Cotswold Ways:

Time Lords and party an­i­mals on the Sher­borne es­tate

Cotswold Life - - INSIDE - WRITER: Ke­van Man­war­ing

The hand­some es­tate of Sher­borne, just off the A40, tells the tale of two very dif­fer­ent fig­ures who, if they had been con­tem­po­raries (and not merely con­nected by ge­og­ra­phy) the stuff of a thrilling melo­drama

– the rak­ish lord of the manor, the schol­arly man of the cloth. In short, a Cotswoldian Fer­rars and Willoughby, straight out of the pages of Sense and Sen­si­bil­ity.

Born in Sher­borne, James Bradley (1693-1762), scraped his school­boy knees in North­leach. He stud­ied at Bal­liol College, Ox­ford, dis­play­ing a bril­liant mind. He was elected a mem­ber of the Royal So­ci­ety in 1718. He took the cloth dur­ing a brief ca­reer in the clergy, with a parish in Brid­stow on the Welsh Bor­ders, but his star drew him back to the dream­ing spires of academe. In 1721 he was ap­pointed the Sav­il­ian Pro­fes­sor of Astron­omy at his old Alma Mater. In 1742 he suc­ceeded Ed­mond Hal­ley (of comet fame), be­com­ing the third As­tronomer Royal. He dis­cov­ered the ‘aber­ra­tion of light’ and the ‘nu­ta­tion of the Earth’s axis’ – com­plex as­tro­nom­i­cal phe­nom­ena which I will not even at­tempt to de­scribe – but his best known legacy, which ef­fects us all, was the cre­ation of Green­wich Mean Time (the clock time at the Royal Ob­ser­va­tory in Green­wich), orig­i­nally set-up to aid naval nav­i­ga­tion when travel around the globe started to open up with the dis­cov­ery of the New World (Amer­ica) in the 15th cen­tury. GMT was not forced on to land-lub­bers un­til the in­tro­duc­tion of the rail­ways (rail­roads) in the mid-19th cen­tury. The de­vel­op­ing rail­way net­work meant that Bri­tain needed a na­tional time sys­tem to re­place the lo­cal time adopted by ma­jor towns and cities. As Green­wich, due to the pres­ence of the Royal Ob­ser­va­tory, was the na­tional cen­tre for time and had been since 1675, the choice was ob­vi­ous. Nev­er­the­less, GMT was not adopted of­fi­cially by Par­lia­ment un­til Au­gust 2, 1880. GMT was then adopted by the United States on Novem­ber 18, 1883. The cho­sen mo­ment was at noon, when the tele­graph lines trans­mit­ted time sig­nals to all ma­jor cities. Prior to that there were over 300 lo­cal times in the USA! On Novem­ber 1, 1884, GMT was adopted uni­ver­sally at the In­ter­na­tional Merid­ian Con­fer­ence in Washington, DC, USA. As a re­sult, the In­ter­na­tional Date Line was drawn up and 24 time zones were cre­ated.

The first printed chart or map known to have used Green­wich as its Prime Merid­ian was pub­lished in 1738. The Bradley Merid­ian, as dis­cov­ered by our lo­cal hero, not only de­fined the Zero of lon­gi­tude for the first Ord­nance Sur­vey map pub­lished in 1801, but also re­mains the Zero Merid­ian used by the Ord­nance Sur­vey to­day. And it is the Bradley Merid­ian which is used to de­fine GMT. So when­ever you get on an in­ter­na­tional flight or cruise, re­mem­ber Bradley of Sher­borne when you cross

those time zones.

Bradley re­tired in ill-health to Chal­ford, on the edge of Stroud, where he de­parted this world, aged 69, on 13th July, 1762 and he is buried in Minch­in­hamp­ton church­yard, but it is Sher­borne he is best re­mem­bered – for there, as a child, he first gazed up at the Heav­ens in won­der.

Sher­borne Es­tate, cover­ing 1663 acres, which in­cludes five farms, three deer parks and wood­land, was gen­er­ously left to the Na­tional Trust by Charles Dut­ton, the 7th Lord Sher­borne, on the con­di­tion that it was kept as a work­ing es­tate.

Linked to the Sher­borne Es­tate by a splen­did tree-lined drive (which un­for­tu­nately now crosses the busy A40) the im­pres­sive 17th Cen­tury grand­stand of Lodge Park was built by John ‘Crump’ Dut­ton (1594-1657), MP and the owner of Sher­borne, in 1634 to en­ter­tain and im­press his friends. Crump, so-called be­cause of his humped back, would ride out with his guests to his folly where he would in­dulge them in a day’s rac­ing, gam­bling and feast­ing. Ba­si­cally, it was the ul­ti­mate man cave. After a decade­long restora­tion project, the Na­tional Trust opened the grand­stand to the pub­lic in 1999.

Spend a leisurely half-day wan­der­ing the es­tate and Lodge Park and imag­ine Crump and Bradley pur­su­ing their in­ter­ests – the Heav­ens or Earthly plea­sures: which one ap­peals the most? GMT or G ‘n’ T? At Sher­borne and Lodge Park there’s time for both!

The Big House, Sher­borne Park

Ke­van Man­war­ing is a Stroud-based writer and sto­ry­teller. He is the au­thor of Ox­ford­shire Folk Tales and Northamp­ton­shire Folk Tales, a con­trib­u­tor to English Folk Tales and ed­i­tor of Bal­lad Tales, all from The His­tory Press. He teaches cre­ative writ­ing for the Open Uni­ver­sity and in the Stroud area.

Fol­low Ke­van on Twit­ter @bardi­ca­ca­demic

Lodge Park

Col­lapsed en­trance dol­men, Long Bar­row, Lodge Park

St Mary Ma­gade­lene

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