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.
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. I have put images taken from various angles into a Gallery format so that they can be scrolled through in a approximate sequence. 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); Geoffrey & Henslow; and various less comprehensive sources in books and online. I plan to revisit Wolfeton (we live quite close) to check the details, which I will add if I can make any more sense of the text. Meanwhile, any ideas would be welcome. Actual knowledge, the more so.
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