Telling Time
			by Dagonell

One of the shire's recent A&S classes was on persona development.  It asked a
number of questions about your persona, most of which I wasn't able to answer.
I've since started doing some of the research to answer those questions.  This
article is a response to the question, "How does your persona tell the time?"

Dagonell is a wandering troubadour from the War of the Roses era, the late
15th century.  As someone who wanders from agricultural community to towns
and back, the exact time isn't important to him.  He gets up when it's light,
eats when he's hungry, works when he has to, and sleeps when it dark.

Most villages would have had a sundial."A Roman sundial, complete to the 
original gnomon which casts the shadow, was preserved in the lava and ashes 
of the A.D. 79 eruption of Mt. Vesuvius."[1]  Incidentally, Dagonell would
not have used the terms "clockwise" or "counter-clockwise".  They didn't
come into usage until after the invention of reliable mechanical clocks in
the 1770's.[2]

If there was a monestary nearby, villagers would learn to tell time from
the ringing of the bells for the Canonical hours:
	5 AM -- Matins/Lauds
	6 AM -- Prime (sunrise)
	9 AM -- Terce (3rd hour of the day)
	Noon -- Sext  (6th hour of the day)
	3 PM -- None  (9th hour of the day)
	6 PM -- Vespers
	7 PM -- Compline[3]

In addition to the sundial, there were other devices which could keep time.
Clepsydra or water clocks have been around since the 15th century B.C.  As 
water slowly dripped into a float tank, a floating pointer indicated the time
on a drum marked with lines. It took an entire day for the float tank to 
fill.  Attached to the bottom of the tank and running up to the top was a
siphon.  When the float tank filled completely, it also filled the siphon 
which, having no space left for air, would begin siphoning off the float
tank until it was empty for the next day.  The runoff water would turn a 
waterwheel which rotated the drum to the next day's set of lines.[4]

"King Alfred the Great of England has been credited with inventing graduated
candles in the late ninth century to divide his day into equal periods of
study and prayer, royal duties, and rest.  Before candle clocks made an 
appearance in Europe, however, it is likely that they were in use in the
East, as were sundials and water clocks."[5]  The candles could also be used
as an alarm clock.  A heavy nail was pushed into the candle at the desired
hour marking.  When the candle burned down that far, the wax would melt away
from the nail which would then fall onto a steel plate creating a noise.

"The introduction of the coiled spring as a power source for clocks in the 
1500s made it possible to carry a timekeeper on one's person. Although they 
ran for short periods of time and required a sundial to find the correct time
to reset them, the watches were objects of curiosity and prestige."[6]

When I got involved with The Buffalo Maritime Society, which owned and 
operated a replica 16th century merchant ship, I decided to incorporate it
into my medieval persona.  Dagonell served as a merchant sailor for a few
years.  So naturally, he had to learn ship's bells, which started in his time
period.  Time was measured via hourglasses full of sand.  A highly unreliable
method of telling time at sea.  The British government offered a small 
fortune in prize money to whoever could come up with a reliable method of
telling time at sea.  The prize was eventually claimed by a watchmaker John
Harrison, in 1770[7]

"The bell was rung every half hour of the four-hour watch. A twenty-four hour
day was divided into six four-hour watches, except the dog watch 
(16:00 - 20:00 hours) which could be divided into two two-hour watches to 
allow for the taking of the evening meal.

Middle Watch		Mid. to 4 AM (0000 - 0400)
Morning Watch 		4 AM to 8 AM (0400 - 0800)
Forenoon Watch 		8 AM to Noon (0800 - 1200)
Afternoon Watch 	Noon to 4 PM (1200 - 1600)
First Dog Watch 	4 PM to 6 PM (1600 - 1800)
Second Dog Watch 	6 PM to 8 PM (1800 - 2000)
First Watch 		8 PM to Mid. (2000 - 0000)

The bells were struck for every half-hour of each watch, with a maximum of 
eight bells. For instance, during the Middle Watch you would hear the 

    00:30 1 bell
    01:00 2 bells
    01:30 2 bells, pause, 1 bell
    02:00 2 bells, pause, 2 bells
    02:30 2 bells, pause, 2 bells, pause, 1 bell
    03:00 2 bells, pause, 2 bells, pause, 2 bells
    03:30 2 bells, pause, 2 bells, pause, 2 bells, pause, 1 bell
    04:00 2 bells, pause, 2 bells, pause, 2 bells, pause, 2 bells

At eight bells your watch was over! All other four-hour watches followed 
this same procedure except the Dog Watches.

At the end of the First Dog Watch, only four bells were struck, 
and the Second Dog Watch bells were struck like this: 6:30 PM, one bell; 
7 PM two bells; 7:30 PM, three bells; and at 8 PM, eight bells."[8]

[1] The Time Museum (
[2] The Oxford English Dictionary, Abridged.
[3] Multiple sources
[4] Clockworks: (
[5] Ibid.
[6] The Time Museum (
[7] Longitude by Dava Sobel, Penguin Press 1995, ISBN: 0-14-025879-5
[8] Boatsafe (