BATH . PARADE GARDENS. British Sundial Society – Armillary Sphere

Bath Abbey . Diego Delso Geo cc

BRITISH SUNDIAL SOCIETY . ARMILLARY SPHERE . PARADE GARDENS . BATH

Bath . Commemorative Sundial Plaque

The plaque above gives all the details (including a bar code) necessary to admire and appreciate this excellent armillary sphere that was installed to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the foundation of BSS. My visit to Bath was spoiled by bad weather: gloom with only occasional respite from rain. Hence these rather unsatisfactory photos, which I have had to cheer up somewhat. I intend to replace them in due course, when a visit to Bath coincides with sunshine. The Motto, explained below, describes my predicament.

The gallery of images below gives a 360º view of the dial against glimpses of the Bath setting. One or two are meant to be ‘arty’, never my strong suit.

MOTTO

‘I ONLY RECKON THE BRIGHT HOURS’ is the translation given by Margaret Gatty (p.45 of the compact volume). Other versions include I ONLY COUNT CLEAR HOURS and I ONLY COUNT THE HOURS THAT ARE SERENE. MG wrote (of the succinct Latin version) that the motto is too good to be uncommon, and gives a number of locations where it may be found in England, Scotland, and (unexpectedly) Venice, of which Hazlitt wrote …there is a softness and a harmony in the words and in the thought unparalleled. None of the above modern motto variations works very well; it’s hard to come up with a translation as elegant as the original in Latin. The word ‘serenas’ is the real problem….

ADDENDUM Dictionary research including Chambers – far the best for archaic words and usages – clarifies the motto. A subsidiary meaning of ‘serene’ was, in the past, ‘an expanse of clear sky’; ‘cloudless’; or in one source, ‘sunny’. On countless modern sundials, this Latin formulation is the familiar I only count the sunny hours.

Sundial Aldeburgh . David Dixon Geo cc

GSS Category: Armillary Dial; Armillary Sphere, Commemorative Sundial

All photos: Keith Salvesen except header image Diego Delso Geo cc; Moot Hall, Aldeburgh Dial David Dixon Geo cc

WEST CLANDON . SURREY . ST PETER & ST PAUL – 4 Unusual Scratch Dials

St Peter & St Paul . West Clandon . Surrey

GRADE II* † Saxon origins, mentioned DB, no remnants remain. Nave dated c1180; rebuilding ± 1200, chancel added; tower added then or soon after. Mid-Victorian restorations; shingled spire rebuilt 1913. Much of interest within the church – see HERE for highlights. 6m NE of Guildford. 51.2509 /  -0.5052 / TQ044512

DIALS

There are 4 dials, each of significance. On the S wall of the chancel, there is a wonderful dial framed in ashlar stone as if to emphasise its qualities. Inside the church – not just inside the porch – are 3 dials cut on the same stone. Interior dials are almost inevitably the result of relocation and are scarce enough (cf THORNFORD); 3 together must be very rare.

DIAL 1

POSITION Relocated from a buttress to the S wall of the chancel, enclosed by a surround of 4 stones set into the local flint and described elsewhere as …marred by the addition of an inappropriate stone frame (an arguable view?). BSS notes a possible inversion based on variations in the size of the dots; but that would nullify the point of the emphatic noon line design. Unless the 4 pocks were added later of course…

DATE The dial seems so sophisticated in design and execution that I had thought it ±C15. However BHO records a stone on which is cut an early circular sundial probably of the 12th century; it has three circles and is divided in twenty-four spaces by radiating lines; four dots mark the hour of noon and a small cross that of six p.m. A Surrey survey records Dated c 1180 by Johnston (1900, 74), SyAC, 21 (1908), 83-100. This date certainly corresponds to the construction of the nave / the additions soon after. So this is a very early dial probably dating from the construction of the church in its present form and clearly merits its prominent location and ashlar protection.

DEREK RENN in his research on the dials of Surrey considered this dial to be the most elaborate in the county, describing it as three concentric circles divided by 24 equidistant radii, having drilled holes at the intersections, as well as on the arms of an external cross and beside another line at right angles to the cross.

HOW THE DIAL WORKS AS A CALENDAR

DR also explains ingeniously how the dial might have worked: This would function best as an equatorial dial… mounted in the plane of the equator with its upright pointer parallel to the earth’s axis and not vertical, but even then little more than one-half of the dial would be necessary. A possible explanation is that the dial also functioned as a calendar: a peg was moved daily from hole to hole, the cross marking the point at which the peg progressed to the next circle. Another peg counted the number of complete circuits of the ‘board’ for the year on the four separate holes, with the odd days as well. In arithmetical terms: 24 x 3 x (4+1) – 360, +(4+1) = 365

DIALS 2 – 4

These 3 dials are closely grouped on a single stone on the north face of the west jamb of the south doorway. It would be interesting to know where they were originally located, and when / why they were moved to their present position with a purely decorative function.

DIAL 1 has 7 lines including the horizontals in a late a.m. to early p.m. formation. They are rather untidily incised and only 6 are clearly distinguishable. They are within a very faint perimeter curve, with 3 extending beyond it.

DIAL 2 has 5 lines radiating from a large (for its size) style hole. The lines are interestingly formed: 2 lightly cut a.m. lines; 2 deeper cut p.m. lines and extended noon line. The incisions of the latter 3 are unusually decorative, with one being slightly wedge-shaped. Overall, it seems clear that the afternoon was the most important time for daily religious purposes.

DIAL 3 is fully encircled with one clear line roughly corresponding to Tierce. The other 2 (3?) are faint and rudimentary in comparison. Another large style hole completes the design.

GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Multiple Dials; Early Dials

All photos: Keith Salvesen. Research material: usual resources BLB HE BHO &co; David Ross; Derek Renn

WINTERBORNE WHITECHURCH . DORSET . ST MARY – Octagonal Vertical Dial C17

St Mary . Winterborne Whitechurch . Dorset

GRADE I † Early C13 chancel with trace transepts (BHO); C14 crossing tower; C15 south chapel and nave; restoration mid-C19 (Ferrey). A most unusual late C17 octagonal dial; 6m SW of Blandford Forum, just off the main road to Dorchester (12m). 50.8004 /  -2.234 / ST836001

VERTICAL DIAL C17

The remarkable vertical dial is located at the apex of the S Chapel gable. It dates to late C17 (BHO). The lines radiating from the top end of the gnomon are reminiscent of a scratch dial. The dial is canted for accuracy, and deeply enough to accommodate a rare E dial. Both gnomons are unusual, not least by being more toothed than merely serrated.

THE EAST DIAL

It is very unusual (and possibly unique) to bother to delineate the east or west edge of a canted dial; and really quite strange to use such a tall gnomon, which will only cast a shadow for an hour or two at most. JF / BSS

John Foad (BSS) kindly marked up a close-up of the E. dial to show how it would have worked. He writes: It should have diagonal hour lines on it, though there is probably only room for a couple, as it will only see the sun briefly around 6 each morning. There is a suggestion in the records that there were at one time 2 raised lines, but a magnified image reveals no surviving evidence.

GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Rare Dial; Canted Dial; East-facing sundial

All photos: Keith Salvesen. Thanks as ever to John Foad for his contribution.

BOROUGH GARDENS . DORCHESTER -Analemmatic Sundial

Analemmatic Sundial . Borough Gardens . Dorchester

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.

ANALEMMATIC SUNDIAL

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.

CALENDAR

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.

LAYOUT

NUMERALS

GSS Category: Analemmatic Sundial

All photos: Keith Salvesen; written information from municipal sources with thanks

WOLFETON HOUSE . DORCHESTER . DORSET – Multiple Sundial

WOLFETON HOUSE . DORCHESTER

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:

DORSETLIFE HISTORIC HOUSES LANDMARK TRUST

SUNDIAL

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.

INSCRIPTION

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.

ADDENDUM *

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.

DATE

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)

TINTINHULL . SOMERSET . ST MARGARET OF ANTIOCH – Triple Polar Scaphe Dial

St Margaret of Antioch . Tintinhull . Somerset

GRADE I † C13 et seq, on early C12 site. Gradual development but (unusually) with little obvious C19 work BHO. 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

St Margaret of Antioch . Tintinhull . Somerset – Scaphe Sundial

ADDENDUM 4.11.22

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.

DIAL

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.

St Margaret of Antioch . Tintinhull . Somerset – Scaphe Sundial

GSS Category: Polar Dial; Scaphe Dial; Scaphe Sundial; Multiple Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen; thanks to John Foad for clarifying the design

BEWCASTLE . CUMBRIA – ST CUTHBERT’S CROSS: Early Saxon Sundial

Bewcastle Cross and Dial . Cumbria . BSS

The famous Bewcastle Anglo-Saxon cross is located in St Cuthbert’s churchyard. It is dated in some sources as C8 and in others as early as C7. Whichever, it is generally believed to be the oldest British sundial. PEV praised it, with the similar Ruthwell cross, as the greatest achievement of their date in the whole of Europe. There is a replica in the British Museum.

There is understandably a mass of online material analysing and explaining the cross, the wonderful carvings, and the meanings to be derived from them. I need to bypass these to focus on the astonishing early sundial incorporated into the elaborate decoration. For other aspects the Wiki entry BEWCASTLE CROSS is a good place to start.

Bewcastle Cross and Dial . Cumbria . Keith Salvesen

THE BEWCASTLE DIAL

The dial is in a prominent position on the upper half of the south face. The BSS record describes the cross as Celtic, with the dial being integral to the overall design. 8 lines are noted, with the vertical line on the right side considered to be a later addition (but see below). The noon line is emphasised by being deeper cut, with 9am even more so and ending (perhaps) in a large hole. The dial must have been easy to read from afar. BSS has 3 close-up images in the archive which give a clear view of the dial and its slightly wider context.

Bewcastle Cross and Dial . Cumbria . BSS

Bewcastle Cross and Dial . Cumbria . BSS

Bewcastle is used as an example in the Wiki entry for the TIDE DIAL The article includes useful explanations and images. These lead to other related topics for those who want to investigate further. More importantly, there is a helpful analysis of the details of the sundial’s design, and how it would have worked in practice. The cross is believed to be in its original position, and one can imagine the way in which the passage of the day would have been marked for the benefit of the community.

The oldest surviving English tide dial is on the 7th- or 8th-century Bewcastle Cross… carved on the south face of a Celtic cross… and is divided by five principal lines into four tides. Two of these lines, those for 9 am and noon, are crossed at the point. The four spaces are further subdivided so as to give the twelve daylight hours of the Romans. On one side of the dial, there is a vertical line which touches the semicircular border at the second afternoon hour. This may be an accident, but the same kind of line is found on the dial in the crypt of Bamburgh Church, where it marks a later hour of the day. The sundial may have been used for calculating the date of the spring equinox and hence Easter.

Bewcastle Cross and Dial . Cumbria . Keith Salvesen

The Bewcastle Cross Notes by Margaret Gatty in The Book of Sun-Dials

The four faces of the Bewcastle Cross

Bewcastle Cross . Diagram of each face. Eixo Wiki CC

 ‘Plaster Cast of an Early English Sundial’ . 1930s. (Science Museum)

Plaster cast (mounted in wooden frame) of the sundial on Bewcastle Cross, Cumberland, 670 CE. The day is divided into ‘tides’, which are cut into the stone. The gnomon is missing. Credit: A. J. Lothian

Bewcastle Cross and Dial . Cumbria . Keith Salvesen

THE RUTHWELL CROSS FOR COMPARISON (it has no dial)

GSS Category: Saxon Dial; Medieval Dial; Column Dial; Unique Dial

Photos: 1, 3, 4 – BSS Archive; 2, 5, 8 – Keith Salvesen; 6 (diagram) Eixo Wiki CC; 7 – Science Museum

MONUMENTAL SUNDIAL . MUSEO GALILEO . FLORENCE

Lizard / Viper Gnomon of Monumental Dial . Museo Galileo . Florence

MONUMENTAL SUNDIAL . MUSEO GALILEO . FLORENCE

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.

Monumental Dial . Museo Galileo . Florence

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.

Orientation dial . Monumental Dial . Museo Galileo . Florence

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.

Museo Galileo – Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza

Museo Galileo – Monumental Sundial

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 timetrue solar time has a periodic variation that can exceed a quarter of an hour.

schema minuti

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.

© 2018 – 2022 Museo Galileo – Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza
Piazza dei Giudici 1 · 50122 Firenze · ITALIA
tel. +39 055 265 311 – P.I. 01346820481

HORNIMAN MUSEUM . LONDON . ROMAN SUNDIAL

Roman Sundial . Horniman Museum . London

The HORNIMAN MUSEUM in South London is a wondrous place for people of all ages. Few (or no) visitors will fail to find something of interest or inspiration. Click on the link to find out more (rather than have me give a lengthy description of the excellent collection).

Among the many innovative collections and installations is a brilliant SUNDIAL TRAIL that showcases 12 different and distinct types of sundial. These are dotted around the park (not all are outside). Some have an additional ingenious feature that makes them unique – incorporating morse code for an inscription, for example.

Roman Sundial . Horniman Museum . London

The dial was designed by John Moir and constructed by Ray Ashley. The gnomon’s shape is based upon the ‘H’ from the old Horniman Museum logo. The edge of the shadow created by the ‘H’ indicates solar time. The museum’s image below when the dial was newly made shows it in action, so to speak.

THE HORNIMAN ROMAN DIAL

Roman Sundial . Horniman Museum . London

The dial has a central cross marking the noon line. In addition, signs of the Zodiac are marked though I don’t know enough to say how they fit into the design – why, for example, pisces is below the noon line.

Roman Sundial . Horniman Museum . London

I have a second Horniman dial to write up in due course. You can find details of all the dials on the Horniman website (see link above). There is also SUNDIAL TRAIL MAP (do not open if you want to discover the dials unassisted…).

Roman Sundial . Horniman Museum . London

GSS Category: Roman Dial; Bowl Dial

All photos, Keith Salvesen; specific information / new dial image, Horniman Museum

COMPTON . SURREY . THE WATTS GALLERY – Scaphe Dial

Scaphe Dial . Watts Gallery . Compton . Surrey

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’?

Scaphe Dial . Watts Gallery . Compton . Surrey

GSS Category: scaphe dial; modern sundial

Photos: Keith Salvesen

Scaphe Dial . Watts Gallery . Compton . Surrey