An Interesting 19thC Cumberland Sundial

In the Western part of the Cumbrian Lake District, in the old county of Cumberland, there is an interesting sundial dating from around 1852 which was presented to Stansfield Rawson by one of his daughters. The quite dramatic octagonal sandstone pedestal with eight faux supporting columns has 'ecclesiastic' overtones and is said to have been designed by Mr. Rawson's son-in-law, the Rev. Dr. Worsley, late Master of Downing College, Cambridge.

Images taken 1991 and reproduced here courtesy of Robert Sylvester

The motto for the dial is arranged around the chamfered upper circumference and reads (in gothic script) "Our days on the earth are as a shadow, so soon passeth it away, and we are gone".

The dial plate's maker was Charles Henry Chadburn of Liverpool. The dialplate itself is of bronze though in the images here, it reflects rather more than usual. Click on any of the thumbnails for a larger view - the detail given in Robert Sylvester's images is well worth a look! The dial shows local solar time in hours , half hours, quarter hours and 5 minute marks with an outer separate scale of minutes and five minutes. A noon gap is provided to accommodate the gnomon's thickness and inside the chapter ring is a Watch Faster/Slower scale showing the Equation of Time correction for each day. Times for zero EoT are marked as at April 14th, June 15, August 31 and December 24. The inner part of the dial has an eight point compass. The maker's cartouche includes the design Latitude and the declaration that the designer was Optician to HRH Prince Albert, 77 Lord Street, Liverpool.

It is interesting (though perhaps rather pedantic) to observe that a calculation today of the Equation of Time at the time the dial was engraved indicates that the zero given on the scale for June 15th appears to be in error by up to two days. June dates for zero EoT in the period 1700-1900 range from 13th to the 14th June and never reach the 15th. Again there is a smaller one day discrepancy in the date for zero EoT in April where zero EoT is reached during the 14th of April and not the 15th as marked. One presumes these are not errors by Chadburn but rather in the tables that he had available to him and in any case they do not seriously affect the use of the dial.

Only one other Chadburn dial is known, interestingly also in Cumbria though in today's Furness region of Cumbria, which was part of Lancashire before 1974.

It is believed that CH Chadburn was an early member of the family which later branched out to found Chadburn’s Ship Telegraph Co. Ltd. Few (if any) other sundials by Chadburn are known.



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Dial images by permission of Robert Sylvester and by the Science Museum Group. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0 - No Warranty is implied by the Science Museum Group.