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The Ornamental Time Piece

The sundial is one of the oldest recorded scientific instruments and was utilised around the world as a measure of time for many hundreds of years, with the first official sundial reported to have been used in Rome around 293BC. While they were significant for marking the passing of time in the early days, these days we rely on mechanical watches and time pieces, rendering the historic sundial to beautifully designed stone ornaments for your garden.


A Brief History

  • A very early version of a timepiece was the Gnomon. This vertical stick measured time, based on the length of the shadow produced
  • The sundial was a development of this early timepiece, starting off simple with shadows cast from a rod onto a marked surface, indicating the time
  • Over time, sundials became more complex, based on advances in astronomy. Discovering that the Earth rotates the Sun elliptically, and our axis angle dictates the positioning of sundials and their precision
  • Sundials need to be set exactly parallel with the Earth’s access to function accurately
  • Time was based on shadows created by the sun, so they were uneven and subject to the weather
  • The first mechanical timepiece was introduced in 1300AD. The earliest surviving example of this kind of timepiece can be found in Salisbury Cathedral
  • Along with the introduction of mechanical clocks came the evenly measured hours that we now use today

The Time is Now


These days, sundials are much less commonly found around the world. When you do come across one, it is more than likely as a stone ornament in both private and public gardens. With less reliance on the sundial as a timepiece, many sundials are designed around beauty and style, as opposed to function.


If you want to keep the history alive in your garden, here at Tor Stone, we have a range of stone ornamental sundials for you to choose from, featuring beautifully crafted brass sundials, standout and standalone armillary sundials and more traditionally designed stone sundials; there is something for everyone.


While not accurate enough for use as a reliable timepiece, they make something of a centrepiece to be remembered.


For more information on our range of sundials; ornamental and otherwise, please browse our full range and contact us if you have any further questions.