Sundials

Restoration of a multi-faceted Scottish stone sundial

Sundial restoration in Scotland

Multi-faceted stone sundial after restoration. There are 34 separate dials, two for local time and the others for different places round the world.

Restoration of ancient stone sundials in Scotland can be very successful. For example, a multi-faceted sundial at Nunraw, East Lothian, was in poor condition when it was found in the garden of a private estate where it stands. It has now been restored to full working order and looks spectacular. The restoration was completed in June 2019.

The sundial belongs to the great era of Scottish sundials in the 17th and 18th centuries. It consists of three multi-faceted stones with a total of 34 separate dials. Continue reading

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When is the shortest day when days get longer?

Graph of solar parameters

Graph of three solar parameters that affect the time of sunrise and hence the shortest day in the northern hemisphere. Latitude is a fourth parameter.

Summer has come and days are warmer—holidays are round the corner—but longer days are here no longer… Well, it is past summer solstice already! It is true the days are shortening now in the northern hemisphere. But when will the days get longer again? This is a technical puzzle. Like everything solar and astronomical there is no easy answer to the question.

Each year in December the media speak about the shortest day and then go on to say the mornings will still get darker. They are correct but how can this be? I thought I ought to clarify the question for myself if I could. It probably will not relieve anyone’s confusion by starting with a graph, so I have put my own study of the shortest day into an article for The British Sundial Society.

It has turned out a longer read than I expected—A study of the shortest day, Alastair Hunter. BSS Bulletin Volume 31(ii) June 2019

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Drummond Castle Sundial Restoration

Drummond Castle Sundial Obelisk

The sundial dates from 1630. It has 61 individual dials and 131 separate ways of telling the time. An inscription in Latin carved into the stone explains the separate colours chosen for time. The lines remain but the colours have gone.

The sundial at Drummond Castle in Perthshire is the earliest of the distinctive style of sundials in Scotland. It dates from 1630. Three years ago it was removed from the garden for major repairs and conservation work. This restoration is now complete and the sundial stands tall in its glory again.

A sundial reinstatement ceremony was held on Sunday 23rd June 2019 at 11.00 am. Continue reading

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Trading cities found on historic Scottish sundial

Name of Nineveh on Scottish sundial

The name of Nineveh is carved in stone on one hexagonal facet of this historic Scottish sundial.

Nineveh in Mesopotamia is one of the oldest trading cities in the world. Sitting next to the Tigris river it lay at the cross-roads of trade routes to north, south, east and west. The ancient site is now Mosul in modern day Iraq. In 2019, it was a surprise to find the name of Nineveh carved on a historic stone sundial in the south of Scotland, which was to be restored. Continue reading

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Sundial restoration for Saughton public park in Edinburgh

South dial restored with new bronze gnomon and stone conservation

Photo: City of Edinburgh Council

Sundial restoration is always interesting. Each case is different. Sometimes the sundial is historic and may need research. An eye for sculpture shapes and architecture is useful. There can be tricky calculations of geometry. The right use of materials and surface patination comes into it. And of course every restoration has to make the sundial work and read the time in sunshine.

The photo shows one of the dials on the monumental sundial in the walled garden at Saughton Park in Edinburgh. Continue reading

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Babylonian and Italian hours measure the day

Babylonian and Italian hours on a sundial

This vertical dial has hour lines radiating from the top, as well as the criss-cross pattern of Babylonian and Italian hour lines, plus the lines for solstice and equinox. Looking at the shadow of the gnomon, the time of day is 9:30 am and the time of year is the equinox. The Babylonian time is 3½ hours from sunrise, and the Italian time is 8½ hours before sunset. Adding these together the length of day for the equinox is 12 hours.—Note, the figure has no numbers. Once you learn how to read the lines, it is not hard to learn how to count them!

Babylonian and Italian hours are wonderful. They measure out the day from the time of sunrise to the time of sunset. Add them together and they will give you the number of hours of daylight. A simple ancient type of sundial like this one can measure times for you that you will hardly ever find on a modern watch. Continue reading

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Oak leaf sundial art

Oak leaf sundial

This beautiful sculpture projects the shadow of oak leaves etched in glass onto the carved sundial panel behind. The shadow of a single oak bud falls in exactly the right place to tell the time.

There is so much pleasure in owning a work of art done by a friend. For a sundial person the pleasure is even greater when this is a sculpture that can show the time. Today we set the sculpture up at home and we were amazed how beautifully it comes to life in sunshine. All the fundamentals of a sundial underlie this marvellous creation. Continue reading

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A sundials tour of parks and gardens in Edinburgh

Ancient sundial of Scotland at Fettes College

This historic sundial probably dates from the 1630s. It was placed in its present position in 1893.

This year’s sundials tour visited parks and gardens in Edinburgh. It is the latest in a series of large and small events to help raise funds for the YACHT project at Greenbank Church, which supports ‘Youth at CHurch Today’. In recent years the tour has been to George Heriot’s School and the National Museum of Scotland (2017), and Lennoxlove near Haddington (2015).

This year we were a group of nine who heard about a fascinating background of art, science, history, and people. Continue reading

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Kinloch Anderson Sundial Restored at Inverleith Park

Inverleith Park sundial restored in 2018

The Inverleith Park sundial originally gifted by Edinburgh firm Kinloch Anderson in 1890 was newly restored by the same company in June 2018.

It was a great day seeing the Kinloch Anderson sundial fully restored at Inverleith Park on Saturday 16th June 2018. It marks 150 years since 1868 when the company was founded. The company held a celebration party for their many guests. The Lord Provost of Edinburgh Continue reading

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New commission for a sundial on a garden wall

Wall sundial for a garden

A special sundial commission for a garden wall. The dial markings are correct for the wall’s direction. Made in brass with a soft finish and lines cut by laser. Photo taken before mounting on the wall.

A new commission came in to us recently for a sundial on a garden wall. Sundial people will know that the direction of the wall is important. Does the wall face south, or north, or in between? A sundial must be correct for the direction of the wall Continue reading

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