The Hanwell Park Project


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On Sunday April 21st 2013 I received the following email from Liz Newman:

Following up a bit of information from David Freke, we visited Hanwell church today. On the exterior wall of the south aisle, we counted a dozen scratch dials.
Early astronomers in Hanwell?

I was so intrigued that I popped over the following day and sure enough there they were scattered over the eastern end of the wall of the south aisle. In fact on my count I made the total rather higher, there were, to my reckoning, at least eighteen possibilities. In some cases whilst there was clearly a hole for a central gnomon (the sticking up bit that makes the shadow) the associated scratch marks were absent either because the surface of the ironstone had spalled away or perhaps the lighting conditions were simply not good enough to show up really faint indentations. Whatever the case I'll need to go back and record what's there systematically. Of course this could mean creeping round the churchyard in the dead of night with a very powerful torch... I'll be sure to tell folks before I attempt that. In the other cases there were between two and six scratched divisions and two examples, numbers 1 and 18  also had a scribed circle around the socket.

Scratch Dials
Wall of south aisle with annotations

The point is that whether there are are twelve or more this is a very high number. I'm nowhere near an expert but a quick look round on-line listings suggests that while it was by no means unusual to have more than one such dial this number is very unusual if not unique. What is happening here? It is certainly odd given the on-going interest in astronomy in the village but these things are generally regarded as being medieval, rudimentary time keepers to enable the priest to celebrate certain offices with regular timing, and certainly predate Sir Anthony's gift of a clock in 1671. Here are some of the highlights:

Scratch Dials
Dial 1 with scribed circle, horizontal line and four further divisions

Scratch Dials
Dials 4 and 5, both sets of lines are quite deeply cut.

Scratch Dials
From the top downwards: dials 15, 10, 14, 8, 12 , 11 and 13

Scratch Dials
Dial 18, the highest in the collection and unique in having the divisions confined to an outer circle.

Apologies for not including a scale on these photos, I also need to take my ladder next time. As ever, if anyone has any thoughts or observations on this collection please do get in touch. For anybody who wants to take this further there is a national organisation The British Sundial Society, who are keen to compile a gazeteer of all known examples. Who fancies doing the paperwork?