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Wellington sundial trail

New Zealand1 & 2 according to CNN3 is now the second best tourist destination in the world, with Wellington (New Zealand's capital city), a 'great kind of springboard' to the rest of the country. Wellington is also (according to Lonely Planet4) one of the coolest little capitals in the world.

So, armed with that background, and a chance to participate in Sundials on the Internet5 and the British Sundial Society6 Sundial Trail competition, my friend Robyn Pearce, and I, Rosaleen Robertson, created The Wellington Sundials Trail. A word for those who have never given sundials a second thought before now, whatever your interests: scientific, aesthetic, historical, keeping fit or discovery, our promise is that you will not be disappointed. You just need to give it a go. A note of caution however, the pursuit of sundials has been known to be quite infectious and you too could find yourself a committed sundialophile7 like me. And with this in mind I've provided some tips Appendix A. (Appendix A, B and C are in a separate pdf file here) Appendix B provides details of the numbered references shown in superscript.

So to get started you need to know that New Zealand (Latitude 40.00 degrees south of the Equator and Longitude 174 degrees east of Greenwich) is one of the first countries to welcome the sun and the new calendar day. Northern hemisphere visitors, who know about sundials, will immediately notice the sundial faces are back to front 'down under' 8. The gnomon (for the uninitiated, the pointer) faces north and the rising sun casts the morning time shadow off the style onto the left hand side of the face, completely opposite to northern hemisphere dial, and New Zealand observes a longish period of daylight saving9 which during our summer is one hour ahead of Greenwich mean time plus 12 hours (all up 13 hours difference). All in all we have mapped out for you a trail of twelve sundials. For ease of navigation Robyn set the trail up on an iPad using Google Maps and we've included the links for you to use (Appendix C). You can start at any one of the dials but we decided on The Frank Kitts Memorial Sundial (#1) on the city waterfront park as our hub.

It took Robyn and me seven hours to complete the trail of eleven sundial locations. We were 'going for it'; it was a Sunday (so no parking or traffic issues, but disappointingly it was raining) so we suggest giving yourself two good two-half days, unless you are in a hurry, so you may enjoy the city on foot one day, and take your time driving to the dials outside of the CBD on the other. To summarise:

Part one: six central city sundials which can be accessed either on foot or by car (driving distance approximately 8 kms).Types of sundial includes: include horizontal, vertical, analemmatic and an armillary sphere.

Part two: four surrounding sundials which are best accessed by car, a driving distance of approximately 83.5 kms. Types of sundials include equatorial and horizontal.

Part three: an additional horizontal sundial in Picton, which we couldn't resist including, just in case you are making the crossing of Cook Strait by ferry between the North and South Islands.

We trust you will really enjoy undertaking the Wellington Sundials trail as much as we have creating it; please feel free to give us your feedback by making a comment via the Sundial Association New Zealand website 10 or emailing

A bird's eye view of the Wellington Sundials Trail (acknowledgement is due to Google Maps 2011). Please access details: clickable link to a Google Map and instructions: Appendix C ref: # 0


Part one

# 1 Frank Kitts Memorial Sundial, Frank Kitts Park, Jervois Quay

Driving southward down Jervois Quay, Central Wellington, public parking is usually available under Frank Kitts Park in a Wilson car park: look past the signpost to the TSB stadium on your left and immediately before the pedestrian over-bridge. Please access details: clickable link to a Google Map and instructions: Appendix C ref: # 1

The horizontal sundial is located atop of the car park in a large waterfront park. In fact you could almost miss it as the pedestal blends with the park paving, wall and seating surrounds. Look for the landmark, a distinctive sculpture, by Paul Dibble 'fruits of the garden' facing the inner harbour, that will put you within 12m of the sundial. Located up the steps, -41.2877 +174.7791 ( iPad).


The Frank Kitts memorial sundial in Wellington NZ

The face and gnomon is bronze, Roman numerals range from 6am to 8pm, and other furniture includes an equation of time and commemorative plaque in recognition of Sir Frank Kitts11 who was the longest serving mayor in the history of Wellington. The plate rests on top of a concrete corrugated pedestal which was designed and made by Charlie Stone (a NZ stone mason and sundial maker since1986). The sundial is handsomely well proportioned; a big solid structure which is perhaps a metaphor of Sir Frank himself. It sits confidently 'at home' in an open space, clearly being well maintained by the Wellington Waterfront authority.

The sundial has been shifted from its original site (about 20m south) where it was commissioned by the Lambton Harbour Development Project in 1990.


#2 Clyde Quay Boat Harbour Reserve, Oriental Parade

Leaving Franks Kitts Park head southward for about 10 minutes along the waterfront on foot, past the rear of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa toward the boat sheds. Please access details: clickable link to Google Map and instructions: Appendix C ref: # 2.1

If driving, go along Clyde Quay take a left turn into Herd Street off Oriental Parade. Here you can park directly next to the Oriental Bay boat sheds in the Waitangi park area near the overseas terminal Caffers Marina. Please access details: clickable link to a Google Map and instructions: Appendix C ref: # 2.2

According to the iPad it is located at -41.291151+174.786178.

Clyde Quay Boat Harbour Reserve sundial in Wellington NZ The sundial pedestal is granite from the Waterloo Bridge, The Thames in London; Waterloo Bridge London was built in 1817 and demolished in 1937; the granite was presented to the Wellington City Council by the London County Council. The horizontal sundial was presented in 1940 by Andrew Fletcher, a former Harbour Board member. A matching drinking fountain was also presented with the sundial, however sadly this no longer exists; both were part of a Wellington city beautification project which Mr Fletcher was a keen supporter of. Two short newspaper articles of the day are most definitely worth a read 12 to gain more historical and astronomical information.

"Serene I stand admist the flowers to tell the passing of the hours" is the motto, chosen by Mr Fletcher, inscribed on the face of the dial. In addition to the motto the detailed bronze face plate includes an equation of time, Roman numerals from 4am to 8pm, reference to: Mr Fletcher, the sundial designers CE Adams D.Sc12 and the Wellington Harbour Board, and a number of directional markers to local and world destinations - Brisbane, Capetown, London and the Chatham Islands to name a few. The finely engraved face lends itself nicely to being the subject for a brass-rubbing (Refer to Appendix A Tips). The vandalized decorative filigreed bronze gnomon bends slightly right.

To sum up it's an elegant 'art deco'-ish sundial on a matching crazy paving surround and I think is perhaps one of the city's monumental secrets.

# 3 Logan Brown Restaurant (The National Bank of New Zealand) 192 Cuba Street

If walking head south east follow these directions: clickable link to a Google Map and instructions: Appendix C ref: # 3.1 or, if driving be mindful of the one way roading system, so follow these directions; clickable link to Google Map and instructions: Appendix C ref: # 3.2, and good luck with parking.

The location coordinates are: Latitude 41.2948 S and Longitude 174.7746 E.

Clyde Quay Boat Harbour Reserve sundial in Wellington NZA near century old wall mounted vertical sundial is a rare find in a country as young as New Zealand. In technical terms it is a north east vertical declining dial or a "north-east decliner" 12.

It could be easily missed, so after identifying the enormous red front door (now the entry to Logan Brown Restaurant, no longer The National Bank of New Zealand13 & 14), look up and you will spot the silhouette of the gnomon mounted within a moulded frame between Doric posts (alas the face has been painted out).

Missing its former detail, the sundial is crying out for restoration, but, before initiating this, I am trying to get the exact details of what the original sundial face was like. Unfortunately the original1918 plans lack the necessary detail as all that is recorded on these is an area for a "bronze plate". The building is a Category 1 Historic Place and I'm confident some early photographs will come to light.


Botanic Garden Sundials

The Botanic Garden is 25 hectares of unique landscape and home to three15 different types of sundials: analemmatic, armillary sphere and horizontal.

# 4 Sundial of Human Involvement, Carter Observatory, Botanic Garden

If on foot it is under a 20 minute walk from 192 Cuba Street to Lambton Quay and Cable Car Lane where you hop on the cable car to travel right up to the Botanic Garden. The Cable Car runs every 10 minutes and is a novel experience; you'll enjoy a panoramic view for $3.5016. Alight and walk west so you're heading toward The Carter Observatory and #4 The Sundial of Human Involvement (follow the clickable link Appendix 4.1.1).

Alternatively you could walk uphill from 192 Cuba Street to The Carter Observatory, but is a very very long steep haul of1.9km,the time will depend on your pace and level of fitness,(follow the clickable link Appendix 4.1.2).

If travelling by car you can drive to the top of the cable car, there is a parking area adjacent to The Carter Observatory (follow the clickable link Appendix 4.2).

Clyde Quay Boat Harbour Reserve sundial in Wellington NZThe Sundial of Human Involvement is outside The Carter Observatory, 40 Salamanca Road on a north facing grassed area; it is easy to find. This really is a great 'favorite', analemmatic dials such as this uses the shadow of a human observer, a human gnomon, to cast the shadow (hence the popular name 'sundial of human involvement'). The person simply stands on the engraved plaque and follows the instructions, "Stand on the date of the year. With your back to the sun and your hands together pointed above your head. Your shadow will tell local standard time."

This unusual type of horizontal sundial uses a series of fixed granite marker points which are laid out on an ellipse. The time is shown from the shadow cast as it crosses the bronze numbered hour points. This particular sundial is said to be accurate to within a few minutes and no corrections have to be made for daylight saving because the marker points are physically moved twice a year. The artist who designed and constructed this wonderful sundial (1991) is Charlie Stone (see # 1 above). The materials he used, Takaka granite, bronze, reinforced concrete and steel, have since been decorated by nature with yellow and green lichen.

The sundial was constructed to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Plimmer family in Wellington with funds provided by the Charles Plimmer Bequest. Mr Plimmer was an early settler and became a prominent businessman and significant Wellingtonian.

# 5 Centennial Sundial, Sound Shell, Botanic Garden

If walking: continue across the Botanic Gardens in a northerly direction downward to the next valley. Signposting is excellent or refer to Appendix B Reference17.

If driving: please follow the directions to 101 Glenmore Street from the clickable link to Google Maps Appendix C #5

After parking your car enter via the large Centennial Gate; orientate yourself, it is well sign-posted, and from here simply take the upward path to the sun dial at the back of the grassed area facing the Sound Shell.

Clyde Quay Boat Harbour Reserve sundial in Wellington NZ This elegant bronze armillary sphere is topped off with four perfectly balanced decorative scrolls. Other furniture includes: a bronze plaque (on crazy paving surround) which states,

"Centennial Sundial 1881 - 1991 This armillary sphere sundial was commissioned with the support of the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Wellington Historical and Early Settlers Association to commemorate one hundred years of City Council administration of the Wellington Botanic Garden". The gnomon is a simple rod with a ball at each end and a matching nodus; the Roman numeral hour scale is etched inside the equatorial ring numbering from 6am to 8pm and there is an illustrative profile of the brachyglottos hectori (native tree daisy). The position is Latitude - 41. 16 54 Longitude 174. 45 59

The dial was made by Sundials Australia, Peter Kundycki18 is recorded as the artist, and it was installed in 1992 resting on a tapered eight-sided poured pebbly concrete base.

# 6 Herb Garden Sundials, Botanic Garden

Now, retrace your steps to the Centennial Gate; re-orientate yourself and follow the signs upward to the Herb Garden, a few minutes walk and you'll be rewarded with a spectacular view looking down on the rose garden.

Clyde Quay Boat Harbour Reserve sundial in Wellington NZThe Herb Garden sundial is horizontal, the plate is set on a roughly shapen four sided slab of marble surrounded by a generous circle of old red bricks, and corresponding walkway, that extends to the end of the herb garden. The bricks, all 40,000 of them apparently 'free' from a local house demolition, were transported by volunteers as an incentive to secure funding to establish the herb garden in 1970. In addition to typical herb garden culinary and medicinal herbs, Maori medicinal plants are included as well.

A bronze plaque on the base records that in 1975 the Wellington Herb Society presented the sundial19.

The furniture includes: a replacement gnomon which is now bent, Roman numerals mark the time from 7am through to 5pm, the coordinates Latitude - 41.17 and longitude +174.47 are recorded on the plate, and there is a Latin motto, SOL EST LUX ET GLORIA MUNDI20(translated as "The sun is the light and glory of the world"). There is no maker's mark to be found.

From here retrace your steps, then walk or drive through the Rose Garden, to return to the city; an interesting steep downhill journey with lovely views. At this point you have completed half a day's sundial trail.

Part two

If you've got hooked, and hopefully you have and have the time, proceed to part two for four (or five) more sundial locations. They are all in quite different directions around the wider Wellington area.

# 7 Te Omanga Garden of Appreciation Sundial, Bracken Street, Petone

Starting out at Petone: go to the clickable link to a Google Map and instructions: Appendix C ref: # 7.1.

At the end of Bracken Street, Petone, you'll discover such a pleasant oasis, this garden is tranquil and commemorative; Te Omanga is a Hospice. The twirping native birds, lovely native trees and an abundance of flowers are reminders of life, as are the paving bricks each dedicated to someone who was appreciated and has passed.

Clyde Quay Boat Harbour Reserve sundial in Wellington NZ This one is another bronze horizontal sundial, with furniture that includes a simple and plain solid gnomon (signs of damage on the left style) an equation of time and a motto which says, " Washed by the rivers, blessed by the suns of home. Rupert Brooke, The soldier" .

About 20m away is a large marble monument to soldiers.

The sundial looks as if it is carefully balanced on a rather wide dais via an inverted 'needle point' eight sided concrete pedestal. It is positioned at Latitude -41.222801 Longitude 174.894540.

For sure it is displaying the signs of the wear and tear of time with evidence of damage, repairs and growths of mould and lichen. Something about the setting made this one of our 'favourites' and it could be a pleasant picnic stop.


The next leg is to Petone City.

# 8 Poirua City Council Sundial, Norrie and Parumoana streets

Here are the driving instructions to Poirua City: go to the clickable link to a Google Map: Appendix C ref: # 8.1

Clyde Quay Boat Harbour Reserve sundial in Wellington NZ Although this really delightful modern sundial stands about 1.5 metres high it is rather difficult to spot from a car, especially as you'll be driving around a round-about and the sundial is somewhat obscured between native flax bushes. To help make it less hard-to-find: go to the clickable link to a Google detailed Map: Appendix C ref: # 8.2.

Have a peep at what the Poirua City Council says21 the sundial is part of a bigger sculptural initiative to encourage people to walk around Parumoana Street and stop and enjoy their surroundings. It was: designed by Andrew Gray; manufactured by AE Tilleys Ltd and John Kinviq Engineering; and installed by Gavin Dench.

The sun shines through Arabic numbers onto the face which should be angled to correspond with the latitude -41.131619. There is a time mark down the middle of the face and the motto claims that "sundials are the only way to tell the time of the day". The sundial is constructed from stainless steel on an iron coated iron stand. The word 'Sundial' is cut out on both supporting sides of the stand and the back stand features a cut out sun burst pattern. It is a very skillful piece of artistic work and has a cheerful rhythm. Without any instructions (it was wet, overcast Wellington day) and no sun there was a barrier to us solving its workings, so an expert opinion was obtained:

"The outer ring has perforations which could be called aperture gnomons, and in this case each perforation is a cut-out hour. Normally the light from each hour would fall on the corresponding hour mark on the other side of the equatorial ring so that at 3pm the light from this hour cut-out will fall on 3pm on the opposite side at 3pm (local time of course).For your example the flat plate is meant to read the hour when the light falls on the central line. If you imagine the 3pm case again you will realise that were it not for the plate, the light would go across the dial to the other side of the equatorial ring. In the link, the dial is showing about 11:30 by my interpretation."22

The next and final leg of the trail is approximately 18 kms taking up to about 25 minutes to travel from Poirua to Karori and the city to two sundials.

#9 Samuel Marsden Collegiate School Sundial, Junior School, Karori

Clyde Quay Boat Harbour Reserve sundial in Wellington NZ

We obtained permission to include this private sundial in The Wellington Sundials Trail; it is absolutely essential to gain permission to visit the sundial as you will have to enter private property. Please telephone 00 64 4 476 8707 or email23 well in advance, and during the school term hours to get confirmation of permission.

For directions to find the School please access the clickable link to a Google Map Appendix C #9

Do not go up the main school steps; instead go right in the direction of Karori Road to locate the Lower School mural. Go around to the rear of the Lower School building. Here nestled in the midst of the little school children's potager is a miniature horizontal sun dial of the 'mass made' variety; it is a 'little darling' including a decorative 'brassy' gnomon and a motto in relief which says "sunny hours amongst the flowers". A plaque attached states it was "Gifted by Sophie and Anna Watson (1993 - 2004)". The school archivist said they were sisters who attended the school and daughters of Louise Longuet (nee Watson) also a former pupil and later a Board member.

# 10 Matthew Holmes Sundial, Karori Cemetery

It is a short run from Marsden Avenue to the Karori Cemetery only 0.9 km and 3 minutes drive: For directions please access the clickable link to a Google Map Appendix C # 10.

Enter the cemetery and within 200m and opposite the massive rose garden on your right you will see a set of wide formal marble steps. These are below the servicemen's burial area which is south of the Old Karori Road: go up the two steps inscribed 'lest we forget ' and across the grass, up another few steps, and there, standing alone in a grand, commanding and solitary position in an open area over-looking the graves of returned soldiers, is the large classical sundial.

The sundial comprises a slightly angled concrete base with a bronze horizontal face. On three sides of the base are molded oval wreaths and on the fourth side is an inscription:
"this sundial is in remembrance of Mathew Holmes M.D. IRCS LUVT Colonel NZMC and of his services in Samoa, Gallipoli, Sinai & France. 1914-1918."

Clyde Quay Boat Harbour Reserve sundial in Wellington NZ Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Holmes was a respected surgeon at Wellington Hospital who, along with hundreds of other Wellingtonians, was struck by the deadly influenza in 'Black November' 1918 and died aged 39. The monument was erected by his wife in 1920. The motto says Ora et labor (which means pray and work). The face is very finely and elegantly engraved; Arabic numbers range from 4am to 8pm. There is no maker's mark.

The sundial is in need of restoration; unfortunately the gnomon was missing at the time of our visit (an archival photograph24 of the gnomon should assist with any replacement initiative) and mould has made the inscription nearly impossible to read.

#11 Wellington Zoo Sundial, 200 Daniell Street, Newtown

At the time of writing this trail the CEO of the Zoo kindly wrote to advise that "the Zoo's sundial is not currently located in the visitor space - it is in the back of house area, so in its current location it is not suitable for it to be included on this trail".

On an earlier occasion (2009) and viewing, even though the sundial was 'out of commission' the following facts were noted: a large plaque "Commemorates the valuable services rendered by the Rev. John Crews JP and the Wellington Zoological Society of which he was the founder and first President."

Wellington Zoo, founded in 1909, is New Zealand's oldest zoo. A bronze face and long gnomon is mounted on a sturdy classical pillar base.

You are advised to contact the CEO25 to check if the refurbishment work has been completed and if the sundial is back in situ. These instructions will get you to the Zoo: please access the clickable Google map Appendix C # 11.

A reminder, you should also enquire what the entry fee to the Zoo is.

JPG #11 (not supplied)

Part three

And lastly, just as an extra for anyone crossing Cook Strait

# 12 Holy Trinity Church Sundial, Picton

The Holy Trinity Church sundial is located off Nelson Square, Wairoa Road, at 38 York Street, 1.4 kms and 4 minutes drive to the Picton Ferry Interislander terminal. This an antique sundial; the Historic Places Trust has 'classified' it; and their report makes fascinating reading26. Here is a descriptive excerpt:

Clyde Quay Boat Harbour Reserve sundial in Wellington NZ "An eight pointed brass compass rose adorns the centre of the dial, encircled by equation of time scales within the outer hour-ring. The hour-ring is engraved with Roman numerals from 4am to 8pm… The dial is configured for latitude of 41°17'30'' (S), and is inscribed with the signature 'Troughton & Simms, London'. It is set on a white painted octagonal pillar displaying the date… (1872) on its side in brass.27"

The motto is engraved within a ring on the face plate: Watch - Slower Watch - Faster Watch - Slower Watch - Faster .

For travelers to Wellington, you'll berth at the Wellington Ferry Terminal; it is a 2.9 km 5 minute drive to # 1 Frank Kitts Memorial Sundial. For instruction please access the clickable link to a Google Map and instructions: Appendix C ref: # 12

Here is photo taken in 1993.