Sundial design - the work of Piers Nicholson



I first got interested in sundials in the 1970s. For a long time it was just a hobby, making a few painted wooden sundials formyself and some of my friends. One of them told me about the British Sundial Society, and I suggested at an Annual General Meeting that an Award Scheme should be set up, and was invited to join the Council to set up the first one.

Later, I became interested in the Internet in connection with my job, and set up Sundials on the Internet, which has since become one of the leading information sites on sundials.

One of my other interests is cycling, and in the early 90s I rode on 2 of the trailblazing rides of Sustrams, a cycling charity in the UK which subsequently got a large National Lottery grant to build the National Cycle Network. They asked their supporters whether they had any special skills, and I told them of my sundial interests, and was asked to design a sundial for the Witham cycle path from Lincoln to Washingborough. This was my first public sundial commission, and was a very interesting project, carried out under very adverse weather conditions.

1999 was a very special year - I was asked to design a large sundial for the City of London, and I had the idea for an innovation in the design of horizontal sundials.

The Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers is one of the ancient City of London livery companies, with a history going back over 500 years. They wanted to give a present to the City of London to mark the Millennium. I designed a polar sundial standing on a plinth of exactly 2,000 bricks. It is located on the riverside walkway (Paul's Walk) outside the City of London Boys School and very near to the Millennium Footbridge In the top picture on this page, you can actually see the sundial as a small grey rectanngle just above the river wall on the right margin of the picture

Also in 1999, my wife kindly took me on a bus tour of Guatemala. We had a certain amount of time hanging round bus stations with not much to do, so I thought about a question which comes up in the British Sundial Society from time to time "Why are garden sundials so awful and what on earth can be done to improve them"<

One of the big problems for people buying a sundial is "How to set them up correctly". My idea was to make this part of the process easy, by annaging a slotted gnomon to cast the shadow. When the sun is directly overhead at noontime, a line of light will shine through the slit for a few minutes. Then, all you need to know is the exact time of noon at your location. It was fairly simple to produce a website to give you this information for every day of the year for a given latitude and longitude.

It took two years to get the first brass Spot-On Sundial into production. They are now made to my design in India, imported in bulk into the UK, and sold from there all over world. In 2004, we produced two larger brass sundials, one for the Bicentenary of the Royal Horticultual Society. We also produced a small polar dial, repeating the design of the Blackfridary sundial on a smaller scale.

More recently, we have produced Spot-On Sundials in stainless steel. . These have proved very popular for the larger garden, for schools and for public open spaces.

The latest project, which we hope to show at the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2006, is called the Skywheel - more details later.
visitors to this website since 1 June 2001 - Website extensively revised in May 2006