Sundial blog post updates

We have recently suffered from extended disruptions to the BSS website. It was not available between 12th. and 20th. January and, although it went live again on the 21st., this was an out-of-date version that did not include a number of recent posts. In addition, access to the admin side of the site was not restored until the 29th. All these issues – the interruption, the delay and the loss of recent posts – were caused by our hosting service. This is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs for which I apologise.

My immediate priority is to recreate the December updates and to post a number of other new items that have been held up. I will also be evaluating ways in which we can avoid these interruptions in future.

Apologies again for the extended interruption and please watch this space for updates – thank you.


Near the cenotaph in the centre of the town stands the sturdy stone arc of a sundial with a correspondingly stout gnomon, interestingly but correctly placed. The gnomon carries a small insignia of the Royal Corps of Signals. It is a little short of the real length needed at the summer solstice, but makes for a pleasing unity in the design. Hour markers and lines only are shown.

A plaque on the side reads: ‘Presented by the Army Apprentices College to the Borough of Harrogate to commemorate the close association between college and town 1947 – 1996’, and the name ‘Archer’ is the only inscription to be found. The dial was presented when the college closed in 1996.

The chapter ring is made in the form of an arc of a circle of about 240 degrees, being 600mm high and with an overall diameter of 3300mm. It was made in three massive sections, placed an inch apart, and David Young was told that it was placed in position using ice cubes to align it!


Proudly sitting above the porch of St Columba’s Church is what has a good claim to be the most handsome sundial in Cornwall. It is profusely decorated, even to the extent of limiting its timekeeping abilities since no room has been left for 6am or 6pm. It was generous of Robert Oliver of St Minver who made the dial in 1826 to engrave the names of the churchwardens in larger letters than his own. The colouring of the slate is interesting and unusual and it is worth taking time to appreciate all the decoration from the sun face at the top to all the fine details of the rest of the design. The horizontal line across the dial, marked AE is the declination line for the equinoxes but the present gnomon has no nodus to make it of any use.

A tall sandstone pillar in the Unitarian chapel graveyard supports a three faced dial, erected in 1871. The faces are slate, with bronze gnomons, their simple delineations picked out in gold. On the north face, where the sun rarely shines, is an inscription ‘In remembrance of the Founders of Dean Row Chapel circa 1688’. A good restoration in 1999, celebrating the millennium, over a hundred years after the dial was erected, may help this excellent dial to at least another century’s use.


Too high above the south porch of the church of St Meriadocus for some of its features, particularly the Equation of Time table, to be distinguished is this handsome vertical south dial. It is intact apart from the lower left corner and its outer scale divides the hours VI to VI into five minute intervals. It has two cheerful mottoes: “Remember Death” and “Hora Pars Vitae” (An hour is part of life). The break-arched dial plate measures 740mm x 580mm. The EoT scale has letters S and F indicating whether the dial is slow or fast while four circles with a dot in the centre might be meant to indicate the four days in the year when dial and clock agree, but only the April one is anywhere near correct. Could there be some other explanation? The maker has signed himself ‘Philomath’, but without leaving sufficient room for the inscriber, who has had to add the last two letters in superscript. The date below is 1793 and in her drawing of 1957, Mrs Crowley has included the letters MES and ER near the broken corner. They can be seen in this photograph of 1966, but are no longer visible on the dial.

The September edition of the Bulletin has recently been delivered to members. The list of contents follows and, as always, a sample article is available for non-members.

Courtesy of Ian Butson, the Author and Title indices for the Bulletin since 2002 have been updated and are available under the Publications menu.

September Contents

1. Editorial

1. Familiar Faces in Victoria, BC

2. The Sundial Herm at Ancient Messene, Greece – Andreas Galanakis and Martin Jenkins

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