The history of the Green Templeton sundial

Sundial (1)

The Green Templeton College Sundial, created by the renowned British sculptor Martin Jennings, is a vertical, declining, noon-mark and mean-time dial. For those that aren’t sundial aficionados this may need a little more explanation:

  • It works by using a spot of light cast by the nodus (the gilded sun with a hole in the middle), falling upon the slate dial-plate and tracking from left to right across it.
  • It is declining because the wall it is attached to does not face due south but ‘declines’ away from the compass point
  • Noon-mark means it gives the point at which the sun at its zenith crosses the Greenwich meridian and the Oxford meridian (the vertical white line down the centre of the dial)
  • Mean-time means you can read clock-time from the dial by following the progress of the year along the figure-of-eight marking, known as an analemma or equation of time correction curve. This makes allowances for the effect of variations in the apparent motion of the sun at different times of year.

Sundial (3)The sundial also contains additional features:

  • equinoctial and solstitial declination lines crossing hoizontally, which show how the sun will track on the winter solstice (top line) , spring and autumn equinoxes (middle lines), and summer solstice (bottom line).
  • astrological symbols for the corresponding months
  • two white heraldic stars representing Venus and the Star of Texas from the College Crest
  • The title Meridies Media, meaning ‘the middle of the day’.

The sundial commemorates the bi-centenary of the Radcliffe Observatory, and was unveiled at the then-named Green college on 21 June 1995 (the summer solstice), by the Warden of the College, sir Crispin Tickell. The sculptor Martin Jennings is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Sculptors, and lives and works in Oxford. He has been commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Palace of Westminster, the University of Oxford and many other national institutions, with his work in private and public collections worldwide, including the bronze statue of Dr John Radcliffe on the south lawn of the Radcliffe Observatory at Green Templeton College.

Visit the website’s History pages to find out more about the College’s unique features.

Created: 25 February 2020