Date Posted: 20th July 2022

Gilcrux church
Photograph July 2022


Last week found me in Gilcrux one of the lovely small Cumbrian villages scattered between the west coast and the Lake District prompted by a Percy Kelly watercolour of the church on the back of which he had written SUNDIAL in very faint pencil which I found intriguing. Most of Kelly’s works don’t give any clues to a back story but this one is full of them possibly because he was not yet averse to selling anything. He had joined Lake Artists and went off painting with Heaton Cooper. GILCRUX is written on the front in blue ink bottom right with GILCRUX faintly in pencil below it followed by a note to himself in the blue ink again  “pay particular attention to the stonework and put in each stone” -  unfortunately he later cropped it (one of Kelly’s more frustrating habits) leaving the sentence unfinished. The detail he mentions tells me it is an early drawing probably made between 1952 and 1958 when Percy was postmaster of Great Broughton post office just a few miles south of Gilcrux, before he found the freedom of charcoal and big sheets of paper and moved to Allonby. He later pared everything down, scattering just a few rather than finely detailing each one.  He could depict a dry stone wall with just a few strokes. Less is more. The leaden sky indicates a cold blustery day with threatening dark clouds not at all like the extremely hot day when I took the photograph. He also wrote a letter about the church to Joan David  dated Monday 11th March 1985  whenn he was living alone in Norfolk which I have attached.

But where is the sundial? I would expect to find it on a horizontal surface, maybe an ornate plinth but this one is unusual, perched vertically above the church porch on a square stone cube. The gnomon is on the south facing side and carved into the stone on the other side is a memorial





Clocks would not usually be found in village homes at this time, people relied on the sun to tell the time, so this ensured the congregation wouldn’t be late for service. Mechi Farm nearby had a clock tower famously portrayed in an oil by Sheila Fell which was built by the farmer to ensure his labourers would know when to stop for a break or go home at the end of the day..

Art has always told us a lot about how people live their lives. 

I am about to put this and  some small Kellys for sale on the web site. Not all are as easily dated or titled as this one nor do they give so many clues. But all have a story to tell which is left to the viewer’s imagination. They have come directly from the Kelly estate where he casually dropped them into bread trays in no particular order of size, date or subject which has been a challenge.  Kelly in his latter years wanted them all close to him, picking through them, remembering when he had made them, propping them up where he could see them for a while and occasionally finishing them or adding detail. I have given the framed sizes as usual so you can picture the space  they will cover on the wall.