The Wesley Dial

The dedication of the garden and the sundial at Charles Wesley House, Bristol on July 1 2000

The Rodhuish Gallery Singers were invited to participate in a service at the unveiling and dedication of a specially commissioned sundial in the garden of Charles Wesley's house in Charles Street in Bristol. The sundial was designed and made, science and sums, astrology and art, by our own bass David Brown

David Brown explains some of the dial's details

We had arranged to meet at John Wesley's Chapel, The New Room, in The Horsefair, Bristol, at 11 am on Saturday July 1st, where we would be provided with tea and a Tardis of some description in which to transport our appearance back to the late 18th century.

A few minutes after eleven we arrived, presented ourselves to the ladies in charge of the urn and buns and were promptly treated to an introduction to the New Room and a brief history thereof whilst the man with the key to the Tardis was summoned and we were left to dematerialise.

The rest of the group arrived in waves and did likewise. We refreshed ourselves with excellent tea, left our belongings in the Tardis, pocketed the portkey and lined up in our usually orderly fashion for the walk to Charles Street.

Gathering at the underpass

Well, we met in the yard and set off, passing a bagpiping busker and fielding an enquiry about the carnival procession on the way

After the underpass and a vast wall of brick and glass, we turned the corner into Charles Street and paused.

Two slim Georgian buildings, overshadowed in place if not in time by Bristol's ongoing commerce, faced us. The building on the left of the pair bears a discreet plaque commemorating Charles Wesley's period of residence.

We paused again at the foot of the stone steps. This felt like genuine time travel. I started up the steps and followed advice from Jenny to ring the bell - give it a good pull! I did. and the door opened.

We were greeted enthusiastically and ushered in by a charming American lady who directed us through the building to the garden where the service was to take place.

The brick boundary wall did its best to keep the present century at bay, the garden is newly planted with herbs and flowers which may well have been there in Wesley's day and are already looking established.

The garden gradually filled with visitors

We grouped ourselves in one corner of the garden opposite the draped sundial whilst the garden between gradually filled with visitors.

We sang Wrestling Jacob to start the proceedings. The form of the service was simple - the readings and thoughtful address delivered with feeling.

The Sundial's elegant simplicity was revealed

We sang Love Divine to Blaenwern at the request of the minister, and The Gospel Trumpet, and the sundial's elegant simplicity was revealed - which encouraged the sun to creep from behind its cloud.

The Sundial plaque by David Brown, showing the equation of time, a verse composed by Charles wesley and a facsimile of Charles Wesley's signature

A number of people including the local press, took photographs (which felt strange), and while the Radio Bristol reporter interviewed David, the rest of the gathering set off indoors.

We lunched to the rippling sounds of the harpsicord

There is a harpsichord in the ground floor room at the back of the house; Keith Jones had been asked if he would play for a while, so we lunched to the rippling sound spilling into the garden across the narrow basement yard and through the cool painted rooms.

Maggi in the garden

A wonderful spread had been laid out in the whitewashed basement. We helped ourselves and dispersed to eat, treasuring the serene atmosphere and the strawberries in equal measure.

The kitchen with its pot hanger, stools and benches made a very satisfactory dining room. I could describe the building and its decor in some detail; suffice to say it is a Georgian town house of taste. The only strange thing was that Charles and Sally Wesley didn't appear. If they had it would have surprised no-one.

Extract from an article written for the January 2001 edition of the Newsletter of the West Gallery Music Association by Maggi Adams. For permission to reprint this extract, thanks are due to the author, the editor of the newsletter, to the Charles Wesley House Management Committee and to Hilary Binding, leader of the Roduish Gallery Singers.