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Pilkington and Gibbs heliochronometer

On 8th May 1906 George James Gibbs was granted a patent on a mechanical ‘universal’ equinoctial meantime sundial.
Mr Gibbs went into partnership with a William Renard Pilkington to form Messrs Pilkington & Gibbs of Ribble Bank Mills, Preston Lancashire and to produce the heliochronometer. Gibbs therefore provided the idea, Pilkington the finance. The partnership was subsequently dissolved and the last one made around 1914.
It is thought that no more than 1000 were produced, each having an individual serial number. Few have been traced. It is known that one similar to Bodnant’s was presented to Admiral Peary prior to his polar expedition in 1910. They cost 10 guineas (£10.50) and were considered an expensive item. In today’s terms this equates to around £8000.
To use, the small inner date circle is turned to indicate today’s date. This action moves the upper vane left or right the correct amount to compensate for the equation of time.
Next rotate the larger outer discus until the sun shines through one of the pinholes on the upper vane and the spot of light is centred in the vertical line on the lower vane. The time is then indicated on the time scale on the right hand side and is accurate to one minute. Unfortunately with use over time the minute scale has been worn away. It is therefore left to judgement as to how far down the scale the minute of the hour is.
The heliochronometer requires positioning in line with due north to align with Greenwich Mean Time. On resiting on the Rose Terrace however a small error was made with the result that the dial is approximately 15 minutes slow!
The large outer disc depicts points of interest in the area and was made by J H Steward of 66 The Strand London.
The base is marble and was restored in 2006. The total weight exceeds 1.25 tons.
by Richard Hoare

Created: Fri, 8 Mar 2013, Updated: Fri, 8 Mar 2013


2 images use this description:

SH8072 : 'The sun has got his hat on today' by Richard Hoare
SH8072 : Pilkington and Gibbs heliochronometer by Richard Hoare


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