BATH . PARADE GARDENS. British Sundial Society – Armillary Sphere

Bath Abbey . Diego Delso Geo cc


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.


‘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