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Sundial approximately 270m south of Wrest Park House

A Grade II Listed Building in Silsoe, Central Bedfordshire

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Latitude: 52.0054 / 52°0'19"N

Longitude: -0.4117 / 0°24'42"W

OS Eastings: 509121

OS Northings: 235300

OS Grid: TL091353

Mapcode National: GBR G3S.BQ5

Mapcode Global: VHFQV.TV6J

Entry Name: Sundial approximately 270m south of Wrest Park House

Listing Date: 10 January 1985

Last Amended: 18 May 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1113797

English Heritage Legacy ID: 37736

Location: Silsoe, Central Bedfordshire, MK45

County: Central Bedfordshire

Civil Parish: Silsoe

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Silsoe

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans

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A sundial and pedestal, dating from the late C17, by the architect Henry Wynne (d.1709).



DESCRIPTION: the sundial sits on an octagonal, carved and moulded marble pedestal and a simple octagonal moulded base. Above this the die swells from the bottom and is decorated to the lower part with acanthus leaves which curl over at the top. Above four ribbon ties are carved in relief and from these swags of flowers are suspended. At the top of the die is a lip and moulding and a wide cap surmounting the die with the underside decorated with carved acanthus leaf detail which curls out to the corners of the octagon. There is a narrow drip above to which is attached a separate thin piece of marble, probably later, into which the dial is set.

The plate, dial and gnomon are a fibreglass copy of the original. The particularly fine detailing at the end of the gnomon where corbel detail has been added is a feature which also occurs on another of Henry Wynne's dials formerly at Staunton Harold, Leicestershire.


Wrest Park belonged to the Grey family from the Middle Ages until the early C20. In 1651 on the death of Henry, the 10th Earl of Kent, the house stood in what remained essentially a medieval landscape, with a deer park to the north, a warren immediately to the south skirted by fishponds, and a mill pond (if not a mill) to the south-east. In 1652 Amabel, Henry’s widow, purchased the manor of Clophill and Cainho and the land immediately to the north where the present Wrest Park House stands. Part of the warren was converted into a bowling green (and remains in use as such). Her son Anthony (the 11th Earl) married Mary the daughter of Baron Lucas of Crudwell in 1662. When Mary inherited her father’s wealth in 1671, the couple, assisted by Amabel, embarked on the embellishment of the house and the formalisation of the gardens. A new and extended classical façade was built on the north side of the house, regularising its appearance, as shown in an engraving by Kip and Knyff dated 1705, and a garden termed 'The Great Court' was created on this side to provide an impressive approach.

The Wynne sundial and marble pedestal have been sited here since the beginning of the C18 and used to stand in front of the old house which has now been demolished. The original sundial plate (now replaced by a fibreglass copy) was signed by Henry Wynne and dated 1682.

William Treacher writing in 1899 (as quoted by Davies) records 'Sundial (dated 1682) on a marble pedestal and placed there by Amabel, Countess of Kent, which gives the solar times for different parts of the world. Several Latin inscriptions remind one of the flight of time, and on the gnomon are to be found the arms of Kent, Crewe and Lucas families, with this motto, 'Foy est Tout' (faith is everything)'.

Reasons for Listing

The sundial south of Wrest Park House, a structure dating from 1682, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: for its association with the architect Henry Wynne (d. 1709);
* Artistic interest: in acknowledgement of the quality of its artistic execution;
* Historic interest: for its association with Wrest at a time of intense development and deliberate upgrading of the status of the house, garden and wider landscape;
* Group Value: in recognition of its contribution to the structural and aesthetic composition of a Grade I Registered Park and Garden and its physical association with many other listed buildings.

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