History in Structure

Craigiehall Western Sundial

A Category A Listed Building in Almond, Edinburgh

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Latitude: 55.9645 / 55°57'52"N

Longitude: -3.3375 / 3°20'14"W

OS Eastings: 316606

OS Northings: 675415

OS Grid: NT166754

Mapcode National: GBR 23.X64L

Mapcode Global: WH6SJ.PBXX

Plus Code: 9C7RXM77+Q2

Entry Name: Craigiehall Western Sundial

Listing Name: Sundials, Craigiehall, South Queensferry

Listing Date: 30 January 1981

Last Amended: 12 December 2016

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 406294

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB5559

Building Class: Cultural

ID on this website: 200406294

Location: Edinburgh

County: Edinburgh

Town: Edinburgh

Electoral Ward: Almond

Traditional County: West Lothian

Tagged with: Sundial

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A 17th century red sandstone obelisk sundial is situated to the east of the entrance elevation of Craigiehall House (NT16785 75439). This sundial sits on a wide, round stone base and consists of a square plinth, a moulded base, a globe, a 4-sided shaft capped by a polyhedron dial and a later sandstone tapered capital. The shaft is divided into 16 square panels, some of which have incised shapes. The dial above has four faces with hollowed out shapes.

An early 18th century cream sandstone, horizontal sundial is situated to the west of Craigiehall House (NT16611 75418). It dates to between 1703 and 1714 and consists of a carved, octagonal pedestal with a horizontal brass sundial plate with decorative gnomon on top. The sundial is engraved with the arms of the Marquis of Annandale, and with the inscription, 'made by England, Instrument Maker to Her Majesty at Charing X, London'.

Statement of Interest

Dating to the 17th and early 18th century and retaining some of their characteristic features, these two sundials are important surviving elements of the Craigiehall estate. The obelisk sundial is one of only 25 of this form, unique to Scotland, that survive. Situated to the front of Craigiehall house it is a striking feature in the wider landscape of the estate. The two different types of sundial at Craigiehall demonstrate the importance of decorative structures within estate landscapes. They also help our understanding of 17th and 18th century landowners interests in mathematics and timekeeping.

Age and Rarity

The first edition Ordnance Survey map, published in 1856 shows the position of two sundials to the south of Craigiehall house. It is reported by Innes (1996) that the 17th century obelisk sundial was found in 1965 in a field to the south of the house, broken into several stones and enclosed by railings. It was then restored and placed at the entrance front of Craigiehall house to the east as a focal point. Dating from the 17th century, the sundial is one of only two structures on the estate that predates the current house, which was built in 1699 by Sir William Bruce and is listed at category A (LB45432). The other early structure is the Doocot (LB5560). MacGibbon and Ross (1871) note that the obelisk was probably altered in the 18th century when it was set into its current base. The shaft of this type of sundial usually has 5 rows of intricately carved faces. This one at Craigiehall only has four, indicating that one of the rows is lost, or was embedded into the globe as part of its 18th century alteration.

The other, horizontal sundial on a carved stone base which now lies to the west of Craigiehall House can be dated by the inscription to between 1703 and 1714. John England, the maker of the sundial, was a mathematical instrument maker working at Charing Cross in the reign of Queen Anne. This sundial has also been moved into its present position, but the date of the move is not known. There is a similar sundial at Hopetoun House (LB613). Hopetoun was built at the same time as Craigiehall and shared many of the same craftsmen, including the architect Sir William Bruce.

Sundials became fashionable in country house gardens in Scotland during the 17th and 18th centuries, both as decorative structures and as time keeping devices, as the science of gnomics (or art of dialling as it was more commonly known) became increasingly popular. Horizontal dials were most common, having a single gnomon, an engraved dial with hours, and perhaps the sun's movement in the zodiac. The multi-facetted obelisk dial at Craigiehall has hours and months marked. Daniel (2008) suggests it was the particular interest in science and mathematics that Scotland exhibited during that period that made complex sundials so popular with landowners. Structures with multiple dials are found throughout Britain but obelisk shaped sundials are unique to Scotland. There are only 25 known to be in existence. Drummond Castle in Perthshire has the earliest known example, dated 1630 (LB19883, Category A).

The current Craigiehall Estate dates predominantly to the construction of Craigiehall house, completed in 1699, by Sir William Bruce for Sophia, Countess of Annandale and her husband, William, Earl of Annandale. There had been an earlier tower house on the estate which was replaced with the current house.

The Earl of Annandale's son James took over the estate in 1715. In 1741, the estate was bought by the Hope-Weir family, who were connected to the estate through the marriage of the Earl of Annandale's daughter, Lady Henrietta Johnstone to Charles Hope, 1st Earl of Hopetoun. The Hon Charles Hope (later Hope-Weir) had completed a Grand Tour of France and Italy with Robert Adam and on his return in 1754-5, had ideas for some improvement at Craigiehall, particularly in the grounds, gathered from his tour. He planted trees along the River Almond and constructed Craigiehall Temple (1759, LB26928), Craigiehall Bridge (1757, LB5563), the Grotto and Bathhouse (circa 1755-60, LB5562) and an ornamental lake, around 1760.

In 1916, Craigiehall was sold to neighbouring landowner and former prime minister, the 5th Earl of Rosebery. Rosebery had purchased the estate for his son, the Rt. Hon Neil James Archibald Primrose. Following his son's death in action just one year later, he leased out the house and policies. Craigiehall was rented first by textile merchant, James Morton in the 1920s, and then by Ernest Thomson of Edinburgh from 1933, who opened the house as the Riverside Hotel and Country Club. The house was requisitioned by the Army in 1939 and bought by them in 1951.

Architectural or Historic Interest



Plan form


Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

The stone pedestal and brass sundial plate of the horizontal dial are standard materials for a garden sundial of the 17th and 18th centuries. The decorative carving to the pedestal shows its original function as both a time keeping device and also a garden ornament.

The obelisk type sundial is usually composed of a square shaft surnounted by a rhombic polyhedron-shaped head or capital, with a tapering finial above. The shaft is commonly divided into five sections, carved on each side with many compartments hollowed out with different shapes, some having metal gnomons inserted into them. Often, the geometric shapes have etched lines which mark out the hours as the sun casts a shadow across the edge of the hollow. It is not unusual for some of the faces to have coats-of-arms carved into them, or to be left blank. The polyhedron capital usually has a number of square and triangular faces, some again with hollowed out shapes. The tapering finial sometimes had shapes carved into it, or lines across it.

The obelisk sundial at Craigiehall has some intricately hollowed out faces to the shaft and capital, but no gnomons survive. Other similar sundials have more elaborate markings and surviving gnomons, such as the sundial at Kelburn Castle (listed at category A, LB7298). The sundial at Craigiehall has been repaired, as noted above, and some of its detail has been lost. However, its survival as a 17th century obelisk sundial is rare and these structures are an important part of our understanding of the 17th and 18th century Scottish interest in mathematics and timekeeping.


Although not in their original positions, the sundials at Craigiehall are situated within the former estate policies, and are part of a group of associated estate structures which, although affected by later development primarily to the north, still informs innovative late 17th and early 18th century ideals in landscape design. The built components of the group currently include Craigiehall house (LB45432), the walled garden (LB45433), the former stable court (5561), the doocot (LB5560) and the grotto (LB5562).

Regional variations

There are no known regional variations.

Close Historical Associations

There are no known associations with a person or event of national importance at present (2016).

The 2nd Earl of Annandale, and later the Hope-Weir family are closely associated with Craigiehall.

Statutory address and listed building record revised in 2016. Previously listed as 'Craigiehall, Sundials'.

External Links

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