Strawberries in the shade... Sundial used for growing fruit could bring $16,000

A Scottish sundial boss discovered half-buried in the ground in Herfordshire, England, and then used by the owner to grow strawberries, is expected to realise between £7,000 and £10,000 when it is auctioned as part of Christie's Travel, Science and Natural History sale in London on 6 April 2011.

The sundial, scientifically referred to as a stone polyhedral dial, will be sold alongside over 200 objects, instruments, globes and illustrations from the Golden Age of Colonial Exploration in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries and includes scientific discoveries made during the Age of the Enlightenment; estimates range from £300 to £30,000.

Discovered in 1974, the rare sundial boss illustrated right was found half-buried in the ground at Walton Lodge, Great Amwell. The then resident of the Lodge dug it up andrescued it, displaying it as an object of intrigue in the garden and successfully growing strawberries in the semi-spherical hollows, the scaphe dials.

Stone sundial
For long days and big strawberries: the stone sundial part

The dial accompanied the owner on several house moves, and after a chance encounter with a sundial enthusiast, the boss has now been recognised - after analysis of the dial projections - as a rare type that would have originally been located just south of Edinburgh circa 1630-1730.

It is one of only three known examples to have come onto the market in the last twenty years.

From the find location, in Hertfordshire, it can be deduced that the sundial was probably brought to Walton Lodge by one time resident the Mylne family. Robert Mylne (1633-1710) was the last Master Mason to the Crown of Scotland, and his uncle John Mylne (1611-1667) was responsible for the earliest dated dial of this type at Drummond Castle (1630).

Originally having formed the central section of a much larger piece of scientific garden statuary similar to the example at Mountstuart gardens on the Isle of Bute, the location of the remainder of the dial is unknown.


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