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The George II Lead ‘Flaxley Abbey Sun Dial’ depicting Chronos or ‘Father Time’, attributed to John Cheere, after John Nost

The winged and kneeling lead figure of Chronos, or ‘Father Time’, holding above his head a round sundial with gnomon and dial (signed ‘B. Martin, London’), with faintly engraved emblem of the Boevey family coat of arms. From the foundry of John Cheere (d.1787); it is quite possible that B. Martin refers to Benjamin Martin, of Fleet Street (a noted optical, mathematical and physical instrument maker working between 1739 and 1777). This 18th Century lead sundial was described as ‘The Flaxley Sundial’ when it was sold from the Flaxley Abbey estate in 1960 (see provenance below).

Two comparable sun dials are known; the first, receipt dated for 1743 by John Cheere, was noted at Blair Castle, Perthshire (RCAHMS SC 763911), adapted from John Nost’s ‘Indian Sun Dial’ at Melbourne Hall, Derbyshire (I. Roscoe, A biographical dictionary of sculptors in Britain, 1660-1851, New Haven and London, 2009, p. 262). John Nost died in 1729 and presumably his family carried on this original lead figure manufactory in London, at the Hyde Park Corner end of Piccadilly, between then and 1737, when the business was then acquired by John Cheere.

The second, formerly at St. Osyth Priory, Essex, with slightly adjusted stance.
(R. Bowling, ‘Sundial Supporters Revisited’, BSS Bulletin [The British Sundial Society], vol. 19, September 2007, p. 126).

Another dial of very similar design, was offered by Seago Antique Garden Furniture, 22 Pimlico Road London, and illustrated at the back of John Davis “Antique Garden Ornament” (Antique Collector’s Club 1991), and is photographed and included here. The Seago lead statue of Father Time is recorded with provenance for Fonthill House, Wiltshire, home of Alderman William Beckford.

Overall height: 152 cm
Base dimensions: 92 cm wide x 74 cm deep

Possibly acquired by Thomas Crawley-Boevey, 1st Bt. of Flaxley (1709-69), at the time of his marriage to Susanna (née Lloyd) in May 1743, and by descent at Flaxley Abbey, Gloucestershire, until sold and removed from the premises- Flaxley Abbey, Gloucestershire: Catalogue of the Valuable Contents, Bruton, Knowles & Co., 29 March – 5 April 1960, lot 1009. Returned to Flaxley Abbey by Frederick Baden Watkins.