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Horniman Museum sundial trail

This is one of a series of sundial trailsdesigned to help visitors to find good and interesting sundials to see in areas unfamiliar to them. Follow the links for a list of our pages for other places in the complete list of Sundial Trails, divided by country.

This trail was developed bymembers of the British Sundial Society and Museum staff The Horniman is in London Road, Forest Hill, London, SE23; it has an extensive ethnographical collection, a fine collection of musical instruments, and the best collection of sundials of many different types on one site anywhere in England. So it is well worth a visit to see all these dials! A free trail leaflet is obtainable at the information desk

The sundials are set up close to the main entrance to the Museum, and in the prize-winning Horniman Gardens. You can find more pictures of these magnificent sundials on the Forest Hill community website at

Explanatory Plaque

This tells you how to obtain clock time from the time shown by the sundial. the difference is due to the tile of the earth and is irregular orbit around the sun. In summer, you also have to allow an extra hour

Stained Glass Vertical Dial

On the glass wall of the Conservatory, this dial faces slightly West of South. Designed to be read from inside, the orientation of the hour lines are the reverse of the normal wall dial (here a.m. hours are on the right and p.m. on the left). The gnomon is placed outside to project a shadow which can be read all round the centre section. The central section (12) is coloured green to represent the gardens. The outer blue panels represent the various departments of the Museum. Designer and maker: Roselyn Loftin - Delineator: David Young)

Roman Sundial

This dial has been designed and constructed by David Brown after the style of a typical Roman timepiece. Originally created for a different time system, it has been specially delineated to read the sort of hours we all use today.

Tea time dial

On a brick wall facing slightly north of west, this dial captures the summer afternoon hours and is calibrated for BST, unlike most of the other dials here. Sited by the tea garden so you can check your watch while sipping Earl Grey. Designed and erected by John Moir and David Young.

"Butterfly" Horizontal Dial

This dial was originally designed for the Sunday Express Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. (Design: Edwin Russell - Construction: Brookbrae Ltd., London)

"Spot-On" Stainless Steel Horizontal Dial

The innovative Spot-On Sundial has a narrow slit in the gnomon (which casts the shadow). This produces a "line of light" (shown in the right hand picture) for about five minutes when the sun is at its highest at noontime. This feature makes it particularly easy to align the sundial accurately to true north, and thus to read the sundial to within a minute or two. Spot-On sundials are made in a variety of sizes in stainless steel and in brass. For further details, please see

Equatorial Dial

A shapely dial of a type from which most other dials represented here are derived. Designed and made by Silas Higgon of Connoisseur Sundials.

Horniman Horizontal Dial

This dial commemorates the Centenary of the opening of the gardens to the public in 1897. The gnomon's shape derives from the Horniman "H" and the name of Horniman is written in place of the 9 and 7 hour lines (1897). This however, may escape notice, except for the few visitors who know their Morse Code! (Designed by John Moir and constructed by Ray Ashley)

Horniman Logo Double Polar Dial

A Polar dial has both the gnomon and the dial plate parallel to the earth's Polar axis. The Horniman dial is, in effect, two separate polar dials, with two gnomons and two overlapping hour scales In basing the dial on the Horniman Logo the aim was to make no changes other than the addition of the hour marks. Even the words "The Horniman Museum and Gardens" are preserved - their 27 letters rearranged to provide a motto "and hours run mad, e'en as men might". Dial Design: John Moir - Construction and Plinth Design: Richard Klose.

"Scaphe" or Bowl Sundial

The perfect inner bowl of this sundial contrasts with the disorganised, decaying appearance of the outer bowl and stem. The stem's shape was inspired by the Magnolia X soulangiana in the water garden. The bowl is part of a sphere. The gnomon sits inside this bowl and points towards the centre of the sphere. The shadow of the gnomon's tip falls on the hour lines and shows solar time. (Designed by Angela Hodgson of the St Martins School of art, delineated by Dick Andrewes)

Analemmatic Sundial

This sundial is sited with Mr. Horniman's house once stood. The gnomon is the observer who casts a shadow onto the horizontal scale. Instead of hour lines, it has an elliptical arrangement of slabs, acting as hour points. There is also a central pavement, aligned N-S, on which months are marked. By standing on the current month, you can read the time from your own shadow, which is cast on to or between the numbered slabs (see diagram). (Design: Barry Small - Construction: Horniman Gardens Staff)

Ceiling dial

This rare type of dial is in the library at the CUE building. Here,light from the sun is reflected from a small mirror to produce a light spot on a large hour scale, indicating solar time. Transverse lines in blue, red and black mark the winter and summer solstices and the two equinoxes. The dial works well except when the low midwinter sun's direct rays reduce the contrast of the reflected light spot. Dial by Ray Ashley and John Moir.