Like all such things, it started in a small way. The idea of a sundial society had been mulled over for many years by several people, until the idea came to fruition in 1989. It was thought that maybe sundials could be dealt with as a sub section of the horological fraternity as there was no idea of the scale of interest. Early on it was known that there were several individuals who were not interested in the antiquarian aspect but who were actively producing new sundials, so a hands-on element was anticipated from the start. Then, daringly, it was considered that if it were possible to attract 30 interested persons, perhaps it could ‘go it alone’ as a fully fledged society within its own right. Currently, the Society has some 400 members.
Credit must be given to Dr. Andrew Somerville for getting matters off the ground and also the steersmanship of Charles Aked with his immense wealth of knowledge of matters, both sundial as well as horological. Sadly, neither of these founding fathers are with us but they did see the British Sundial Society hatch from an idea and their efforts put it on the right course. Now we can smile at the dilemma faced. It was envisaged that a Bulletin be issued two or three times a year of maybe a few photocopied sheets of paper, lest the fund of knowledge on sundials be too rapidly exhausted.
We now produce a full colour quality publication of 48 pages four times a year and have the embarrassment of asking authors to bear with us in the queue as so much material is coming forth!
Compared to some societies, our numbers are not great but two things stand out: diversity of approach and the sheer enthusiasm of the members. Sundials attract people from varied backgrounds: astronomical, military, medical, artistic and craftsmanship to name but a few. Then there are the meetings. Any society which can regularly attract about 15% of its membership to a major conference, some from across the globe, certainly has some driving force! Indeed, the name British Sundial Society is a misnomer as almost a third of the members live beyond these shores.
And there are the contradictions. In this computer age, information flies around the world in an instant. How paradoxical that one of the oldest technologies has combined with the newest to help in sundial design and also to spread the word. Now our Society has reached its twenty-fifth anniversary year and we are well into the new Millennium, we can look in both directions, at the old and the new. More has happened since that now historic meeting in 1989 than we dared to hope.
The Society became a Registered Charity in 1992 and a Charitable Incorporated Organisation in 2014 (Registered Charity Number 1155688). The Constitution of the CIO is available here.
The Society is affiliated to the Royal Astronomical Society.