Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sir Francis Drake and the Unusual Sundial at his Country Estate at Buckland Abbey

We were travelling through Devon this last summer and went to visit the country estate of Sir Francis Drake at Buckland Abbey, a large manor house near Yelverton. I thought it would be fitting, given the posted theme and headline picture of this blog, to add here a description of the unusual sundial we found at the home of this great explorer.
It is unlike any other sundial I have ever seen.

Drake purchased Buckland Abbey in 1580 and lived there for fifteen years until his final voyage. The Abbey is currently administered by the National Trust. We found the sundial on the uppermost floor of the Abbey on the south western side of the building.

What you see in the picture to the left above is the stained glass window (as seen from the inside) with a map of the Atlantic Ocean showing the bordering continents of Europe, Africa, North and South America. There is also a compass rose where England is located and the hour lines for the sundial radiating out from the rose. Drake's ship the Golden Hind is depicted riding the sea along the eight o'clock line on course from Plymouth to Porto Bello where an encircled cross indicates the position of Drake's burial site. There is also a heraldic emblem and a legend. I believe it to be that of the Drake family. The metal gnomon for the sundial is located on the outside and casts its shadow onto the window which can be viewed from the inside. The reason the line for noon is not vertical is that the south western side of the building is not facing exactly to the south and so the lines are adjusted accordingly.

 The sundial commemorates the four hundredth anniversary of Drake's death (1596-1996) and was designed by Christopher Daniel and made in the studios of Goddard and Gibbs by Lord Cardross and Norman Attwood.  The undertaking was funded through the bequest of Dr. Ellinger and the Plymouth Centre of the National Trust.

I have found a reference to this sundial as sundial 10 here.