The Hardy Sundial
The Hardy sundial. Back where it belongs.
The sundial, which stood at the front of Portesham House for 170 years, went missing for 72 years but was returned in 2020.
The sundial was made for Captain Thomas Masterman Hardy’s father, Joseph Hardy Esq in 1767, when he lived at Kingston Russell House, 4 miles from Portesham. When his father moved into Portesham House the sundial came too.
In 1948 the occupier of Portesham House, Dr Thornton, took the sundial top with him when he emigrated to Australia, it came back to England in 1978 on his death, carried as hand luggage on a plane by a relative of Thornton. The Hardy sundial then resided in a back garden in North London owned by the neice of Dr Thornton, Anthea Gray.
1767-1778 Kingston Rusell House, Dorset
1778 - 1948 Portesham House, Dorset
1948 - 1978 Perth, Australia
1978 - 2020 North London
2020 - present Portesham House
The intention was that the sundial would eventually return to Portesham House. In the winter of 1996 a trip with the sundial to Portesham had to be called off because heavy snow made the journey impossible. So, on Anthea Gray’s death, the executor of her Will managed to contact the present owners of Portesham House and the sundial was returned. Where it now resides.
Over the years the various owners of Portesham House had tried to find the sundial because it appears in many old photos and documents in the Portesham House history file. Much detective work had been done by different owners, but the trail had gone cold. It seemed it would never return. It was only after ‘The Chesil’ Magazine had written an article on Portesham House in 2019 that the executor of Anthea Gray's Will contacted the magazine to help find a suitable home for the sundial. The editor of ‘The Chesil’ put him in contact with the current Portesham House owners and the original dial was arranged to be returned to the House. The sundial has since been lovingly restored and a replica now sits in the garden with the original, safe, under lock and key.
As an ironic twist, when the executor of Anthea Gray’s Will contacted her nephew to let him know about the fate of the sundial, being returned to Portesham House, that nephew turned out to be a good friend of the current owners! He called them to explain the coincidence and his memories of his childhood being told about the history of the sundial sitting in his Aunt's back garden in North London. He said, "If I had made the connection between the current owners and the sundial before, I could have just brought the Sundial straight to them from Aunt Anthea’s house!"
....Now, that’s Kismet!