times been known as County Cross. The informative BLB entry makes it clear that there is much more to the structure than its function as a sundial.
Grade IIPre-C18. An undatable jumble of forms in stone. The octagonal base with 4 seats is probably mediaeval (it is illustrated in a drawing of Wilton done circa 1568), possibly also the square pillar above this. The upper parts are probably C17 and include a heavily sculpted block, possibly a cross or more probably a sundial on corner cannon balls with above, also on corner cannon balls, a moulded base for the C17 godrooned vase which caps this structure.
A print of St Mary by Kershaw & sons (active 1850-80) offers a rather idealised version of the Cross / sundial.
**ST MARY’S CHURCH . WILTON
The remains of the C15 church of St Mary are in the historic Market Place in the centre of Wilton. Listed Grade II*, it was declared redundant in 1972 and is in the care of CCT. Only the chancel, part of the nave, and 3 arcade arches are left. It is an attractive grouping. Not to be confused with the very fine C19 ‘Italianate Church’ on the A30 to the West. 51.0801 / -1.8628 / SU097312
GSS Category: Multiple Dial; Scaphe Dial
Photos: Keith Salvesen; Moccas archive BSS; RarePrints