The Register is a collection of some 10,000 Report forms and over 8,000 photographs covering the dials seen by members of the Society over the years. In general there are several reports and photographs relating to any one dial.

A database is maintained to correlate these data and to maintain a summary of the information held on the forms. Additionally each form, and one or more photographs, are digitally scanned and held in the database. Queries of the database can readily be made in order to answer questions about dials and it is the content of the database that is used to prepare the Society’s published Register.

We record dials in the UK, the Island Crown Dependencies and in Eire. Exceptionally, we may record overseas dials if by a British designer or maker.

Answers to your questions…

Can any BSS Member record dials?

Of course. Details can be entered using a variety of online and offline methods and should be submitted to the Registrar, with photos. Click here for details.

Do the BSS only want reports of previously unrecorded dials?

No, we keep all records so later sightings of ‘known’ dials give an insight into the changing condition of a dial. Also it is amazing how much extra information comes to light from subsequent reports.

What sort of dials should I record?

We are interested in all conventional dials – other than those in museums. These range from Saxon style dials to modern present day dials.  You may not think it worthwhile to report every last ‘garden-centre’ dial of the poorer sort, but if in doubt, record it!

Do I need to ask permission before recording a dial?

If the dial is visible from a public place then it is usually safe to photograph and record it. In other cases or where there may be doubt, you should seek the permission of someone who might reasonably be supposed to be its owner or ‘keeper’.

Why should an owner give permission?

Over time the Society’s records provide a proof of provenance and they are accepted by the police and insurance companies for identification purposes. It is to most owners’ advantage to have their dial recorded. If there is a danger of theft the form can be marked to ensure that the location will not be published in the printed Register.

What details should I record?

The form spells out the main requirements such as owner, location, dial type, condition, size etc but see below for some of the things which separate a good report from a poorer one. Keep track by giving your own serial number to each report.

Can I send my report by email?

Emailed reports are welcomed and indeed preferred, though the traditional paper in the post is still used by many and is also perfectly welcome. If using email, attach the report as an MS Word document, and photographs as JPGs. It is helpful if you put the dial location in the email Subject Line, together with the SRN if known. In more detail:


  • Subject Line: Include the location briefly, and the SRN if you know it
  • Content: There is no need to give any message but of course put in anything you wish to say.


  • Format: Attach as an MS Word doc or docx, or compatible format, NOT as a pdf.
  • Name: Can be what you like, but it is helpful if you use the same as the email subject line
  • Addenda: Exceptionally you may wish to add a further sheet or sheets giving greater detail, using the same name as the main report plus ‘b’, ‘c’, etc


  • Format: Please send as attachments to the email. Do NOT embed them in the email – they are difficult for the registrar to extract.
  • File type: Please send jpg files only, NOT jpeg, tiff, bmp, pdf or any other graphic format
  • Name: There is no essential format for the name, but please make the names of all the photos start the same. For example IMG_56789.jpg, IMG_1234.jpg etc is fine, as are Ruston.jpg, Ruston pedestal.jpg, Ruston sig.jpg. But please avoid choosing names that do not start with the same few letters, such as Gnomon.jpf, Plate.jpg, Pedestal.jpg.

Hints for good dial records…

If you can, always take one or more photographs. One might be a location shot and the other a close up that could be used to reconstruct the dial or gnomon if it were to be stolen or vandalised. For dials on a pedestal, photograph that as well.

  • Note the location by OS Reference &/or Lat/Long

  • Get the correct postal address including Post Code if possible and describe the location of the dial at that address. Give information for others to find the dial if necessary.

  • If the dial is on a church or in a churchyard note the Church’s correct dedication. There can often be more than one Parish Church in a town.

  • Estimate the declination of a declining dial. Say if the dial is wedged (canted) out and by how much.

  • Give the shape of the dial, and dimensions (in millimetres), and describe the gnomon support (solid, pierced, ‘S’ shaped, etc.).

  • Note the range of times shown by the dial. This should be given as the earliest and latest hour numerals that are shown together with the smallest time interval shown anywhere on the dial. More detail on the hour subdivisions are also useful.

  • Note all the dial furniture. Especially note any mottoes and inscriptions, EoT scales, any compass rose (including the number of points), coats of arms, maker’s or churchwardens’ names, date, declination (or other) lines and nodus, presence or absence of a split noon line, how noon is marked, how 4pm is marked, half hour markers. Arabic or Roman numerals, and other decoration.

  • Note the dial material and colour, and the nature of the hour lines, painted, inscribed or embossed.

  • Note fully any literature references to the dial – eg Gatty, BSS Bulletin etc – of which you might be aware.

  • Describe and measure pedestals for horizontal dials

  • Note any damage, lichen or corrosion.

  • Any other information of interest. We even have one report where the Recorder comments on the tastiness of the toadstools growing in the graveyard!

Please send in a completed Report Form when providing anything intended as a record or an update. Only by submission of a Form can your information be properly recorded.


Please note:

Copyright in all submitted material remains with the recorder/licence holder but, by sending it to the Society, it must be clearly understood and agreed by all affected parties that title to the material passes to BSS and by the act of such passing, the Recorder/Copyright holder grants to the Society a perpetual and irrevocable licence to use any part or all of the submitted material as it sees fit and without restriction in furtherance of the Society’s aims. It is the Recorder’s responsibility to ensure that he/she is entitled to issue such a licence.