The British Sundial Society

Promoting the Art and Science of Gnomonics since 1989

Astute readers will have noticed that the December Newsletter was missing from the archive in the Members Area. This was due to finger trouble by the webmaster: it is now in place and can be found here – apologies for the oversight.

The March Newsletter will be published next week to coincide with the arrival of the Bulletin.

The BSS is pleased to announce its quinquennial awards scheme for dials that have been made or restored between January 2010 and December 2015. The competition is open to all: amateurs, professionals, members and non-members.

Full details, including examples of previous entries, are available here and will be included in the forthcoming March Bulletin.

The accounts for the Society up until August 2014 are now available in the Accounts section of the Members Area. Members will need to log in to see this information: please contact the Webmaster in case of difficulty.

On the 20th. January over 120 pupils at Cheney School in Oxford learnt about the principles of solar time-keeping and ancient Greek and Roman dials, saw a demonstration of how they work and built their own hemicyclium dial – all within the space of an hour. The event, organised by the IRIS project as part of an ancient astronomy day, saw Chris Williams deliver a wide-ranging lecture on how the ancients told the time and the differences in their requirements for timekeeping and those we have today. An extract of the presentation, including various pictures of classical dials, can be seen here.

David Brown then took over, first demonstrating how shadows vary depending on the time of year and why a hemicyclium is more practical than a hemispherical bowl,

before each pupil was presented with a kit to make their own.

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The Ebenezer Chapel at Hebden Bridge was built in 1777.    The Particular Baptists outgrew it by 1857 and it became a Sunday School till 1883.  It was sold after the first World War and had various other uses until 1973 when, after being the offices of the Hebden Bridge Times, it became the village Arts Centre, and remains as such today.

The design latitude and declination are both inscribed on this fine dial, together with a motto which reads ‘Quod Petis Umbra Est’ (What thou seekest is a shadow). The sturdy gnomon has a decoratively sculpted lower edge, and although it is quite thin, there is an appropriate substyle gap in the chapter ring. Unusually for a vertical dial, it is flanked on each side by EoT corrections for 38 dates in the year.

As part of its educational activities the BSS is participating in an Ancient Astronomy day being run by the Iris Project in Oxford on 20th January.

Chris Williams will be presenting the theory and usage of Greek and Roman dials and David Brown will be leading practical exercises which will result in over 100 pupils from year 7 upwards making their own dials. More information in this Oxford Mail article, although the picture of an armillary sphere and reference to an orrery are both misleading – pupils will be making a hemicyclium dial (the small, cardboard version!):
Hemicyclium dial & models

We plan to record the day so photos, videos and even the model plans to follow.

UPDATE: Local interest is growing: the Oxford Times has devoted half its front page to the event but regrettably their write-up is also confused about dials and orreries.