Sundial Meeting 08.05

Date: 14th May 2007


May 8: John Webb (Friends secretary) and Sue Bosanko met Christopher Daniels, chairman of the British Sundial Society to discuss options for commemorating John Arnold, clockmaker to George 111.

John and Sue explained the background and the Friends committee’s idea of commemorating in the form of a sundial John Arnold’s life at Well Hall (1777 – 1797).

Mr Daniels walked around the Pleasaunce, identifying some possibilities.

These were as follows:

a) a vertical sundial mounted on the east wall of the Tudor Barn, or the south wall. There were several suitable positions on each. Mr Daniels’ view was that the sundial should be painted, in accordance with historical authenticity. Points raised about this were that it would need English Heritage’s permission (Mr Daniels had experience of this); however, there had been other attachments made to the building, including the 1568 plaque, the bell and also, more recently the pub sign. The Tudor Barn would have been in situ during John Arnold’s time and no doubt he, and his employees, would have used it. If placed at a reasonable height, it would be reasonably likely to be vandal-proof; its presence could be accompanied by a plaque at ground level explaining its significance Downsides, however, were that, from a distance it might be difficult to read, the periods of sun exposure might be limited (by tree shading and its daily course, in the case of the east wall). Also, there would be no ‘inter-activity’ for children.

b) The site of the old Well Hall House was ruled out because of a shortage of sunlight.

c) The surround of the fountain was raised as a possibility, perhaps accompanied by railings to prevent children falling into the water. Mr Daniels’ view was that the size of dial needed would make it prohibitively expensive; also the existing fountain head would need to be removed.

d) The half moon-shaped brickwork in the Italian garden at the top of the steps to the walled garden was considered. However, this would mean disturbing what was already an attractive feature, also it would be easy to vandalise and the gnomon might be dangerous to park users.

e) Mr Daniels suggested that a sundial might be placed in one of the Tudor motif rose gardens, possibly at the centre of one which is geometrically-shaped (the south west one was considered). He suggested there would need to be a plinth placed on a concrete base, with an armillary sundial (which would avoid having a gnomon) at waist height.

( The advantages in siting it there would be the lowish risk of deliberate vandalism (however, some risk of theft and a moderate risk of casual damage, for example, children climbing). It would be reasonably accessible to all (small children could be lifted up), and an attractive feature.

f) The paved area in the walled garden alpine garden was considered. A human analemmatic sundial ( ) might be suitable. The advantages were that the paving is currently broken and unattractive, that the area isn’t a sensitive historic feature and that the absence of a gnomon reduced the risk of vandalism. Also, this type of sundial was inter-active in that children would be able to use their own shadows to tell the time. However, it was felt the Black Worcester pear tree would lead to shade (N.B. this might need to be explored further – it looked possible that in the summer, the sun might pass over the tree and in winter, the tree wouldn’t have leaves)

g) The paved area on Moat Island was considered, also for a human analemmatic sundial. Mr Daniels felt that this would be a suitable location, either in a central position or to one side (logically the south side). All the advantages above to this type of sundial apply. Other advantages are that the Moat Island is regularly criss-crossed by people walking and feeding the ducks etc; also the current paving isn’t a particularly attractive park feature.


Mr Daniels felt that the design and implementation of a sundial might cost in the region of £5,000 - £10,000 depending on the type chosen and quality of materials used. It was thought the Clockmakers Company might be interested in providing funding and their input would be sought as to how John Arnold’s life might be integrated into the design. Another livery company, such as the Mercers, might also be interested in being involved. Mr Daniel had good contacts with Jonathan Betts, Curator of Horology at Greenwich, who he felt would be in the Clockmakers Company. The Friends committee had agreed an approach to the Clockmakers be made to explore possibilities further.

The Clockmakers Company had been involved in a commemoration of John Harrison, also a celebrated 18th century clockmaker.

Children’s Sundial

One option was for a) interactivity and b)commemoration of John Arnold to be separated. For example a formal sundial on the wall of the Tudor Barn for commemorative purposes and a children-designed sundial in Moat Island. Mr Daniels had been involved in such a project in Plumstead. A children’s sundial might attract funding from a wider range of sources.

Barefoot Sundial

Mr Daniels felt that it would be possible to place a small metal sundial on the top of the plinth at the Barefoot memorial and it could be secured in place with a long bolt. A mass-produced imported dial, of reasonable quality, might cost as little as £90 to buy and a few hundreds to prepare the plinth mounting and the necessary alignment.. The vulnerability of the site suggested that the potential for vandalism was fairly high; however, it would restore the original feature from 1942 and, it the dial was wrenched or damaged in some way, it could be replaced reasonably cheaply.

The plinth which has Tudor roses carved around the top seemed to be of a different stone to the memorial plaque and it was suggested some research be undertaken into its origins and that of the sundial. They both might be come from a much older features elsewhere, in particular the sundial, having been placed there in war-time when metal would have been needed for other purposes. Either way, it would need to have a similar treatment to that proposed for the plaque to remove the remains of a graffiti attack last year.
Last Updated: 15th-May-2007 01:59 Print
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