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Sundial at Moyvalley Hotel and Golf Resort. Co.Kildare

Pilkington & Gibbs Helio-Chronometer Moyvalley Hotel, Co.Kildare

A Pilkington & Gibbs Helio-Chronometer after restoration.

Until the latter part of the 19th century, time was normally determined in each town by a local sundial. The rapid spread of the railway network in Britain led to “Railway” time being adopted in an 1880 Act of Parliament as “Greenwich” standard clock time. This led to a real need for a simple, accurate, method of converting local sundial time to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). One solution to this problem was the invention of a manually operated precision sundial which, by the means of an ‘Equation of Time’ cam mechanism, could display GMT. ( Click here for info on the Equation of Time ) It was called the ‘Helio-Chronometer’ by its inventor, George James Gibbs, and he was granted a patent for it in 1907. Gibbs did not have the money to set up in business on his own, so went into partnership with William Renard Pilkington to manufacture the ‘Pilkington & Gibbs Helio-Chronometer’ in Preston, Lancashire. When new it was accurate to within 1 minute. The relationship between Pilkington and Gibbs did not get off to a good start as the inventor, Gibbs, wanted to call the Company, "Gibbs and Pilkington", but Pilkington, the factory owner, insisted that his name should appear first. Unknown to Gibbs, Pilkington started work on an alternative design, the 'Sol Horometer', which he patented in 1912, before the outbreak of the First World War. The advent of cheap watches spelt the death knell for the Helio-Chronometer and production stopped in 1913 after about 1000 dials had been made, each stamped with a unique serial number. Only about 50 'Sol Horometers' were made, some without serial numbers. (there is a Sol Horometer in the Kiltimagh Museum) In 1924 the BBC started broadcasting a time signal which sounded the final death knell for precision sundials as essential time keeping devices. In Ireland local mean time at Dunsink Observatory outside Dublin was defined as the legal time for Ireland until 1916 when GMT was adopted. Dublin Mean Time (DMT) was 25 minutes 21 seconds later than GMT.

Rotate the dial plate until the screen vane, the one with the line on it, is at the bottom and the sight vane, the one with the holes, is at the top. The month plate is then turned to indicate today’s date. This action moves the sight vane left or right the correct amount to compensate for the Equation of Time. Next, the dial is rotated until the sun shines through one of the pinholes on the sight vane, and the spot of light is centred on the vertical line on the screen vane. The time is then indicated by the minute sector on the right hand side.

The Moyvalley Hotel and Golf Resort is located off the R148, 6km west of Enfield

Lat 53° 25' North  

Long 6° 55' West

Irish Grid   N  271520   241610

If you know the location of a sundial in Ireland (NOT a mass produced DIY Store garden ornament) please email it to me (Click here to email M.J.Harley) - a member of British Sundial Society
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