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Oliver Cromwell. Image from


 Clockmakers Sundial c1650

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A rare mid-17th century anonymous 3.5 inch horizontal brass sundial  with  original gnomon. The centre of the dial is decorated with a series of concentric circles and circular arcs to form a ‘moon’ or ‘eclipse’ pattern often seen on these early rural dials. Hour lines radiate from the outer of these circles. The Roman numerals in the chapter ring (IIII-XII-VIII) are inward facing and the included angles of the Xs and Vs are quite wide. The dial does not have a noon gap which is common on early clockmakers dials.  In general, the delineation appears to be carefully done with the VI-VI line passing through origin correctly and the other early/late hour lines being co-linear with the appropriate morning/afternoon lines. The outer rings are divided to half-and quarter-hours.

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Showing the wonderfully interesting, small 3.5-inch sundial c1650. It was probably been made by a provincial clockmaker. The centre of the dial is decorated with a series of concentric circles and circular arcs to form a ‘moon’ or ‘eclipse’ pattern. Private collection, Photographed by Lee Borrett.

This sundial was made in around the year 1650 and interestingly in September of that year and during the Third English Civil War, in the Battle of Dunbar, Parliamentarian forces under Oliver Cromwell's 'New Model Army' defeated the Scottish army, commanded by David Leslie. It was the first major battle of the 1650 invasion of Scotland, which was triggered by Scotland's acceptance of Charles II as king of Britain after the beheading of his father, Charles I in 1649

The Battle of Dunbar,

September, 1650


Above.  Above. Oliver Cromwell (25 April 1599 – 3 September 1658).

Before dawn on 3 September the English launched a surprise attack on the Scots, who were poorly prepared. The fighting was restricted to the north-eastern flank with the main contingents of English and Scottish cavalry fighting inconclusively, as did the English and Scottish infantry. Due to the terrain Leslie was unable to reinforce the fighting, while Cromwell used his last reserve to outflank the Scots. The Scottish cavalry broke and routed; the Scottish infantry made a fighting retreat but suffered heavy casualties. Between 300 and 500 Scots were killed, approximately 1,000 wounded and at least 6,000 were taken prisoner from an army of 12,500 or fewer.


Above. The Battle of Dunbar happened on 3 September 1650.

Image Andrew Carrick Gow, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

 The Sundial

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Above.  Showing the rare mid-17th century anonymous 3.5-inch horizontal brass clockmakers sundial with original gnomon.Private collection, Photographed by Lee Borrett. 

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Above. Showing an overhead view of the small 3.5-inch clockmakers sundial c1650. The centre of the dial is decorated with a series of concentric circles and circular arcs to form a ‘moon’ or ‘eclipse’ pattern.  Private collection, Photographed by Lee Borrett.

Below.  Showing another view of the sundial with its original gnomon. It has probably been made by a provincial clockmaker who would have supplied it along with a clock to one of his customers. Private collection, Photographed by Lee Borrett.

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Below  Showing the back of dial with two untouched brass fixings securing the gnomon - almost 400 years after the clockmaker riveted them in place.  Private Collection, Photographed by Lee Borrett.

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This sundial, which is English in design, was probably made by a provincial clockmaker who would have supplied it to the first owner along with a balance wheel lantern clock and the dial would have been used to reset the clocks correct time. Originally, it would have been mounted on a small wooden plinth. Being mobile the dial could be used both inside and outside the house and would have been a very useful instrument. The low angle of 48 degrees means that it would of had variations of around 15 minutes of true local solar time. However, if properly aligned to true south, the dial would  certainly have been capable of indicating solar noon  and therefore  be enough to set  the correct time (at noon) for the balance wheel lantern clocks of the day. Dating from around c1650, it is a very rare survivor!

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