ST MARY . GRUNDISBURGH . SUFFOLK
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 CHURCHES a journey through the churches of Suffolk
GSS Category: Vertical Dial; Sundial Motto
All photos: Keith Salvesen