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Chipping Campden Sundial Trail



Our guide for a tour of dials in this old market town is Jill Wilson, local historian and Member of the BSS Council, seen here with her own Chipping Campden dial.

'I know of seven old vertical dials in Campden High Street. From a 19th Century painting it seems that there were at least two more 150 years ago. Beyond the High Street there are another four, not counting the scratch dials on the church. All this is without counting the decorative 20th Century garden dials. If anyone can suggest why such a tiny town was so fixated on telling the time please let me know. I find it a puzzle.'

Numbers on the map are indicated in the text. NB You can click on any of the images in this sundial trail to see a larger copy.

'Let's go on a Chipping Campden Sundial Safari - Chipping Campden is an historic town - there's a Bronze Age axe, Roman roads and an alleged meeting of Saxon Kings in AD 689. Cotswold wool brought prosperity to the town in the 14th century and the Church of St James the Greater (1), where we start, was partly rebuilt then.

The south porch was added mid 14th century so the scratch dials must be from 1350 or later. The 18th Century avenue of lime trees shade the dials for most of the day. In the churchyard is a more recent dial, memorial to Henrietta Bartleet (2), wife of Canon Samuel Edwin Bartleet, author of many mottoes quoted in Mrs Gatty's 'Book of Sundials'.

Unfortunately it has lost its gnomon at some stage. The Bartleet dial was made by F. Barker & Son of Clerkenwell Road, London. We've just seen one memorial, here's another. The Wilson Garden in Leasebourne was constructed to commemorate Ernest Wilson, local born and an intrepid plant hunter. The garden contains examples of plants he found in China, Japan, Tibet and other distant places. Wilson's memorial dial (3) is a simple modern dial.

Moving to the High Street, William Grevel - a rich London wool merchant-lived in the above magnificent house at the end of the 14th Century. It is perhaps the oldest house in the High Street. We don't know if they had a dial but the house (Grevel's House) has one today (4), dated 1815.

The dial on the Campden Bookshop (5) is dated 1690 and is angled out from the wall allowing a later time in the afternoon to be shown than the other dials which, owing to the curve of the street, face more or less south-east. This bookshop dial was used to set the Town Hall clock but you cannot actually see the Town Hall from here as the Market Hall is in the way.

The next dial, walking westward along the High Street, is above a delicatessen, beside the Market Hall. The rear of the premises houses Green Dragon Furnishings (6). The house was remodelled in the 18th Century and the 1647 dial seems to have been done over. The gnomon has been reset quite in the wrong place so it doesn't even get anywhere near the right time.

Further west along the High Street is the Cotswold House Hotel (7). Built in 1815 by Richard Miles, a grocer and chandler in a fair way of business. This superb Regency building has featured in a Miss Marple TV series. There, on an outbuilding, is a delightful dial, We know Richard Miles paid for it, but who made it and who designed it?

It might have been Isaac Warner who lived at Dial House (8). A Gloucestershire clock-making dynasty, Warners moved here in the early 18th Century. Like most High Street dials their dial doesn't go beyond 3 pm. Further along, on a house called Green Dragons (9) there is a 1700 dial. The gnomon has a curl at the end and also has a nodus but again no clue why. A few doors further west, Crosby House (10) formerly Meadow Cottage, boasts the last High Street dial, date recorded as 1691.

Now walk to Westington, one of Campden's original hamlets; a small manor house (11) there has a 14th Century dovecote, the interior containing about 2000 nesting places. The dial is clearly at least a century old and can be seen by walking up Izod's Close.

Unfortunately the dial on the left above is not visible from anywhere accessible to the public. Returning to the south side of the High Street, at the rear of the Old Grammar School (12), rebuilt in 1863 is a dial high above the playground; now a car park and gardens.

Find Coldicotts Close (13). The dial plate is set correctly but the gnomon points south! Someone thought it necessary to break the dial plate to take the gnomon out and turn it round! Out of Campden a little is Blind Lane and on Dial Cottage (14) built in 1932 for Harold Pyment and then called Forty Furlong Cottage, is a dial of that date. (Pyment was a follower of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement, the cottage was in its true traditions).

Finally, Ebrington is a nearby village which has mediaeval to Millennium dials.

The church of St Eadburga has a vertical dial, unusually placed on the chancel and is nowadays shaded for many of the sunlight hours. Additionally there are some scratch dials (a) at the east end of the aisle on the south wall, some distinct, others less so and (b) inside the porch.

Recently installed by the 'Ebrington Arms' is a 'Millennium Sundial' consisting of a mosaic dial plate and a 'do-it-yourself' gnomon. (Make sure you take a walking stick with you!)

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