Keepers’ Corner – Real or Fake

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This rather lovely lead sundial, has a bent gnomon (pointer) and is with a marked date of 1661.

The inscription says “I only count youre sunny houres”. This is interesting as it is actually a modern fake, although the original donor to the museum did not realise it, and the writing is deliberately misspelt to make the object appear to be much older than it really is.

It was found in the grounds of a medieval monastery with other items, some of which date back over 700 years. However this sundial is probably actually 19th or 20th century in origin. There was a huge boom in fake historical items in the 19th century, as public interest grew in the past, but without much of today’s understanding of the period.

This sundial design has been copied and recopied many times, and in fact you can still find modern versions of exactly the same design for sale online today, although in brass rather than lead. Lead was a common metal for forgeries to be made from in the 19th and 20th centuries, as it is so soft, and melts very easily, so can be easily cast into moulds without the need for a specialist kiln or furnace.


Next week’s Keepers’ Corner starts off our month of journeys taking a trip down The Ridgeway.

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