A Magnificent Stone Wall Sundial; 'Feare God Obey Ye King'


Origin: English
Period: Probably Mid / Late Eighteenth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1750-90
Height: 22 inches
Width 16.5 inches
Depth: 2.75 inches
Weight: 27.3 KGS

The carved stone vertical or wall mounted Georgian period sundial with iron gnomon, marked FEARE GOD OBEY YE KING above a lion rampant and English rose with Welsh Fleur de Lys carved motifs, the outer border with Latin numerals. Verso we see the piece is signed JAMES VI I 1566 (the birth date of this Monarch).

Beautifully weathered, the stone carving is still readable but does have wear commensurate with its age and exposure to the elements. The iron gnomon is original and has some signs of oxidisation. There is one corner of loss to the lower right section and some old paint to the sides where the piece obviously had been previously positioned onto a white external wall. The date of the sundial is a rather difficult matter, what with the spurious date to the reverse, some sundials were reproduced in the twentieth century to mimic those of an older vintage, though this piece has, we believe too much quality and not enough accuracy in its carving to be a twentieth century piece with its wear to the stone commensurate with an eighteenth century period dial, the gnomon also showing that kind of wear.

Wall mounted sundials must be positioned on a south facing wall. Once positioned, one should set the dial up so that the shadow from the Gnomon is over the twelve. Fixed sundials are often adorned with a motto, as we see here, and in 1720 there are records of mottos such as ‘Now is the time to obey the King’ above a dolphins head surrounded by Fleurs de Lys.

A sundial is surely the most ancient of all scientific instruments and is the earliest known form of time keeping with the the oldest known true sundial constructed in Egypt around 1500 BC. The Romans later perfected sundials and were the first to use them in gardens whilst in the medieval and Renaissance periods far more elaborate ornate sundials appeared.

A fine survival and a quintessential part of any English country garden worth its salt.