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400-year-old

London Sundial,1625

Before clocks arrived in England, sundials were being used to tell the time. However, even after the arrival of early clocks, sundials were still very important during the 16th and 17th centuries because the earliest domestic clocks prior to the invention of the pendulum were not always accurate, and so domestic clocks had to be reset regularly using sundials as a reference. The earliest lantern clock makers would often sell their clocks accompanied by a small brass sundial that was made by the clockmaker himself, or alternatively, for some of the more prestigious London clocks and wealthier clients, the sundial could have been made by a Mathematical Instrument Maker - Just like the wonderfully interesting  example shown below which is signed E.C’ and dated 1625. This fascinating early dial is the subject of my article and is illustrated alongside historically important events that happened during the year of 1625 which turned out to be one of the most historically important years in the history of the British monarchy. Also revealed is the identity of the sundial’s possible London maker who was living and working during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in the late sixteenth century.

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The extremely rare early seventeenth century brass sundial shown here is particularly interesting and is a wonderfully original example. Made during what would turn out to be one of the most historically important years in the history of the English monarchy, the dial is both exciting and mysterious. And it is about this 400-year-old timepiece with its fascinating historic links that is the subject of my article, which is discussed and fully illustrated below.

This horizontal dial is comprised of a thin brass scale plate measuring four and a half inches square with securing holes at each corner, the central plate is engraved with a roman numeral scale around the outer circumference with hour division lines terminating to decreasing circles motifs to the centre. The South point of the scale is also engraved with the initials EC and the date 1625 with the North point behind the gnomon provided with a cross pattee, a Christian cross motif more recently associated with the German iron cross but used in abundance since medieval times. The centre is provided with its original, thin brass knife-edge gnomon with fringed back edge which is secured through the centre of the dial.

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Above. Showing an angled view of the E.C,1625 dial. Private collection, Photographed by Lee Borrett.

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Above. The South point of the scale is engraved with the initials E.C and the date 1625The centre is provided with its original, thin knife-edge brass gnomon with fringed back edge which is secured through the centre of the dial. Private collection, Photographed by Lee Borrett.

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Above. Showing a close-up of the deeply engraved signature and date. E.C, 1625.  Private collection, Photographed by Lee Borrett.

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Above. The early 4.5-inch square brass sundial with the North point behind the gnomon provided with a deeply engraved cross pattee, Private collection, Photographed by Lee Borrett.

Below. Showing a close-up of the deeply engraved cross pattee with no-noon gap, a feature often seen on early clockmaker sundials. Private collection, Photographed by Lee Borrett.

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Below. Showing a close-up of a 3.5-inch square brass sundial that was made by clockmaker Deodatus Threlkeld. Threlkeld, probably supplied the dial along with a clock that he had made for a customer. Again - typically for early clockmaker sundials, it also has a cross pattee for noon with no noon gap.  Private collection, Photographed by Lee Borrett.

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Below Showing a rear view of the E.C,1625 sundial. Note the original gnomon rivets are still in place. Private collection, Photograph Lee Borrett.

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Who is the early 17th 

Maker E.C ?

Quite often, antique sundials that appear on the market are anonymous but these can sometimes be safely attributed to a certain maker from the style of its engraving, gnomon, and approximate date of making. Fortunately for this dial, it has been signed and dated, however, the identity of E.C remains a mystery even after being featured by John Davis in the June 2020 edition of The Sundial Society’s monthly publication to help find out the makers identity. The E.C mark might immediately lead one to consider the name of Edmund Culpeper as the manufacturer for this rare and early example, but his working dates are clearly misaligned. Although it has not been established exactly who these initials relate to, there are other extant examples which are similarly signed including an example dated 1642 (with later gnomon). The fact that there are other known examples, points to E.C being the actual maker of the dial rather than the first owner. Hopefully by showing the sundial on this website, someone will come forward with further information and help solve the mystery of this elusive, maker. If you have any information that would help, please Contact Lee Borrett.

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Above. John Davis featured the E.C,1625 sundial, alongside another early example signed E.C,1642 in the June 2020 edition of The British Sundial Society’s monthly publication in a bid to help find out the makers identity. BSS Bulletin Volume 32(ii) June 2020

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Above and Below Showing colour views of the early E.C brass sundial dated1625. Private collection, Photograph Lee Borrett.

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Below. Showing another very interesting early brass sundial, made by Clockmaker William Bowyer in 1730 for John Endecott of Salem, Massachusetts, governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony. The thin knife-edge gnomon with a fringed back edge is typical of dials this early period. Note how similar in design the Bowyer sundial is to the slightly earlier E.C, 1625 dial (shown above). Image, Alamy.com

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Summary

This E.C, 1625 sundial is shrouded in a wonderfully interesting and fabulous historical background dating back 400-years-ago and has a great patina with near prefect definition remaining to the engraving. Measuring only 4.5-inches square, it would have been a very useful instrument to own in the early 17th century including re-setting the clocks of the house. Being lightweight in construction, it would have also been used on journeys away from home including travelling on foot or by horseback and would have been mounted on a small wooden plinth. 

Historically Important

Events of 1625 

Signed E.C and dated 1625, this sundial was made during the same year as when the King of England, Scotland and Ireland, James VI and I, died on the 27th of March 1625 and was succeeded to the throne by his second son, Charles I. On 1st May 1625 Charles I married Henrietta Maria, daughter of the King of France, by proxy at Notre Dame and in person at Canterbury the following month. This succession would eventually have devastating consequences throughout the entire land as an unpopular King Charles would go on to steer England into a brutal and bloody civil war which ultimately lead to his own death when he was executed outside the banqueting hall in Whitehall on the 30th January 1649.

Acknowledgement

This enormously scarce, small sundial was first discovered and brought to light by Scientific Instrument Dealer, Jason Clarke. I would like to thank Jason for allowing me to use his own previously published material about the E.C, 1625, sundial for this website.

Below

Further Reading

James VI and I

James VI and I was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and a great-great-grandson of Henry VII. He was King of Scotland as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the Scottish and English crowns on 24 March. In 1603, he succeeded his cousin Elizabeth I, the last Tudor monarch of England and Ireland, who died childless. He continued to reign in all three kingdoms for 22 years, a period known as the Jacobean era, until his death in 1625. 

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King James VI and I (James Charles Stuart; 19 June 1566 – 27 March 1625) Paul van Somer I, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons 

Charles I

Charles I (19 November 1600 – 30 January 1649) was King of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles was born into the

the House of Stuart as the second son of King James VI of Scotland, but after his father inherited the English throne in 1603, he moved to England, where he spent much of the rest of his life. He became heir apparent to the kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland in 1612 upon the death of his elder brother, Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales.

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Charles, Duke of York and Albany. The future Charles I of England is dressed the robes of the Order of the Garter. Later inscription " CHARLES DUKE OF YORK And ALBANY. Afterwards CHARLES The First KING OF GREAT BRITAIN". Robert Peake the elder, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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Above. Portrait of a young King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland.  Gerard van Honthorst, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

An unsuccessful and unpopular attempt to marry Charles to Infanta Maria Anna of Spain culminated in an eight-month visit to Spain in 1623 that demonstrated the futility of the marriage negotiation. Two years later, in 1625 shortly after his accession, he married Henrietta Maria of France.

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Charles handing a laurel wreath to Henrietta Maria, by Daniël Mijtens. They were married in 1625. Daniël Mijtens, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

On 1st May 1625 Charles I married Henrietta Maria, daughter of the King of France, by proxy at Notre Dame and in person at Canterbury the following month. Three of their children are buried in a vault in the south aisle of the Abbey's Lady Chapel - Mary Princess of Orange, Charles (born and died 1629) and Anne (1637-1640). Their second son succeeded as Charles II (buried in the Stuart vault) and his brother succeeded him as James II.

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Above. Henrietta Maria and King Charles I with Charles, Prince of Wales, and Princess Mary, painted by Anthony van Dyck, 1633. The greyhound symbolises the marital fidelity between Charles and Henrietta Maria Anthony van Dyck, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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Above. Portrait of King Charles I in his robes of state, 1636. Follower of Anthony van Dyck, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A brief account of the

English Civil War

(1642-1751)

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The English Civil War stemmed from conflict between Charles I and Parliament. The king believed in his divine right to govern without interference from Parliament, and it was this conceit and arrogance that would eventually lead to his execution. In 1642, after an abortive attempt to arrest five of his biggest critics on charges of treason, even Charles realised that things had broken down between the crown and Parliament. A week later, he left London for Oxford to raise an army to fight Parliament for control of England. A civil war was inevitable.

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Above. Charles I, King Charles of Great Britain and Ireland from 1625. In1642 he left London for Oxford to raise an army to fight Parliament for control of England. Image Alamy.com

Below. Lieutenant-General Oliver Cromwell was a Parliamentary commander during the British Civil Wars and later became Lord Protector. Image from Shutterstock.com

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Below. Lieutenant-General Oliver Cromwell was a Parliamentary commander during the British Civil Wars and later became Lord Protector. Image from Shutterstock.com

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Below. Battle of Edge Hill, Warwickshire, 23 October 1642, the first pitched battle of the English Civil War. Prince Rupert leading the Royalist cavalry against the Parliamentary force. The Battle was indecisive Early 20th century illustration. Alamy.com

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After the first, indecisive battle of Edgehill in 1642 the King resumed his march on London, but was not strong enough to overcome the defending militia before Essex's army could reinforce them. Oliver Cromwell felt that a professional army would be more successful against the king, and the “New Model Army”, which would become a military unit that transformed the subsequent battles, was formed. 

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Above. Oliver Cromwell  formed  “New Model Army”after battle of Edgehill in 1642. Image from Shutterstock.com

The inconclusive result of the Battle of Edgehill prevented either faction from gaining a quick victory in the war and many battles followed. After his defeat at the Battle of Naseby in 1645 at the hands of the Parliamentarian New Model Army, Charles fled North from his base at Oxford. Charles surrendered to a Scottish force and after lengthy negotiations between the English and Scottish parliaments he was handed over to the Long Parliament in London. The civil war continued and in 1646 Charles was imprisoned by Cromwell and put under house arrest in the old Tudor royal apartments at Hampton Court Palace (pictured), from where he famously escaped. He was soon recaptured and kept prisoner at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight, where he was well-treated.

The Trial of

King Charles I, 1649

After seven long years of a ferocious and unrelenting war which sent terror and destruction throughout the whole country King Charles I was put on trial for treason and found guilty. He was executed on Tuesday 30th January 1649 outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall, and it has been said that he faced his death with courage and dignity.

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Above. CHARLES I ON TRIAL. King Charles I of England (seated alone just before center) on trial before a specially constituted high court of justice in Westminster Hall on 20th January 1649. Colored English engraving, 1684. Alamy.com

Below. A closer view of King Charles I, during his Trial in January 1649 - English Civil War, 1642–1651. He was found guilty of Treason. Alamy.com

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Death Warrant

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Above. The 1649 death warrant of king Charles I, 29th January 1649. This is a copy of one of the most important documents in English history - The official order for the execution of King Charles I. Oliver Cromwell's signature is highlighted bottom left. Alamy.com

The Execution of

King Charles I,1649

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Above. King Charles I was executed on Tuesday 30th January 1649 outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall, and it has been said that he faced his death with courage and dignity. Image by Alamy.com

The Human Cost

During The English Civil War

To Both Soldiers and Civilians

Raising and maintaining an army was not without problems; for almost all human history, apart from the obvious dangers of warfare, the biggest toll of human life in war was taken by infectious diseases. During the conflict, historians believe that some 180,000 people died, but only 85,000 from combat – the rest were due to accidents and disease. So, although the actual death toll on the field might have been low, without modern medical care it was quite easy for wounds that were received during a battle to become infected, leading to blood poisoning and gangrene, which must have been a horrible way to die without antibiotics, anaesthetics or painkillers. Some examples include Lt-Colonel Anthony Fane, a dragoon commander at the storming of Farnham Castle in Surrey “shot through the cheek(s), whereof he died a few days later”. The cause of the fatalities was probably the result of fragments of dirty cloth being driven deep into a wound, either beyond the reach of the surgeons’ instruments or, more likely, being left there to fester. Lt-Colonel Johnson of the Basing House garrison in Hampshire “shot in the shoulder whereby contracting a fever, he died a fortnight after”.

Below. Oliver Cromwell in action with his 'New Model Army' at the Siege of Basing House  - Crofts Ernest - British School - 19th Century. Alamy.com

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Below. Showing a genuine English Civil War Cannon Ball mounted on its original oak base from the 2nd Siege of Basing House in 1643.   Photograph by Lee Borrett

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Camp Life and Training

In truth, thanks to poor supplies and little in the way of logistics, you were lucky if you got to the battlefield in the first place; the cramped conditions and lack of personal hygiene of the camps were a breeding ground for dysentery or cholera, scarlet fever, typhoid, plague, or diseases transmitted from person to person via lice (or even venereal diseases for the less-than-righteous soldier). Certainly, the name “camp fever” is synonymous with typhus and arose from the affinity of the disease for these types of conditions. Life in an army camp during training was not easy.

Another problem, peculiar to the marshy, waterlogged fens and to lowland areas of Somerset, Kent and Essex, was that of malaria. Well-documented examples are difficult to come by, although frequent references to “ague” or recurrent fever are highly suggestive of malaria. Certainly Cromwell, himself a “fenman”, showed evidence of having this infection for most of his life and it was probably the cause of his death. References to quartan fevers in the 17th and 18th centuries suggest that this was caused by P malariae. Thomas Sydenham (1624–89), a leading 17th century English physician, wrote in Observationes Medicae in 1676 that “anyone dwelling in the locality of marshes and lakes became impressed with a certain miasma which produces a quartan ague”. 

Another contributory factor would have been the uncertain nature of the daily diet and the vagaries of the weather. Accounts from soldiers in Holles’ Regiment of Foot (a Parliamentarian regiment that was recruited predominantly from London apprentices serving in the butchering and dyeing trades) describe how in the summer months, for lack of other sustenance, the marching troops “drank stinking water”, sometimes scooping it from the shallow indentations left by horse hooves! The soldiers were regularly soaked to the skin, and unable to dry their clothing adequately which would become filthy and often infested with lice – soldiers noted that when stripping the corpse of a Royalist drummer they found it to be “very lowsey”. As a result of this, wounds frequently became infected, often with fatal consequences. 

The privations endured during the winter months must have also produced a considerable number of cases of sickness, due to the extremes of cold, continual exposure to wet clothing and footwear, and the debilitating effects of an inadequate diet. Pneumonia and bronchitis must have been an ever-present hazard, while tuberculosis would have exacted an annual toll of deaths. The low resistance to infection engendered by the poor diet, incipient vitamin deficiencies – especially scurvy – and the climatic rigours to which troops were exposed compounded this problem.

Besieged Towns

Civilians also suffered the ravages of the conflicts. Royalists and Parliamentarians were constantly trying to impress men into their armies. Both sides took horses, food and other supplies for their armies. They forced people to provide free food and shelter to whichever troops turned up in their farm, village or town. In desperation, some areas formed their own militia to keep the Royalists and Parliamentarians away from their homes. There were severe outbreaks of plague in several towns and cities in England and Wales, especially during 1644 and, to a lesser extent, 1645.

Of course, plague had existed in England as an endemic disease for about 400 years, enlivened by periodic epidemics and occasional spectacular pandemic, the best known of which is the Great Plague of London in 1666. Outbreaks also occurred if the rat fleas (Xenopsylla cheopis) were transported in bales of woollen and other cloths from one town to another. This mode of transmission accounted for the characteristic sudden and sporadic outbreaks of plague in apparently unconnected locations. But generally, the largely open nature of the civil wars, with relatively few prolonged sieges, mitigated against plague as a major threat to troops who could, if they were aware of the presence of the disease in a town, avoid it. 

Person-to-person infection with typhus, however, was a different matter entirely. The pattern and symptoms of the fever that decimated the Earl of Essex’s Army at Reading in 1643, suggests typhus. Likewise, Sir William Waller's successful siege of Chichester in early 1644 was also followed by an outbreak of typhus amongst the garrison. Other serious outbreaks in 1644 occurred in several towns in the west country, particularly Tiverton in Devon, which was occupied for periods of time by Royalist and Parliamentarian armies in turn. 

Other important “siege diseases” were smallpox and measles. The garrison of Basing House in Hampshire suffered from an outbreak of the former in 1644 at the height of the 19-week long siege. It should be remembered that the species of smallpox prevalent in England at this time was the milder European version known as alastrim (Variola minor), and not the more virulent Asiatic form which replaced it. Otherwise, the siege of Basing House would have ended abruptly with the death of most of the besieged. Similar outbreaks of a disease that disfigured rather than dealt death occurred in the Oxford garrisons during 1644, and no doubt among many other unrecorded towns and villages as well. 

Conclusion

Civilians also suffered the ravages of the conflicts. Royalists and Parliamentarians were constantly trying to impress men into their armies. Both sides took horses, food and other supplies for their armies. They forced people to provide free food and shelter to whichever troops turned up in their farm, village or town. In desperation, some areas formed their own militia to keep the Royalists and Parliamentarians away from their homes. There were severe outbreaks of plague in several towns and cities in England and Wales, especially during 1644 and, to a lesser extent, 1645.

Of course, plague had existed in England as an endemic disease for about 400 years, enlivened by periodic epidemics and occasional spectacular pandemic, the best known of which is the Great Plague of London in 1666. Outbreaks also occurred if the rat fleas (Xenopsylla cheopis) were transported in bales of woollen and other cloths from one town to another. This mode of transmission accounted for the characteristic sudden and sporadic outbreaks of plague in apparently unconnected locations. But generally, the largely open nature of the civil wars, with relatively few prolonged sieges, mitigated against plague as a major threat to troops who could, if they were aware of the presence of the disease in a town, avoid it. 

Person-to-person infection with typhus, however, was a different matter entirely. The pattern and symptoms of the fever that decimated the Earl of Essex’s Army at Reading in 1643, suggests typhus. Likewise, Sir William Waller's successful siege of Chichester in early 1644 was also followed by an outbreak of typhus amongst the garrison. Other serious outbreaks in 1644 occurred in several towns in the west country, particularly Tiverton in Devon, which was occupied for periods of time by Royalist and Parliamentarian armies in turn. 

Other important “siege diseases” were smallpox and measles. The garrison of Basing House in Hampshire suffered from an outbreak of the former in 1644 at the height of the 19-week long siege. It should be remembered that the species of smallpox prevalent in England at this time was the milder European version known as alastrim (Variola minor), and not the more virulent Asiatic form which replaced it. Otherwise, the siege of Basing House would have ended abruptly with the death of most of the besieged. Similar outbreaks of a disease that disfigured rather than dealt death occurred in the Oxford garrisons during 1644, and no doubt among many other unrecorded towns and villages as well. 

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank the following for providing me with maps, images and for allowing me to use any previously published material for this article.

John Fawkes who allowed me to use material from his wonderfully historical website www.britishbattles.com  with regards to the Storming of Bristol in 1643.

Dr Stephen Mortlock who allowed me to use all of his material from his own wonderfully written article published on 1st June 2017 entitled ‘DEATH AND DISEASE IN THE ENGLISH CIVIL WAR'.

Interestingly, Dr Stephen Mortlock's ancestor was Rupert Mortlock who commanded a unit in the Earl of Essex's army during the Battle of Newbury in 1643.

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