Friday, 23 September 2011
Time is not measured by Rollex in previous eras
Time for most people was measured by the Church. The year was governed by a combination of religious festivals and farming expediency; the religious festivals usually coinciding with farming needs. Calendars were just being introduced but the idea of most people dating anything ‘the umpteenth of whatever’ was totally alien. Dating was by festivals and saints’ days. It is possible to find a saint for every day, but most did not go in for quite so sad a depth of hagiography; but might date a letter, say, ‘Wednesday following the day of St Wilfrid’. Major saints had a vigil held before their feast, which was a fast day; there are complex rules governing how these move if they fall on Sunday or another major feast. (Anyone who is interested should look up Father John Wooley online for a comprehensive discussion. http://www.saradouglass.com/relfest.html) Note; the vigil ran to sundown, which was when the next day started: even as Sabbath started at sundown on Saturday.
The days were divided according to the church offices and the prayers that were said at the following times – themselves dependant on time of year in some cases:
Prime 6-30 am
Terce 9-00 am
Nones 3-00 pm
Vespers sunset or 6-00 pm ish
Compline 9-00 pm ish aka bedtime
The farmworker’s day was determined as it always has been by the time of year; he worked from dawn until dusk. The hardest work of the year was during harvest, when the day was very long too; in winter there were less tasks to do on the land save marling it but the few animals that were not slaughtered still had to be cared for, and there was repair to tools and fences.
The year was divided into quarters as I have mentioned in the section on finances in the Renaissance, concerning pay by the quarter.
Lady Day, 25th March, held as New Year’s day until 1751 and the reason for the superstition of cleaning the grate completely on New Year’s eve [it makes sense at the end of spring to be without a fire where it does not do so in the middle of winter]
Midsummer Day 24th June St John’s feast day
Michaelmas Day 29th September
Christmas Day 25th December
Country folk were still calculating by the quarter day up to the second world war in some places.
Even in the Regency time was not as all-important as it is now. Time nowadays is measured in nanoseconds and consumes all our lives. Then the nearest quarter hour was good enough – and likely to be different in every village or at every church steeple by which gentlemen set their watches. Accurate chronometers for the use of sailors had been invented in 1750 for the purposes of calculating longitude at sea, but pocket watches were not of that degree of accuracy, and nor did this particularly matter. Especially as the time from one place to the next might be anything up to an hour different.
Country wide timekeeping only became important with the widespread use of railways; when ‘railway time’ was adhered to as the standard.
No Regency buck is going to look at his watch and say ‘it is three seventeen’; for one thing that means of expressing the time is modern, and for another it would not occur to him to be that accurate – unless he was trying to break a record driving from London to Brighton, when he would probably start on the hour or half hour in any case. He would for every day purposes say either ‘it’s about quarter past three’ or if he was trying to hurry up the females in his life ‘hurry up, it’s coming up twenty past three already’.
Moon phases as they relate to time of rising and setting.
Nothing irritates me much more than to read things like ‘the sickle moon was just rising as they went to Almack’s’
The rising and setting times of the moon are determined by the phases and though that may vary by some hours in general the following is true.
The New Moon or dark of the moon rises very early in the morning, between the late early hours and early morning and sets in the early evening. This is only really noticeable when there is the first sliver of new moon visible.
First Quarter rises quite early in the morning and sets sometime at or after midnight.
Full Moon rises early evening, sets very, very early in the morning
Third Quarter rises after midnight and sets during the first part of the morning
During each of these phases of course the time shifts slightly each day.
The Jordanian astronomical society have a calculator which will calculate times of rising and setting any month of any year you want for total accuracy; it is called Accurate Time and there are a number of versions that can be downloaded.