The sun's half light turns gay the southern walls.
Aslant each northern wold, flushing in gold
And semitones slant roofs and steps, tenfold.
The fluid colours mingle, harmonize,
Within Time's tranquil glide;
And distance lies in milk-white seas which lap
The long contracted Earth.
Richard J. Hutchings


The following is an extract from Busts & Titbits - Woolner Busts & Freshwater Fragments by Elizabeth Hutchings 2007.
    Elizabeth is in the garden at Farringford, home from 1853 to 1892 of Queen Victoria's Poet Laureate, Alfred, Lord Tennyson. It is not far from Freshwater Bay, where she has been living since 2004. Her friend Jane Wolley Dod had met her in the village one day and said they should go and see the sundial at Farringford, which she was sure was by Watts. They found it in a very poor state but Elizabeth took photographs of all four sides and the top on which there appeared to be a mason's mark. This would have been covered by the metal dial plate which was missing, as was the gnomon.
    In January 2007 Elizabeth met Rebecca Fitzgerald and Martin Beisly, the new owners of Farringford. Martin told her he was sure their sundial was by Mary Watts, wife of G. F. Watts the painter and sculptor. Some compensation for the missing dial was that a mark could clearly be seen in its recess in the upper capital which Elizabeth had thought was that of a mason but Veronica Franklin Gould wrote to her, 'The sundial was clearly designed by Mary Seton Watts relating to the memorials and sundials made by her potters at Compton. Mary introduced this grey terracotta to harmonize with stone architecture, red to accompany brick. The style of lettering resembles Mary's more mature work or that of her Compton calligrapher.'
In September the previous year Tony Wood, a member of The British Sundial Society had visited Farringford and wrote in their Bulletin Dec. 2006 p.176 a POETIC INTERLUDE about seeing the sundial.

Through The Tennyson Society in Lincoln Elizabeth was contacted by Dr John Davis, editor of the British Sundial Society's Bulletin and asked to write an article for the Sept. 2007 edition, in reply to Tony Wood's.

In the meantime a letter from Tony Ashmore had appeared.
BSS Bulletin Volume 19(i) March 2007
The Egyptian Face

    In the December 2006 Bulletin, Tony Wood shows the four faces of the sundial pillar at the Isle of Wight home of Alfred, Lord Tennyson
    Three of the faces are quite straight forward depictions relevant to the first three lines of the second motto quoted and inscribed under the figured carvings: For every grain of sand that runs, the hourglass; every span of shade that steals, the sundial; every kiss of toothèd wheels, the clock face. What about the fourth line, and the design above it, with the rather vague description 'something Egyptian'? Tony's article has the suggestion that this may just be a scribe compiling a calendar. After the definite connection on the other three sides, surely we must be able to improve on this somewhat prosaic description.
    As this is deemed to be the 'earliest' of the four designs (Tony's first paragraph working backwards in time) then a reference back to ancient Egypt has logic to it. We can note that this is the only one of the designs which has more than the figure and an artefact. It includes the sun and moon and also a series of arcs of different sizes within the arch. Although the reproduction is not too clear, close inspection of the top of the object the figure holds in his left hand seems to show a reed boat of the Sun-God Ra. According to ancient Egyptian mythology, this boat carried the sun across the sky during the day and through the underworld at night to reappear at dawn the next day. Some curved triangles to the left of the moon could, perhaps, represent stars or constellations.
    I suggest that the iconography of this design indicates that the subject of this face is Ptolemy, he of the Almagest and other books. Ptolemy, of course devised his system of epicycles eccentric circles, deferents* and equants to enable the future courses and positions of the planets – which in his day included the sun and moon – to be calculated. The parameters needed for the calculations were different for each of the seven bodies in his earth-centred system, hence a multiplicity of arcs. By Tennyson's time, Ptolemy's works were available in English, well known and studied.
   This suggested attribution is consistent with Tennyson's fourth line and all the courses of the suns (note the plural).
    In the 19th century, following Napoleon's campaigns in Egypt, there was a great interest in the artistic world of Pharaonic Egypt; Hence the inclusion of the symbolic imagery of Ra's reed boat.
*John Davis wrote to Elizabeth when she queried, 'deferents' and 'equants' saying they are correct: they come from the Ptolemeic theory of the solar system and are needed in the strange geometry used to account for the paths of the 'planets' (which included the sun and moon) around a stationary Earth


In Bulletin 18(iv) p.176 ('Poetic Interlude'. December 2006), Tony Wood described the sundial pedestal at Farringford. In the Readers' Letters of the following issue Tony Ashmore suggested an explanation for the image on one side of the pedestal. Now, Elizabeth Hutchings gives the definitive story. Elizabeth is a member of the Farringford Tennyson Society and author of Discovering the Sculptures of George Frederick Watts O.M., R.A. and Busts & Titbits - Woolner Busts & Freshwater Fragments. Ed

Farringford in Freshwater at the western end of the Isle of Wight was the home of Queen Victoria's Poet Laureate, Alfred, Lord Tennyson from 1853 until his death in 1892. He and his wife Emily had two sons, Hallam named after Tennyson's much loved friend Arthur Henry Hallam, and Lionel who died at the age of 32. Tennyson's long poem, In Memoriam AHH was written over several years following the tragic early death of Arthur, who had been engaged to Alfred's sister Emily. It included (canto cxvii) The Sundial. One of the Tennysons' many friends was the painter and sculptor G. F. Watts. He married Mary Fraser-Tytler, an accomplished artist from the shores of Loch Ness and they made their home at Kensington, with a country home at Compton, near Guildford where you can now find the famous Watts Gallery. There they found a rich seam of clay and Mary taught the villagers the art of pottery. Her garden ornaments were much sought after and included sundials. An example currently in the Watts Gallery is shown in figure 1. A Scaphe dial by Mary Watts Photo. D. Bateman, with permission.

[John Davis told Elizabeth that scaphe comes from the Greek for boat. In the third century BC they invented the scaphe dial]


O days and hours, your work is this
To hold me from my proper place,
A little while from his embrace,
For fuller gain of after bliss:

That out of distance might ensue
Desire of nearness doubly sweet;
And unto meeting when we meet,
Delight a hundredfold accrue,

For every grain of sand that runs,
And every span of shade that steals,
And every kiss of toothèd wheels.
And all the courses of the suns.

The poem has connections to Shakespeare's Sonnet 77, Thy dial's shady stealth and Sonnet 59, five hundred courses of the Sun.

The plate and gnomon are missing though they can be seen in Freshwater photographer Ken Merwood's 1951 picture of the sundial, half hidden in a bed of flowers. It is in Sir Charles Tennyson's Farringford - Home of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The pedestal was subsequently moved and now stands above a small ornamental pool flanked by two conical golden Cupressus. [2013. Sadly now removed]

Some compensation for the missing dial is that a mark can clearly be seen on its recess in the pedestal which I had thought was that of the mason but Veronica Franklin Gould has identified it as Mary's. She wrote to me, 'The sundial was clearly designed by Mary Seton Watts relating to the memorials and sundials made by her Potters at Compton. Mary introduced this grey terracotta to harmonise with stone architecture, red to accompany brick. The style of lettering resembles Mary's more mature work or that of her Compton calligrapher.' I had hoped it was made to celebrate the marriage of Hallam to Audrey Boyle in 1884. At first Veronica thought it was probably designed by Mary while the Watts were staying at Freshwater in 1890. But after much discussion between us we think it was most likely made after Emily's death in 1896. Veronica writes: 'my feeling is that it is in memory of the poet and his wife, with a vision for the future, as it were, through Hallam and Audrey. The poem is obviously a memorial but also looks to a future meeting.'

The pedestal is constructed in four separate sections. At the top is a capital in two sections. The upper section, in which the dial was inset, has a motto on its top surface reading: Horas non numero nisi se[renas]. (Literally: I do not count the hours unless they are cloudless)

The lower section of the capital has the second two lines of the second verse of The Sundial, starting, facing North and reading anticlockwise, and unto meeting – when we meet – delight a - hundredfold accrue.

The upper section of the shaft has a carved figure on each of the four faces. They are ALFRED, EMILY, HALLAM and AUDREY whose names are at the base of the shaft. The lower section of the shaft has the last four lines of the poem starting below hundredfold accrue, facing east.

Thus Alfred holds an hour glass above the line 'for every grain of sand that runs'. Emily holds an upright sundial, similar to one of Mary's in the Watts Gallery, above the line 'and every span of shade that steals'. On the end is a heart-shape with a picture of the heavens above a small boat in water with eight tiny figures in it. The Flood is featured in nearly all cultures and there are always eight survivors though in the Koran Noah's wife does not survive.

The best news is that Martin Beisly and Rebecca Fitzgerald say they plan to restore the sundial.

[This in fact happened when they sent the pedestal to the V&A. When it was returned in wonderful condition it was discovered that it been sitting on a further section which had sunk into the ground. This was dug up and the new pedestal placed on top.

By 2013 there was unfortunately still no plate or gnomon but a protecting plate was in place. Elizabeth was found sitting beside the sundial when Phyl Lawrence of the Farringford Tennyson Society lead her Isle of Wight Walking Festival group on their way to the Tennyson Monument. She told them the story and read the poem. She also pointed out the tall Wellingtonia which the Society had planted in 1996 for the centenary of Emily's death.]


In the last bulletin, we showed a picture from Alice Morse Earle's Sun-dials and roses of yesterday, featuring the artist George Watts and his sundial. We asked, 'what has happened to it?' (We now know that there is a rather better version of the photograph in Veronica Franklin Gould's biography, G. F. Watts, The Last Great Victorian (published 2004 figure 218 on page 335). An enlargement of the photo is also in the catalogue to the show, Mary Seton Watts (1849 – 1938) Unsung Heroine of the Art Nouveau at the Watts Gallery, Compton. Veronica Franklin Gould is currently writing a biography of Mary Watts and was responsible for identifying her as the maker of the Tennyson sundial pedestal (BSS bulletin, 19iii, p. 112) as well as the George Watts dial: we are grateful to her for permission to publish this picture. She is keen to hear of any other known terracotta sundials or garden ornaments by Mary's Arts & Crafts Association at Compton.

Unfortunately, the dial was stolen from a private garden in the 1990s and has not been recovered despite being reported to the police. Can Bulletin readers do better?

BSS Sept. 2008 p.106
Elizabeth put John Davis in touch with Professor Tony Pointon of the Dickens Fellowship with the hope that publicity through them would help to find the missing dial.

(click on each to enlarge)


In 2009 John Davis asked Elizabeth to research the sundial in All Saints Church at Newchurch, where she and her husband Richard had their market garden Winchfield Gardens from 1967. It is a few miles inland from Sandown. It had been reported to him by a passer-by. When she arrived she was reminded of some research she did a few years ago when trying to identify a home which was mentioned by an unknown gentleman touring the Island in 1776. Here is an extract from her research when publishing his diary in A Gentleman's Tour 1776.
"Two references have established the 'fine old seat of the Fitzmaurices.' In 1989 a faculty was granted by the Bishop for the removal of the gravestones round Newchurch Church on condition that the information on the gravestones was recorded first. Hearing from the vicar that this had not been done, Clifford Webster, County Archivist, spent a week with his assistant [his wife Bridget] recording each inscription as the stones were hoisted up to be laid face down making a path down one side of the graveyard. One read 'James Gutteridge - Native of North Britain. Gardener to Hon. Thomas Fitzmaurice. d. 28. March 1770 aged 30'. The entry in the register read 'Gutteridge, the gardener at Knighton bur. 31 March 1770'. In a letter written in 1772 John Wilkes wrote that he visited the Fitzmaurices at Knighton and there met the Garricks and Sir Richard Worsley, who invited him and the Fitzmaurices to Appuldurcombe next day."
When Elizabeth arrived she found the large grassy graveyard empty except for a tall marble pedestal with steps leading up for a sundial to be viewed from the top. It was empty but she found the dial plate with its gnomon on a deep stone window ledge inside the church. She reported all this to John. She returned a few days later with a hand mirror so that she could get better views of the lettering on the four plaques on the base. John found these useful some years later when the gnomon was damaged by a vandal. He made a new gnomon and it was replaced in the church. He wrote, 'the views you got with a mirror were of the plaques placed around the base on which the dial had been fitted when it was moved into the church, giving some details of its history. The vandal broke the replacement gnomon of the dial but, fortunately, left the actual 17th century dial plate untouched. Since the broken gnomon had been of an inappropriate shape, it allowed a new gnomon in the original design to be made by John Davis'. Elizabeth took a photograph of it back in the window. Elizabeth had not seen Frank Coe's article in which he suggested that a strip of mirror could be used in any future photography. He also hoped it would be safe from vandalism!

His article below includes the wording round the base which had been so difficult to photograph.
All Saints Church at Newchurch, Isle of Wight, was built by William Fitz Osborne in William the Conqueror's reign and traces of the original building remain. From the 13th to the 17th century the present vestry was a chantry which, tradition has it, was built in 1204 by Eudo de Morville of nearby Knighton Manor so that masses might be said for his father who was one of the four Knights who in 1170 had murdered Thomas à Becket. When the de Morville family became extinct, Knighton Manor was bought in 1562 by Antony Dillington of Somerset. His descendent, Sir Robert, changed the de Morville chantry into a mortuary chapel in 1688 and at about this time installed a sundial on the bowling green at Knighton Manor. The Dillington line came to an end in 1721 with the death of Sir Tristram, although his sister Hannah survived him and in 1737 presented the silver chalice and paten still in use today. Knighton Manor changed hands and fell into decline, being finally demolished in 1821 by Squire Bissett. Five years before this happened he gave the Dillington dial to the parish of Newchurch and it was set on a pillar in the churchyard, a fact recorded on the south edge of the base of the dial. Fortunately, it was removed from there and is now securely fixed to a N aisle windowsill inside the church where it is protected from weather and possible vandalism.

In the 2005 BSS Register it is SRN 2721 and listed merely as a horizontal. The dial is a rather fine double horizontal, marked for latitude 50° 40' N, that of Newchurch, and the maker "Johannes Marke, London, 1678". The dial plate is approximately 310 mm square, probably bronze, with a brass gnomon which may have been damaged and repaired. There are brass panels on the four sides: figure 1 shows the south side. The sides carry the following inscriptions:

South edge: This Dial was presented to the Parish of NEWCHURCH Nov. 1815 by Maurice George Bissett Esq.

East edge: Ventura est nox qua non potest operari 9th Chap. John 4th verse (literally: The night [is about to come when] it is impossible to work)

North edge: The night cometh when no man can work (the biblical version of the above.)

West edge: ερχεται νυξ οτε ουδεις δυναται ερναζεαθαι (A Greek version of the same quotation The inscriptions on the E, N and W edges of the dial plate are partly obscured by the surrounding woodwork and are difficult to read and photograph (a mirror strip would be a useful accessory in any future photography). The engraving of the dial plate is shown in Figure 3. The name of "Johannes Marke, London, 1678" together with "Latitude 50 40" can just be seen along with an alidade scale in the SE quadrant and traces of a coat of arms below the gnomon. Marke is listed in the BSS Biographical Index 4 as working from "1665 to 1673 or probably to 1679" F. Coe: 'The Dillington Double-horizontal Dial and John Marke', BSS Bulletin 20(iii), pp.119-120 (September 2008).
[When Elizabeth's friend Marjorie Pattle read this she told Elizabeth that two letters of the sixth Greek word were incorrect. Thus the third letter, nu should be gamma and the seventh letter, alpha should be sigma. Elizabeth informed Frank Coe]

 Pedestal in Newchurch grassy churchyard

Newchurch dial restored by John Davis


Following her research into the Newchurch Church sundial Elizabeth went to visit an old friend who has a market garden in the village. She found he not only had a sundial in his garden but he told her this story which was published in BSS Bulletin 21 (ii) June 2009

He had bought it in 1985. It was in the grounds of Swainston Manor at Calbourne not far from the famous Water Mill. The Simeon family had already sold the manor and moved to Canada in 1956. They were descended from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's friend Sir John Simeon about whom he wrote his famous poem In the Garden at Swainston. Part of the grounds had been a market garden run by Cyril Hawes. On his retirement he sold all his tools and equipment including a 1965 Ferguson tractor at an auction conducted by the Island auctioneers Way, Riddett. The County Press reported that the highlight of the sale was a Georgian sundial that raised £500. The present owner remembered that a dealer was bidding against him but he was determined that it should not leave the Island. He asked his friend John Polding to restore it and take photographs and they erected it in his garden in a paved sunken garden. Unfortunately the inscription is now worn away.

He also had a 7-inch diameter brass dial which he had found in a box of old tools which he had purchased cheaply some twenty-five years ago on the Isle of Wight. It is inscribed Benjamin Cole No. 136 Fleet Street London. Benjamin Cole and his son Benjamin ran their business from The Orrery adjoining The Globe Tavern in Fleet Street from 1751 to 1766. This became 136 Fleet Street in about 1760 when the father would have been 65. It is perhaps possible then that this dial was the work of his son who was 35. There is no clue as to why it was found on the Island but maybe someone knows of a small pedestal in need of its missing dial. It is a pity that it is far too small to be the missing one at Tennyson's home, Farringford.

Swainston sundial in Newchurch
Swainston sundial
7-inch diameter brass dial


In 2007 Elizabeth was asked to identify their newly cast bust by Thomas Woolner at the mill. The original model had been found sitting abandoned on a shelf in one of the old buildings. It had apparently never been cast before but in 2013 another one came up for sale in Edinburgh. The owners, Sally & Tony Chaucer thought it was Tennyson but Elizabeth identified it as Sir John Simeon through a photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron.

On a south facing wall of one of the old buildings Elizabeth found a large old sundial about 4ft. in diameter and 12ft. above the ground. Unfortunately it had no date or wording. Seeing the photographs taken by Alex Chaucer John Davis remarked that the dial did not appear to have been designed mathematically as the noon line (XII) was not in the straight down position and the gnomon was placed on the assumption that the wall faced exactly South, which is unlikely (and in which case the VI (am) and VI (pm) lines should be horizontal across the top of the dial). It seems as though the maker has positioned the gnomon and then empirically drawn the hour numerals in the positions of the shadow during the day of installation. Of course, this won't continue to work throughout the year.

In the extensive grounds amongst the ducks and geese and colourful peacocks and other wild fowl Elizabeth found a form of dial which has an array of stone hour points in an ellipse (not a circle). It is an 'analemmatic dial'. The gnomon is a vertical rod standing at the appropriate point on a date scale or it could just be a human passer-by.

Sundial on Water Mill wall


The original church was built in 1190. Elizabeth found this in a St. Mary's Church Brighstone booklet, written in 1973 by G.A.B. Rector. "The Porch is old and weathered, and above it is seen, outside, a sundial placed there in 1721. The figures and words on it can now scarcely be seen, the soft stone being worn by wind and weather. Canon Heygate, in his notes of 1891, tells us that round the figures was written: 'Go your way into His gates with thanksgiving' Over the figures was written 'Reg Jones' (then Rector), and under it the date, 1721, and the initials of William Jolliffe and Richard Woodford, churchwardens. Earl records that all the figures were present except XII. The inner door of the porch into the church was made in the 15th century and above it is the site of a figure, possibly of the Virgin, with the remains of a canopy and chisel marks of its removal. The porch was added a little later than the South door."

Earl was Mr E. C. Earl, Hon. County Archivist. It was he who bought the manuscript at Sotheby's in 1973, now in the County Record Office in Newport, of the diary written by an unknown gentleman in 1776 which Elizabeth published as A Gentleman's Tour 1776. She couldn't find the list of Rectors other than the three who became Bishops; Ken, Wilberforce and Moberley so didn't know who G.A.B was but her friend Sue Chorley of Brighstone enlightened her. "The Rector was the Rev. Gordon Broome, who was a retired policeman whom I believe took holy orders later in life. He was the rector when we came to Brighstone in 1972 and he stayed for a few years until Stephen Palmer came. I didn't know he had written a booklet. His dates and a photo are up on the display board of all the rectors which is in Brighstone church."

Sundial on the church wall


In April 2008 the Isle of Wight History Centre website site carried a news item headed. THE ISLAND'S ONLY PILKINGTON GIBBS HELIOCHRONOMETER? The following is an extract:
   It is unknown how many of these instruments still exist, or even how many were originally made. Attention has recently been drawn to one serving as a memorial in a local cemetery, complete with inscribed dedication. As yet, there appears to be no record of any others on the Island.
   The heliochronometer is essentially a highly sophisticated sundial. It arose out of the need for accurate timekeeping to meet railway timetables. A sundial was critical because it determined time, whereas clocks merely attempted to keep time. Greenwich Mean Time was legally established throughout the land in 1880, leaving some a little confused at the concept of two different middays: one on their sundial and one by government edict (Island hill farmers probably missed many a train in the early days). The heliochronometer was not only more accurate than a regular sundial, to within a minute, but it also automatically adjusted to standard time. Some have described it as a form of analogue computer.
There is believed to be another P&G heliochronometer on the Island, 'in the Cowes area'.

In the BSS December 2006 Bulletin on page 177 opposite Tony Wood's 'POETIC INTERLUDE' Elizabeth found Tony Moss' 'MAKING REPLACEMENT SPRINGS FOR A PILKINGTON & GIBBS HELIO-CHRONOMETER'.

  Heliochronometer in an Island cemetery


Tony Redfern had found a small sundial on a grave in the cemetery at Lowtherville above the town of Ventnor. Through Graham Bennett at the Ventnor Heritage Museum Elizabeth was introduced to Fay Brown. It turned out that she lived opposite the cemetery gates. Elizabeth asked her to talk to Tony about them as she was unable to go herself. Fay emailed Elizabeth thus, 'I had a good chat with Tony and have just been up to the Cemetery and found the two sundials. I remembered then I had one of them in my files but I have photographed each of them today. One is Albert Minshall, aged 38 died December 10th 1938 and the second Henry Webster, M.D. died August 23rd 1935 aged 91. I have a little piece about each man if you are interested. Mrs Minshall I can remember well as she married Jack Knight, prominent Ventnor Councillor and owner of Knight's Library in Ventnor. You may remember the name.' Indeed she did.

Henry Webster Albert Minshall Minshall dial


Once more the eagle-eyed Tony Redfern told Elizabeth about another sundial. In the middle of St James Square in Newport Elizabeth found an empty plinth to her left as she faced Queen Victoria with Lord Mountbatten facing her. There was an inscription on one side but sadly it had been covered with Perspex which had come loose. Sand and dust had accumulated behind it. Her friend Mary McNulty, while holding onto her big dog Judy in the rain read out the inscription over the phone to Elizabeth. Later Elizabeth caught an unsuspecting young man who was passing by and together they read into her tape recorder. Below is the combined result.



An armillary sundial had been on the plinth with a glass dome covering it. This was unveiled by Bernard Pratt O.B.E., J.P., Deputy Lieutenant, Chairman of the Isle of Wight Council removing a large Union Flag. There is a commemorative book in The County Record Office but no mention of the sundial.

Quite by chance one day both Tony Redfern and Elizabeth traced the man who had made the sundial. He was living not far from her but did not wish to be identified. He remembered not being in any of the photographs taken at the time. She visited him and he told her he made it in 1989 and it was to commemorate the Centenary of the Island becoming an Administrative County. It may have been commissioned by Medina Borough before it and South Wight were absorbed into the Isle of Wight County Council, which of course became the Isle of Wight Council on April 1 1995.

An article in the Beacon by Suzanne Whitewood, publicity through what was then Ventnor Blog, which has morphed into On The Wight and Elizabeth's letter to the County Press have not been able to trace the dial which was vandalised and removed. There was talk of a project to restore it in 2012.

   Armillary sundial made by a West Wight Islander


Always on the alert for new dials Tony Redfern told Elizabeth about one at Binstead Church of the Holy Cross. She had just been to an excellent talk about Freshwater's famous son, Robert Hooke at Carisbrooke Castle by Nick Minns. She had already been in touch with him about a sundial he had found on the mainland. He lives near Ryde so was happy to look for and photograph the nearby Binstead one. He wrote to Elizabeth, 'I went for a stroll this morning from the golf club to Quarr and stopped off at Binstead Church to look for the sundial. After 15 minutes I found absolutely nothing but did venture into the church to purchase a guide book and was amazed to learn that in the south east corner of the chancel was what is apparently called a 'scratch dial' which dates from the middle ages and involves a flunkey jabbing a small piece of wood into the wall so that the good people of Binstead know roughly what time it is. Herewith my photographs.

On receiving these John Davis wrote, 'The Binstead scratch dial is quite a nice example. I'm not sure if we have it recorded - we keep a separate Register for scratch/mass dials so I have forwarded the pictures to the appropriate Registrar. We are always happy to have new pictures as camera technology is ever-improving whilst the dials are degrading!'
Binstead Scratch dial on the church wall


On April 10 2013 Elizabeth was watching the first of Adam Nicolson's television series The Century That Wrote Itself. He was crossing The Solent to the Isle of Wight and visiting Nunwell House near Brading. There she saw a sundial on a large brick wall. Nicolson talked to Fanny Oglander who told him that King Charles l was believed to have spent his last night of freedom with Sir John Oglander at Nunwell. Elizabeth rang Fanny and she told her this story.
'At Nunwell the original Jacobean house was E shaped, facing due south. The Jacobean south frontage was faced (possibly in the 1760's) with tiles to look like bricks - that is what you see now, with the front door. The Jacobean west wing remains today. This includes the bedroom that we called "The King's Room", which is where King Charles l is supposed to have slept. The Jacobean East Wing was rebuilt in about 1768 and has the sundial on the end wall

If you look at Nunwell House on Google Earth (post code PO36 0JQ) you can clearly see that the present east wing is not at right angles to the south front. It is markedly skewed a few degrees south of east.

In the County Record Office there are some architects drawings of Nunwell House dated 1735 together with various proposals including one that is labelled "This is to represent part of a design in compliance to a proposal for turning the main front to the garden". On that plan the east wing faces a few degrees north of east.

The next interesting document is a plan of the house and grounds dated 1749, annotated "before the changes in 1768, 1769 and 1778. (I have the original hanging in a windowless loo in my house). The outline of the house is shown on the 1749 plan: there is some change in outline compared to the 1735 drawing but the angle of the east wing seems to be the same as in 1735.

The third document in the story is the 1773 Estate map by Sam Donne (in the Record Office). This shows the east front, the newly grassed lawn, the new stable block and the new walled garden.

So my deduction is that the present east wing was built in 1768 and 1769. In the early 1760's the 4th Baronet, Sir John Oglander, inherited (through his mother, Elizabeth Strode) the Strode Estate at Parnham near Beaminster in Dorset. This made him very wealthy and was the trigger for a re-designed landscape. Probably by 1749 he already knew that he could expect be heir to the Strode Estate so he started planning what he would do with the money. By 1765 the present Nunwell Farm was newly built and was leased to a new tenant farmer (County Record Office OG/W/3). This would have allowed the demolition of the old farm buildings close by Nunwell House.

The sundial is oblong shaped and the motto is;
Here is Fanny's story told to Elizabeth about another sundial from Nunwell.
'I visited the sundial with the missing gnomon today and was relieved to find the outer inscribed ring which my great-grandfather, John Henry Oglander, would have had made at the same time as the stone pedestal. The brass ring is inscribed:
THIS DIAL WAS BROUGHT FROM PARNHAM DORSET. ELIZABETH, DAUGHTER & HEIRESS OF SIR JOHN STRODE OF PARNHAM, MARRIED SIR WM OGLANDER 1699. THE ARMS ENGRAVED ARE THOSE OF STRODE QUARTERING BYTTON & FURNEAUX, BEAURRE, BRENT, GERARD & PARNHAM, LEDRED, HODY (QUARTERING COLE & JUE), AND OUGHTRED. The sundial would have been at Nunwell House from 1896 until 1980 when my mother sold the house. I moved the sundial to Hardingshute Farm, a nearby farmhouse which is visible to passing traffic along Harding Shute lane. The gnomon was stolen one Easter bank holiday weekend when I was staying there with my family in the 1980's - one morning it was just gone.

There is an article on Wikipedia that gives Sir John Strode's dates as 1624-1679. He had 6 sons and 2 daughters. All 6 of the sons must have produced no heirs for a daughter, Elizabeth, finally to have become his heiress.'
[John Davis commented, 'An interesting provenance! Oughtred is a famous name in dialling though the Rev William Oughtred, who is the important one, died in 1660.]

Sundial on the east wing of Nunwell House


Elizabeth remembered once seeing an armillary sundial in the Ventnor Botanic Garden. In May 2013 she drove there on an unusually bright sunny morning. In 1868 The Royal National Hospital for Diseases of the Chest was opened. It was the inspiration of Doctor Arthur Hill Hassal. It was demolished in 1969. Modern treatments had made it redundant. On June 21 1970 Earl Mountbatten, Governor of the Isle of Wight opened the new Botanic Garden. Due to cost cutting the Isle of Wight Council decided to sell the 125-year-old lease in October 2011. A Community Interest Company (C.I.C) headed by their Director John Curtis was created as the entity to sign the lease which can be extended or renewed for another 125 years.

By chance it was John who greeted Elizabeth on her arrival. She said she wanted someone to take a photograph of their sundial. He promptly summoned up a wheelchair and took her there himself in a circuitous route which he said gave him a useful insight into a wheelchair visitor's experience.

A plaque read;

Dr. J. B. Williamson in memory of his father
Dr. J. M. Williamson Resident Medical Officer of this hospital from 1873-1876 and afterwards Honorary Surgeon

One photograph revealed that a rusty screw at XII hours would require a replacement one which John Davis said should be solid brass or stainless steel. Cadmium had also been suggested.

John Curtis later wrote to Elizabeth: It is interesting that the Hospital was very nearly self-sufficient foodwise with pigs, growing houses, vegetable plots, and so on. It seems that we are striving to return to that approach as a society now. He also said it is Botanic Garden not Gardens. 'Many use Gardens because of Kew Gardens which was actually two gardens fused together.'

When Richard Hutchings visited Dr Williamson in the 1970s he showed him a letter addressed from Auchnashellach, Ross-shire, from Lady Randolph Churchill to his father. Winston Churchill, then a child had been in the care of Dr Williamson, and in the letter Winston's mother expressed her gratitude for the reported improvement in the boy's health. On March 24 1878 she and the 4 year-old Winston witnessed the tragic sinking of the frigate Eurydice off Dunnose Point with her young crew. Dr Williamson revived the only two survivors, Fletcher and Cuddiford at the Ventnor Cottage Hospital.

Armillary sundial at Ventnor Botanic Garden


In 2008 Elizabeth visited the Winterbourne Hotel in Bonchurch, the village at the east end of Ventnor. Here Dickens stayed in 1849. Her husband Richard had written his book, Dickens on an Island in 1963 and she republished it in 2011 in celebration of Dickens' bi-centenary. The garden slopes gently towards the steep cliff top and there she found a sundial and took photographs. The inscription started with TAK TENT OF TIME but the rest was covered in bright yellow lichen. There seemed to be a signature but it was not clear.

Later John Davis found an Edinburgh sundial. 'The sundial was erected in commemoration of the opening of the International Exhibition by Prince Albert Victor of Wales on 8th May 1886. Shields on the sundial are carved with a crown, the arms of Edinburgh, a lion rampant and a castle. One inscription on the sundial reads, "Tak tent o' time ere time be tint" or 'Take account of time before your time is finished.' Quarry names are also on the blocks making up the shaft of the sundial.
[Chambers English Dictionary. tent (4) (Scot.) = to take heed of, attend to. Aphetic loss of vowel for attent and intent. tine (2), tyne (Scot) = to lose. Old Norse tyna = to destroy, lose, perish.]

Elizabeth with the Winterbourne sundial



The principle of the sundial was first observed by the Egyptians, while full instrumentation was developed by the Greeks and Romans. This one is shown alongside the philosopher/astronomer featured in a Brading mosaic.

Letter from Elizabeth to Clare Balding June 19 2009
My Dear Clare,

You remember our walk from the Bay to the Needles for Radio 4 Ramblings. I've seen your comments in several articles. I enjoyed yesterday's Ramblings in Dorset just opposite the Needles, as did a friend of mine who visited me this morning. We were both so impressed with the son who helped his father to conquer ME.

I had a long talk with Victoria Pinckney from the BBC telling me about your proposed cycling event on the Island in August. She asked if I would perhaps talk to you about Tennyson and our Farringford Tennyson Society. I thought maybe I couldn't as I am not so mobile now but Rebecca Fitzgerald who owns Farringford with Martin Beisly of Christies is setting up a wonderful exhibition in the library in time for August 6th. It will be celebrating the bi-centenary of Tennyson's birth. Perhaps we could talk there with Rebecca. There will also be a new toposcope by the Monument. Not sure if you could cycle up there! On the other hand you climbed those 200 steps 'yesterday'.

I hope you have time to enjoy my new little book. It may be useful for August. I am glad you are looking so well. Since 2004 I have been living only 100 yards from the Bay where we started our walk. I still have that stick.
Subsequently Clare was filmed at Winterbourne on August 15 2009 for the Isle of Wight episode of her series Britain by Bike. This ended with her standing by the newly restored pedestal at Farringford with Elizabeth telling her its story. This brings us back fittingly to where she started her quest for Island sundials. There are surely other undiscovered ones so see her important footnote. [Winterbourne Hotel was subsequently closed which meant that unfortunately it was not open in 2011, the bicentenary of Dickens' birth in Portsmouth. New owners do not plan to run it as an hotel.]

Clare Balding with Elizabeth at the Farringford sundial

June 2013

I would like to thank everyone who has helped me with this quest which I must now end. It started with Jane Wolley Dod who set me off in 2007. Dr John Davis, Tony Ashmore, Hilary & Denis Calvert, Douglas Bateman, Clare Balding, Martin Beisly, Graham Bennett, Steven Bonsey, Fay Brown, Tony, Sally & Alex Chaucer, Sue Chorley, Frank Coe, John Curtis, Simon Dear, Rebecca Fitzgerald, Irene Fletcher, Veronica Franklin-Gould, Keith Hutchings, Mary McNulty & Judy, Nick Minns, Barbara Misner, Fanny Oglander, The Rev. Janice O'Shaughnessy, Marjorie Pattle, Tony Redfern, Richard Smout, Tony Wood & Suzanne Whitewood.

Finally Roger Hewitt, who recently introduced me to Dr Rebecca Loader of the Isle of Wight Archaeology Environment Service. She has given me their comprehensive list of Isle of Wight sundials, some of which we have already met. It is Roger Hewitt, of the Isle of Wight History Centre, who has set up my web site.

Also from Elizabeth Hutchings:
A Gentleman's Tour 1776
The Lily Garden
Busts and Titbits

Hunnyhill Publications available from Telephone 01983 759090

Dickens on an Island Richard J. Hutchings £6.00
Dickens' stay at Bonchurch in 1849 with Richard's research into the originals of some of his characters. Includes a photograph and brief story of Richard's life in Ceylon, New Zealand and the Isle of Wight.

Idylls of Farringford Richard J. Hutchings £3.75
The story of Queen Victoria's Poet Laureate, Alfred, Lord Tennyson at his home in Freshwater. Poems include The Charge of the Light Brigade, In the Garden of Swainston & Crossing the Bar.

Busts & Titbits - Woolner Busts & Freshwater Fragments Elizabeth Hutchings £3.75
Story of the finding of a previously uncast bust in Calbourne Water Mill and its identification following the owners' casting. Followed by fascinating stories about Freshwater and its famous 19th & 20th century inhabitants and visitors.

Three Freshwater Friends - Tennyson, Watts & Mrs Cameron Hester Thackeray Fuller £3.50
Written by Thackeray's granddaughter who lived near the famous photographer Julia Margaret Cameron's Dimbola with a foreword by her niece Belinda Thackeray Norman-Butler

Marching through Georgia Fenwick Yellowley Hedley. New 250 Limited edition £15.00
A first hand account of a young man from Berwick-upon-Tweed in Sherman's army from 1861. 491 pages with 28 full page sketches. It Includes a letter from Sherman to the author. It is dedicated to Mary S. Logan

All plus postage