The following is an extract from Busts & Titbits - Woolner Busts & Freshwater Fragments by Elizabeth Hutchings 2007.
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
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]
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.
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.
His article below includes the wording round the base which had been so difficult to photograph.
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.
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."
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:
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.
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.
AS THE EARTH ROTATES ON ITS AXIS SO THE SUN APPEARS TO MOVE UNIFORMLY ACROSS THE SKY A SUNDIAL READS REAL SOLAR TIME A CLOCK READS THE ARTIFICIAL MEAN TIME GMT OR BST
NEITHER IS INCORRECT THEY MERELY RECORD DIFFERENT TIMES OF TIME AND THE AMOUNT BY . . . DAY THIS DIFFERENCE IS CALLED THE EQUATION OF TIME THE DIFFERENCE IS THE VARIATION IN DISTANCE OF THE EARTH FROM THE SUN THROUGHOUT THE YEAR
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!'
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.
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.
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.]
Letter from Elizabeth to Clare Balding June 19 2009
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