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Supporters of a sundial want to see it returned to Railway Street, Chatham

By Lynn Cox

Supporters of a sundial which was removed from Chatham town centre say they are determined to try and get it put back in its original place.

As revealed a few weeks ago, the president of the British Sundial Society and maker of a timepiece which stood in Medway for almost 25 years, hit out at Medway Council for removing the well known-landmark.

The huge blue sundial had stood in Railway Street, Chatham for 23 years but, as previously reported in the Medway Messenger, was removed from its position in Railway Street as part of the council’s plans to de-clutter the town centre.

The sundial was removed a few weeks ago.

The sundial was removed a few weeks ago.

The sundial was installed to commemorate the death of Admiral Lord Nelson.

It was unveiled by the then Mayor of Rochester upon Medway, Cllr Ann Marsh, on October 21, 1994 and was designed by Christopher Daniel, who is also the president of the British Sundial Society.

Mr Daniel, who lives in Welling, was horrified to hear about its removal via an American member of his group who read the article about it on our website, KentOnline.

He has now written to Admiral Alan William John West, Baron West of Spithead, a retired senior officer of the Royal Navy and formerly the First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval staff, to see if he will support their call to get the sundial returned to its original place.

Christopher Daniel designed the sundial.

Christopher Daniel designed the sundial.

Mr Daniel has already written to Medway Council to complain and point out it will not work in other locations.

Mr Daniel said: “The instrument was specifically designed for that location and, as such, is remarkably accurate. It even ‘tracks’ the date of the Battle of Trafalgar. The dial is now well known around the world.

“The sundial will not indicate the correct time as it does now, if it is just placed on another wall or on a similar rather nasty frame on which it is or was fixed.”

A few weeks ago, a spokesman for Medway Council said: “While we understand the designer’s disappointment, we are looking at alternative locations for people to view it as a piece of artwork.”

But Mr Daniel is unhappy about the plan and has now visited the site in Railway Street last week, to highlight just how outraged he feels about it being moved.

The sundial was removed by Medway Council.

The sundial was removed by Medway Council.

He added: “For the last 23 years this has been a working piece of public artwork, as well as being a scientific instrument and a unique memorial to Admiral Lord Nelson. Now it seems that it will be displayed as just a piece of artwork.”

Medway Council said the sundial is intact and in storage while its new location is decided.

Other supporters also say they are appalled at its removal, such as Patrick Powers, who is also calling for it to be reinstated in Railway Street.

The sundial was removed a few weeks ago.

The sundial was removed a few weeks ago.

Mr Powers said: “The dial in question remains the only UK memorial to Admiral Nelson which every year, marks not just time in the ordinary way but both the date and the actual time of Nelson’s death.

“It is regarded as a pre-eminent memorial by the Royal Navy and I see that many have already noted its loss.

“This dial is not only known and loved by the citizens of Chatham but it is known throughout the whole of the UK, by the Royal Navy and also by very many overseas, even as far away as the USA and in most naval countries who have occasion to revere Lord Nelson in the same way as we.

 Video: Mr Daniel talking about the sundial in Railway Street.

“Frankly, it totally beggars belief that such an historic and fully recorded and registered heritage asset as this can apparently be summarily dismantled and, this done without any researched consideration as to how and where it might be relocated and more importantly, how it might be repositioned so that it operates exactly as before.

"Sundials of this accuracy are scientific instruments which have been designed solely and uniquely for the exact latitude and longitude of the location of the dial plate and also for that plate’s accurate azimuth and elevation.”

Mr Powers added other supporters of the dial have also written to the council’s Armed Forces Champion Cllr Howard Doe, calling for it to be returned.

A Medway Council spokesman said: “This is all part of the Chatham placemaking project to improve the public realm and open up the route from the railway station through New Cut, St John's Square and Railway St and Military Road, down to the bus station.

"As part of this, the sundial at St John’s Square was removed on 2 February.

“Work is due to be complete by March 2018 and an exhibition showing the improvements to this and other regeneration projects around Chatham will be held in the Pentagon Centre in May.”

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