Welcome to our Web Site
The British Sundial Society was formed in 1989 and is a thriving and friendly Society of some 425 members. Its objects are to advance the education of the public in the art and science of gnomonics and the knowledge of all types of sundial; to catalogue and advise on the restoration of sundials in the British Isles, and to research their history.
Please note that this, and all other pages on this website, are the intellectual property of the BSS and its contributors and may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Staple Inn sundial
2012-13 Photo Competition - Winners
Bulletin Vol 25(i) and Newsletter No. 67
Members will shortly be receiving, or will have already received, the latest edition of the Bulletin and Newsletter. The contents of the Bulletin are available here and a sample article is also available. The full text of the Newsletter is here.
BSS Conference April 5-7 2013 in Edinburgh
The annual BSS Conference will have 15 talks, covering a wide variety of subjects. Six of the speakers will talk on dials that they have themselves made, showing that invention, design and craftsmanship of the highest order are alive and well. Several others will discuss their studies of, and conservation of, important historical sundials in stone and metals. Bringing the subject into the twenty-first century will be a survey of Apps for smartphones of use to sundialists.
The modern world's understanding of the astronomical and engineering achievements of the Ancients has, in recent years, been stood on its head by the discovery and understanding of the stunning Antikythera Mechanism. Our keynote speaker will be Dr Tony Freeth, who initiated and led many of the key studies of the mechanism. His film The 2,000 Year Old Computer has been shown on BBC4 many times. He will speak on aspects of the device, the extraordinary techniques used to dissect it, published and current understanding of its mechanism and dials, and what is still unknown or controversial. He invites attendees to indicate their interests so as to direct his talk to the audience.
As well as a very full programme of talks, there will be opportunities to see dials and other exhibits brought by 15 exhibitors. On Saturday afternoon we stretch our legs to see the unique dials in George Heriot's School, a guided tour of the National Museum of Scotland, and other important dials along The Royal Mile.
The social highpoint of the weekend will be a Gala Dinner of Saturday in the opulent eighteenth century Playfair Library.
Blickling Hall, Norfolk - arboreal sundial
The Park is listed for its historic, essentially 18th century, landscape. The National Trust is undertaking a restoration replacing lost trees. An 1880 map shows a curious irregular circle of trees. The NT were minded to plant new trees in roughly the same spot and approached the Society for advice on the possibility of an arboreal sundial. After discussion, agreement was reached that a semi-ellipse of trees would adequately echo the former irregular circle. Accordingly, on 4 February, an array of 13 bamboo canes spanning some 60 meters, was set out on site marking the hour-points of an analemmatic sundial. The canes are in the process of being replaced by oak saplings with protective cages - the Park is grazed and in a Stewardship Scheme.
The photo shows Frank King, the Society's Chairman, in attendance: it can be seen Frank bought the sun with him to ensure accurate setting out! The 7 to 11 o'clock canes are just visible - 7 o'clock on the left, 9 o'clock in front of Frank's face, and 11 o'clock on the extreme right. In the distance the protective tree cages of other replacement trees can be seen .
A full write up and report will be published in due course in the Society's Bulletin.
Dial of the Month - February 2013
SRN 0406, Leeds Castle, Kent
Thomas Hogben was an 18th century Kentish surveyor and schoolmaster. He made a number of sundials himself, and had at least three made in a London workshop, possibly that of Thomas Wright. Robert Fairfax, later the seventh Lord Fairfax, inherited Leeds Castle in 1745. Three years later he commissioned Hogben to map the estate, and to make a sundial for it, which stood until recently by the western wall of the outer bailey. The dial has now been replaced, for greater security, by a copy which gives a very good impression of the original, if not inspected too closely. The original dial is still held in the castle. As well as a most distinctive gnomon, and an 'Æquation of Natural Days', it bears the names of 17 places from Mexico to the Far East, with their times of noon. In particular it shows Belvoir, Virginia, the principal Fairfax seat in the New World. A second dial at Belvoir is said to have shown the time of noon at Leeds Castle, but that instrument has never come to light.
Previous Dials of the Month are available on the new Dial of the Month Archive page and the main menu on the left.
Thomas Hogben is listed in the Society's Biographical Index as a dial maker active from 1724. As was then common, he was much more than a dial maker - a teacher, land surveyor and map maker. A prospective new member has enquired if we might help his researches on this instrument, a perpetual calendar, made by Hogben c1750 - click on the image for a larger version and dimensions. If anyone knows anything about this instrument or can recommend other sources of information, please contact Nigel Rainton directly.
We have published this question as an experiment and in the hope that our members and visitors can help Nigel. If other people have questions they'd like to ask here, please notify the webmaster. However, if we find ourselves overwhelmed by demand or off-topic questions we may change how they are handled.
New sundial app - LunaSolCal
Doug Bateman has found another useful sundial app, LunaSolCal. This gives extensive information about the sun (solstices, equation of time, rising and setting times) and moon (phase, path and times). See Doug's review here.
This is a cross-platform app with versions for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone.
Dial of the Month - January 2013
SRN 0503, Blackheath, London
This dial on one of the chimneys facing the quadrangle at Morden College, Blackheath, is believed to date from 1725 (1695 is the date of the building). It has sometimes been ascribed to Sir Christopher Wren, but he died in 1723 and the dial may be the work of his master mason for St Paul's, Edward Strong.
The drawing is taken from the 10th Monograph of the London Survey Committee, by T Frank Green, dated 1916.
The dial is recorded in Gatty under the more common version of the motto 'Ut Umbra Sic Vita', but this would appear to have been an error in reporting. Frequent re-paintings have allowed the delineation to slip, but such a change in the motto could not have occurred between the publication of her work and that of Frank Green.
Previous Dials of the Month are available on the new Dial of the Month Archive page and the main menu on the left.
Details of the 2012-13 photo competition have already been published.
To help provide inspiration and give an idea of what the judges
are looking for, all the entries and the full results for the 2010-11 competition are available
here or from the menu on the left.
Good luck with your entries for next
With the increasing popularity of smartphones and tablets and the vast number of apps available for them (700,000 each for both iPhone/iPad and Android) it's no surprise that there are several interesting sundial-related apps amongst them. This short list includes a review of some iPhone apps by Doug Bateman as well as a couple of Android and cross-platform ones. There are undoubtedly many more: if your favourite is missing please send a short summary to the webmaster.
Amongst the Society's members are many expert and accomplished speakers who are in regular demand to deliver talks on different aspects of dialling to varying audiences. If any member would like to use this space to publicise a forthcoming talk, please notify the webmaster.
Frank King is such a speaker and has fought a battle for many years to come up with a "Default Sundial Talk" but it keeps evolving. Subtitled "A Brief History of Time-Reckoning", he tells the story backwards from a mobile phone to the University Clock before working through horizontal dials, the Equation of Time and Equal and Unequal Hours.
Frank has also recently repeated his Cheltenham talk "See Naples and Dial - An Italian Job" for a lay audience. This talk has a modern diallist, the poet Virgil, an unlikely analemmatic sundial in a truly exotic setting, romance, Vesuvius, the Mafia and a geometry lesson. Phew - Dan Brown, eat your heart out.
Information on more talks, different approaches to the Default Sundial Talk or even more extreme stories gratefully received.
The Society's website has for several years included a list of makers and consultants. As part of the redevelopment of our website (see the Secretary's message in the Dec Newsletter) the list is being reviewed. A few makers have recently contacted us about their entries. Should any other makers wish to update their entry or link, or wish to be considered for inclusion, please contact the Secretary.
The Recorder - 10th Edition
The 2012 edition of The Recorder, covering Cheltenham, has now been added to the Register section of the site and can be seen here.
The Trials and Tribulations of Slate
The reconstruction of the Przypkowski sundial at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, recently unveiled (see 5/11/12 posting), was carved on slate by Ben Jones. Ben, a member of the Society, shares some of the trepidations and logistics:-
Handling a thin (20mm), large (530 x 1898mm) and heavy (50kg) sheet of slate is slightly nerve wracking. So long as the material is kept upright on its base or side, and not carried flat on its back, all should be well. A sturdy plywood backing board was made to hold the slate upright while I carved it. The board also acted as a carrying case when the dial was transported to Greenwich and then lifted by rope and pulley to the top of the scaffold.
More details of this project appear in the December edition of The Bulletin and are also available here.
The full text of the Newsletter is available here.
Information about the 2013 Conference, to be held in Edinburgh from April 5-7 2013, is included in the December Newsletter. Full details, including booking form, are also available here.
Dial of the Month - December
The Dial of the Month for December, is available here. Previous dials of the month are available from the menu on the left.
Solve that difficult Christmas present with a 1 pint sundial beer glass
This altitude dial gives accurate solar time as well as sunrise and sunset times. Designed for 51° N, it will work well anywhere within a few degrees. Both dial and glass are easy to use and come with full instructions. Further details (including orders) on www.sundialglass.wordpress.com or phone 01273 673511.
Sundial "Unveiling" at Greenwich
On 10 October 2012, at 1pm (BST), the reconstruction of Dr Tadeusz Przypkowski's Meridies Media sundial in the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, was formally declared "unveiled" by Sir Mark Lennox-Boyd, Patron of the British Sundial Society. First set up in 1968, on the south face of the Meridian Building, in what was then the Old Royal Observatory, in the care of the National Maritime Museum, the dial proved to be back to front! Its rectification and my subsequent visit to Poland, at Dr Przypkowski's invitation, was the principal cause of my interest in sundials and in their design.
Whilst Przypkowski's original design called for the sundial to be made of green marble, it was manufactured in wood, this being cheaper. Around 1991, the badly weathered dial-plate was removed and discarded. However, the gnomon remained in place and, about two years ago, it was decided that it would be worth restoring the dial. An appeal by the National Maritime Museum to raise the necessary funds was met early in 2011.
The gnomon was removed for refurbishment, whilst I undertook the reconstruction design and delineation of the instrument. Ben Jones carved the dial-plate in green Kirkstone slate, which he completed in the Spring of 2012. Due to the Olympic Games, when the ROG was closed, installation had to wait until September; but, despite inclement weather, this was achieved before the end of the month. On the day of the "unveiling", the sun kindly shone at just the right time!
An article providing a fuller version of this event is due to be published in the December 2012 issue of the British Sundial Society Bulletin.
Forthcoming Lecture - Cambridge Sundials and Time
As part of the IET Cambridge Network lecture series, Frank King will be delivering a lecture on Cambridge Sundials and Time
on Thursday 15th. November. For details click here.
TED Ed talk - Sending a sundial to Mars
Bill Nye is an American science educator and television host better known (there, at least) as the Science Guy. Here he talks about
his inherited fascination with
sundials and how he campaigned to have sundials on board Mars exploration rovers:
Mike Shaw on Antiques Roadshow
Newsletter editor Mike Shaw recently appeared on Antiques Roadshow, demonstrating heliochronometers and slipping in a plug for the BSS:
Just A Minute - or even Three!
Earlier in the year BSS Chairman Frank King delivered a bravura performance on Chris Evans' radio show, speaking for three minutes on sundials without hesitation, deviation,
repetition or allowing Chris to get a word in. Listen to his enthusiastic "interview" (with accompanying slideshow) below:
The Society's main publication, the Bulletin, is published four times a year and sent to all members. The contents of all issues up to and including September 2012 are available here. (MS Word .doc file)
With The Bulletin we send out an informal Newsletter. The
past six issues are available on-line from the menu on the left. The
September 2012 issue is available here.
Dial of the Month - November
The latest Dial of the Month, for November, is now available here. Earlier Dials of the Month are available from the menu on the left.
While there is a wealth of pictures and information on this site, rather than duplicate efforts, we have a large number of links to other sites, created by other sundial societies around the world and individual companies and enthusiasts.
Some of our own members design and/or make sundials and have Web sites. They are listed here.