Carronhall Sundial (F5)

This obelisk sundial is an excellent example of how these status symbols were moved around a region as estates changed hands to the extent that its origin had been lost.

Illus: Photograph of the Carronhall Sundial in 1916 in the walled garden of Carronhall
Illus: Flora Sherriff’s drawing of the sundial.

As is normal for the developed obelisk type of sundial it was dated on the north side – 1716; below which were the initials W.H. and M.M.  Stevenson was puzzled by these initials as they did not match any of the owners of Carronhall.  However, we can confidently say that the sundial was originally at Letham and that the first set of initials are those of William Hamilton who bought the estate in 1716 from George, Lord Forrester.  In 1728 William Hamilton disponed Letham to Thomas Dundas including “the dwelling house of Letham… with the meal ark in the said house and sun diall standing in the garden” (John Reid notes; GD 65/174).

At around the same time, in 1725, John Drummond purchased Carronhall and set about building a country house there.  In 1734 he considered acquiring a clock for the house but wanted to know if there was already a sundial there – “if I meet with a Clock I shall send one is there a Sun dyal…” (GD24/1/495).  It would seem that there was not.  Then, in 1749 Thomas Dundas junior bought Carronhall and made it his principal residence.  He succeeded his father in Letham in 1762 and it was probably then that the sundial there was moved to Carronhall.

Letham was subsequently taken over by the Carron Company which bought the lands for the coal reserves and by the mid-nineteenth century the house was in ruins.  By coincidence Carron Company also bought Carronhall from the Dundas family in 1914 and took possession of the sundial.  It was subsequently moved to Carron Grange adjacent to the ironworks.  Stevenson, writing in 1934, says that it was then “dismantled and homeless.”  It then went missing.

A young schoolboy exploring the overgrown gardens at Mount Carron in 1989 came across an elaborately carved stone and reported it to the author at Falkirk Museum.  The stone was identified as the Carronhall sundial and with the aid of volunteers a second stone in the form of a truncated obelisk and the plinth were found.  Permission was readily given by the owners, Central Regional Council Education Department, to recover the stones.  The volunteers then carried them up the hill and loaded them into a lorry for onward transport to Falkirk Museum where they now rest.  These stones, apart from the plinth, can be seen in the attached drawing.

Illus: Measured drawings of the surviving sculptured stones of the Carronhall Sundial.

Sites & Monuments Record

Carronhall Sundial       SMR 648         NS 891 839

G.B. Bailey, 2021