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The Test Valley Sundial Trail

by Peter Ransom
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This sundial trail was kindly written for your enjoyment by Peter Ransom.
It was one of the entries in the Sundial Trails Competition 2000.
For a complete list of sundial trails worldwide, and details of the 2001 competition,
see our sunlist.htm page


The River Test flows south from Andover to Southampton. It is probably more famous for its trout than its sundials, but this sundial safari gives you the chance to explore the Test Valley (see map) and its wide variety of sundials. Romsey is a pleasant market town with plenty of charm and history. Its Abbey was sold to the local population by Henry VIII and so escaped his pillaging. Andover (as well as Romsey) goes back to prehsitoric times, but, being larger than Romsey, is slightly more commercialised. A canal was built from Andover to Southampton via Romsey in the 18th century.

Food and drink can be found without any trouble at Romsey, Stockbridge and Andover.

Test Valley is rich in sundials. This trail describes a safari of sundials that can be seen either from the road, or are in public places (Mottisfont Abbey is National Trust). There is a wide variety of sundials that span the last millennium, from an 11th century mass dial on Romsey Abbey to the Walking Man statue of the 21st century in Andover.

Sundials in Romsey     Street map

1 Start in the War Memorial Park. Here is an equatorial sundial in enamelled and stainless steel by Richard Bent. Set up in October 1998 it has the motto For the sun which never sets with dots to mark the half hours. Spend some time looking at the war memorial, Japanese field gun and poems.

2 On 23 The Abbey there is a vertical sundial that declines to the east of south. Built in the 1930ís by a London coppersmith who ĎDrank by day and hammered by night.í it has the motto Docet Umbra (The shadow teaches).

3 The mass dial on the Abbey is not easy to find! It is about 4 metres up on the north face of the southern east buttress. An early case of recycling as the dial is 11th century in appearance, and was probably facing south on the chancel that was demolished in the 13th century.

4 A 10 minute walk takes you to 16 Southampton Road. This wooden dial, made by the owner, is modelled an a German dial. It has the motto Tempus Fugit (Time flies), but donít trust the time on this dial: although visually attractive the gnomon does not point in the correct direction.

Sundials between Romsey and Andover

At St. Andrewís Church in Timsbury there is a small scratch dial on the south of the south-east angle of the chancel. It is 140 cm from the ground. In the churchyard there is a horizontal dial. In the rose garden at Mottisfont Abbey there is a modern armillary sphere in blue and gold.
On St Peter and St Paulís Church at Kingís Somborne there are three scratch dials on the window jambs of the third window from the west. Theses are all inverted, perhaps due to the jambs being swapped over when the church was Ďrestoredí in the 1880s.

Stockbridge boasts three dials. There is a horizontal one in the old St. Peterís Churchyard with a possible scratch dial on the north jamb of the west door. On the new St. Peterís there is a possible Saxon dial on the west end of the north aisle window. This is not easy to find, and is probably a recycled stone from the old church.

Leckford has a vertical south facing dial (see picture on left) above the priestís door. Simple, but effective. Midday is marked by a cross rather than XII, probably from when the noon line was crossed. There is documentary evidence that there was a scratch dial on this church: can you find it?

On the west quoins of the nave of All Saintís Church, Upper Clatford are three dials that show progression in the dialling art. The lower scratch dial is simple, but the ones above it show a transition to the scientific dial that evolved during the 17th century. (see picture on right)






Sundials in Andover     Street map

Both the sundials at 1 and 2 were designed by William Hawkins Heath (1787-1861). The Heath family played a major part in Andoverís history, being involved in brewing, banking, wine and spirits and coal.

1 Start at 33 London Street. Here is a fine vertical dial that faces slightly west of south. Made in 1846 it has the equation of time in the form of a table and the motto Respice Finem (Look to the end).

2 Walk up London Street a few yards, and round the back of the Savoy Cinema. Here is the other dial by Heath. It also faces a similar direction, slightly the worse for wear. It was originally on Savoy House which was pulled down in 1938 for the cinema to be built. Ut Umbra sic Vita Fugit (As a shadow so doth life fly).

3 Walking Man, Andoverís new work of art was designed and made by Claire Norrington, a local artist. The east/west sundials were calculated by Peter Ransom, a mathematics teacher. On the site of Andoverís floral clock Walking Man watches over Andover with time for everyone. The sundials are longitude adjusted and show both British Summer Time and Greenwich Mean Time.






Additinal notes
Types of sundial



Scratch (or mass) dials These are small vertical sundials scratched onto stone. Often found on churches where they were used to determine the times of service. Common places to find them are on door or window jambs, often close to the ministerís door.

Horizontal dials Often seen in gardens on pedestals. The gnomon stands in a vertical plane at an angle equal to the angle of latitude (51? for Test Valley).

Vertical dials These are found on walls facing any direction, though mainly south. As they are usually large they sometimes feature interesting scientific or artistic ideas. If the dial faces direct south it will have a horizontal line indicating both 6 am and 6 pm.

Equatorial dials So called because the band that shows the hours lies in a plane parallel to that of the equator.

Armillary spheres These resemble a miniature Earth made from bands of metal. The gnomon is a rod that represents the earthís axis, and the bands include representation of the equator and celestial horizon.

Reading a sundial



Sundials are accurate scientific instruments, though at times they do not appear to show the same time as your watch! This is due to the Earthís axis being tilted, and the fact that its orbit round the Sun is not a circle, but an ellipse. This means we have to make certain adjustments to the shadow time.
  • Read the shadow time.
  • Adjust for the equation of time from the graph (kindly drawn by Patrick Powers).
  • Adjust for longitude by adding 6 minutes for Test Valley sundials.
  • Adjust for summer time by adding an hour.

Some sundials include instructions about telling the time, together with the equation of time. In a vertical sundial if the noon mark is not vertically below the gnomon, then you probably do not need to adjust for longitude. For information about The British Sundial Society contact the secretary at 4, New Wokingham Road, CROWTHORNE, Berks RG45 7NR

For a full overview of Sundials on the Internet click here
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