Broughton Grange dates from early C17. Gradual development resulted in a fine house with an extensive estate owned by the Morrell family and associated with the Bloomsbury Group via Lady Ottoline. The whole estate was… More
GRADE II* † C12 origin; alterations / enlargement in C14, C15, C16; restored 1872 (Wyatt). Walls mainly rubble stone and flint. A lovely setting, with a fine manor house. Much older-seeming even than the ubiquitous ‘Hardyesque’ description in these parts. Subtly hidden away 8m NE of Dorchester. 50.7827 / -2.3198 / SY775981
From the ground, this is a difficult dial to admire. It is high up, eroded, damaged, and gnomon-less. It would be easy to dismiss it as a disappointment after you have negotiated the narrow lanes that lead circuitously to the church. Luckily I brought a real camera with me (for scratch dials I just use my phone) to catch the details of 3 vertical dials on churches in the area.
The dial, on a rectangular stone slab, is dated 1671, and marks the hours from VIII am to VII pm. The motto across the top reads UT UMBRA SIC VITA As a shadow so is life, one of several similar motto variants commonly found. The motto is enclosed within the initials A and R. (BHO elides the initials and the motto to form AUT UMBRA SIC VITAR).
GSS Category: Vertical Dial; Dial Date; Dial Motto
All photos: Keith Salvesen
The Borough Gardens in Dorchester are close to the centre of town. They were laid out and opened in the 1890s as ‘pleasure grounds’, as they remain. There is plenty to offer for all ages in an agreeable undulating space. Lawns, tennis courts, a bandstand, paddling pool, playground, a fountain, a memorial obelisk and more.
Amongst the attractions, close to the bandstand, is a modern analemmatic sundial. I don’t know the date it was laid out, but the BSS record is 1998 with the note: The dial is laid out in the play area near the bandstand. Hour markers adjusted for longitude, an hour added for summertime use. Shows hours from 7am to 7pm.
When I visited a few days ago, several small boys were having a kick around, with the dial in the centre of the pitch. No other type of dial would have worked for the purpose. The dial was partly concealed by uncut grass and leaves – the latter covering each numbered stone completely (I had to move some). I liked the way that the dial has several roles: time-telling in an interesting way; an open invitation to be the gnomon; an educative function; and artful horizontal stonework blending in with grassy and leafy surroundings. And a ‘jumpers for goalposts’ pitch into the bargain.
GSS Category: Analemmatic Sundial
All photos: Keith Salvesen; written information from municipal sources with thanks
GRADE I † C12 origins with south transeptual tower; C12 north aisle and north chapel; C13 south chapel and aisle, tower rebuilt; C15 chapels demolished, chancel and north aisle rebuilt, south porch added; C17 tower rebuilt. A treasure for church enthusiasts of any sort. Even the bells have stories. For detailed church description and historical context: BHO St George Damerham HE has a short entry HERE. Church’s excellent GUIDE below. The ‘Vicars’ Board’ begins c1235. W of the A388 midway Salisbury to Ringwood. 50.9416 / -1.8483 / SU107158
✣ Note: I missed a dial located most unusually on a cross in the cemetery ✣
St George has 3 scratch dials. In addition there is a fine numbered dial that marks the transition to a more sophisticated era of ecclesiastical time-keeping. Within the porch on the upper R side of the original entrance I (believe I) found another simple dial of a kind found inside porches elsewhere, with traces of whitewash (eg Blackford Som. Bishops Sutton Hants Limington Som.)
ARG visited in 1923. His comments on individual dials are briefly noted below, with his photo of dial 1.
The main dial is easily found on the E jamb of the S porch. It has a very large gnomon hole in the centre of the dial stone, presumably enlarged over time. There are 20 lines, each with a terminal pock. It is perhaps unusual for a medieval dial to have a full circle of radii with end pocks that are all still visible centuries later.
ARG A rather large, good dial. Perhaps originally a full-wheel dial with 24 lines, now with 4 lines missing from upper quadrant.
SW buttress of nave. Gnomon hole in the mortar line, from which 11 lines fan out below the horizontal. The design has been rearranged over the years, with the LR quadrant damaged and repaired without recutting the lines onto the cement.
ARG described the dial as a half-wheel. He commented on the disparity in the line length between LL and LR quadrants. but did not remark on the reason ie damage repair.
Dial 3 is immediately below dial 2 on the same buttress. It is very basic and consists simply of a slightly skewed gnomon hole, with 3 lines in the LL quadrant, partially obscured by lichen just as ARG reported 100 years ago.
The dial largely speaks for itself. I find it hard to date – C17? It seems very carefully cut, and the numerals are elegant. There’s some sophistication here. The dial is surmounted by the initials GB and TS
One intriguing feature of this dial is the mystery of the missing gnomon. In 2007 a contributor to the Geograph project, Trish Steel, uploaded a photo of the dial. It has a gnomon set into cracked mortar (unsurprising if it fell out). To an amateur it looks as if it may not have been in the right place anyway – too low? I wonder when it was first installed? It’s a very simple wedge of iron, perhaps inserted when the crack was originally repaired.
Within the S porch (added C15) the area around the original door has much medieval graffiti. St George was a church of pilgrimage, and inside there are pilgrim scallops incorporated in the fine wall-painting fragments. Both outside and inside the church, there are many crosses cut into the stone. Some may also be apotropaic in intention; some may be event marks (the porch is ideal for welcoming a new incumbent or a marriage).
On the jamb R of the door there are 3 distinct lines, equally separated, radiating downwards from roughly the same point, a plausible filled style hole. The design is clearly cut with no graffiti near it, with traces of whitewash. I have encountered other very similar internal porch dials (I need to cross-check and add links) in much the same position, and I am confident that this qualifies as another one.
RESOURCES FOR ST GEORGE DAMERHAM
There is a brief but helpful information sheet / guide in the church
An object lesson for a church guide: informative, interesting, and focussed on the most important features
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial; Scientific Dial; Church Graffiti; Pilgrim Crosses
All photos: Keith Salvesen except the gnomon for Dial 4, Trish Steel, Geograph CC
WOLFETON HOUSE . DORCHESTER
Wolfeton House (sometimes Wolveton) is a fine Grade 1 Elizabethan manor house with medieval origins. It stands amidst the the water meadows of the River Frome near Charminster, just N of Dorchester. Admired by Hardy. For more about the house, its history, and how to stay in the Gatehouse (dated 1534) see:
Some time ago we went to Wolfeton in connection with the the Pevsner Buildings of England series. I was able to photograph this most interesting sundial, though with a rather rustic camera and in low light. I have put images taken from various angles into a Gallery format so that they can be scrolled through in a approximate sequence. The dial is not in the optimum place for its primary purpose, but with its pleasing symmetrical design it suits where it stands.
The inscription is an intriguing mystery. At the time I was less engaged with dials, or I might have made more effort to record the details and to take a decent photo. As it is, I cannot make much sense of it. The initial letter U… could perhaps be the start of Umbra? But that assumes the words are in Latin. I have checked the main motto resources, including Gatty (original, and revised & expanded); Geoffrey & Henslow; and various less comprehensive sources in books and online. I plan to revisit Wolfeton (we live quite close) to check the details, which I will add if I can make any more sense of the text. Meanwhile, any ideas would be welcome. Actual knowledge, the more so.
The inscription might give a clue to the dial’s date. My amateur guess is that it is somewhere between mid-C18 and early C19.
GSS Category: Multiple Dial; Old Dial; Garden Dial
All photos: Keith Salvesen
ST LAURENCE . AFFPUDDLE . DORSET
GRADE I † C13 origin (nave, chancel); C14 S porch; C15 enlargement, tower; C19 restorations inc Wyatt. Good C13 south door: cusped arch, carved heads as dripstones BHO. 2 Purdue bells. Early C16 oak pulpit, bench ends. 10m NE Dorchester. A most attractive and well-kept church. 50.7427 / -2.2772 / SY805937
THES SEATYS WERE MADE YN THE YERE OF OWRE LORD GOD MCCCCCXLV
IN THE THYME OF THOMAS LYLLYNGTON VICAR O THYS CHERCH.
St Laurence has 2 dials, one either side of the nave window. Unusually, both are entirely designed with holes (cf TRENT) apart from a token noon indicator on Dial 1, barely discernible (see diagram).
W jamb of the nave window, in poor condition. Besides the single vertical line, there are 8 small holes in a curve below the style hole. 2 further holes emphasise Nones, the Mass time equating in clock terms to 3pm. GLP notes that the dial is accurately cut.
Dial 2 is on the E jamb, a longer and clearer semicircle of 12 holes. There are a couple of small holes that might be for emphasis / to mark a half hour (see eg between 9 and 10). GLP notes that the style hole is very small / shallow for a gnomon. Again he found the dial very accurate, most holes being within 4º of true, with 5 exactly correct.
CHURCH MARKS OF ST LAURENCE
Some of those interested in medieval church dials (and you have after all reached here) are likely to check a church for other medieval marks. St Laurence is worth visiting for these alone. Here are just 3 examples, of which one is especially intriguing and needs be researched further (not by me).
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial; Church Marks; Medieval Graffitti
All photos: Keith Salvesen
GRADE I † C13 origin nave, N chapel, later enlarged; C14 tower & porch; C15 rebuilt chancel; subsequent repairs and C19 restorations. One of only 3 Dorset medieval churches with a spire (with Iwerne Minster & Winterborne Steepleton). A fascinating church smothered in history, the details best researched separately. C15 font. Pride of place is taken by the superb 16th century screen, which is one of the best in Dorset NCT. Good C16 bench ends. For a quick overview of St Andrew BLB. At the centre of the Sherborne – Yeovil – Marston Magna triangle. 50.9648 / -2.5859 / ST589185
There are 4 dials in 2 pairs. They have much in common. All are on buttresses; all are C15; and unusually, all are designed entirely with pocks, without any lines at all. There are a couple of other plausible dials with a promising style hole in a mortar line or roughly central on a stone. There are hints of pocks that may be related, but erosion and lichen make it hard to be sure. Best left as a mystery.
On the chancel, SW face of the end buttress. The gnomon hole is in the dial stone, with a curve of 7 pocks below it, of which one has a second that perhaps marked a an off-vertical noon line.
Dial 2 is the most intriguing of the 4 dials. It is below Dial 1 on the SW face of the chancel buttress. There are 24 holes drilled in a curve of 3 rows, with 8 in each row. The careful design has the dots radiating accurately from the gnomon hole as though they were lines. Additionally, there are outlier dots – 3, perhaps 4 – below the neat curve: see image above. They are drilled more or less in line with the design on the main dots, in a way that looks meant. GLP refers to them as extra dots.
Dial 3 is on the cancel buttress E of the doorway. There are 6 pocks in a curve below a gnomon hole presumed to have been in the mortar but no longer identifiable. GLP concluded that this dial and its companion below were unlikely to have been accurate.
A similar dial with 4 pocks and a cement-filled gnomon hole in the mortar line. GLP also doubted its accuracy. It is hard to account for the fact that 2 such similar basic dials are so close. Rival sextons? A competition? A new incumbent?
Note: To see the Vertical Dial, visit the Old Dial page HERE
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Hunky Punk
All photos: Keith Salvesen
GRADE I † C13 et seq, on early C12 site. Gradual development but (unusually) with little obvious C19 work BHO. Good C16 bench ends. S porch built c1440, originally thatched, with the cube sundial added later. The scratch dials of St Margaret will be written up separately from this unusual dial that, in fact, is not strictly cubic. 5m NW of Yeovil; just S of dread A303. 50.9746 / -2.7156 / ST498197
I wrote this piece without access to the BSS dial records, temporarily unavailable online. I had originally described this dial rather broadly as a cube, aware that it wasn’t quite right. Having now got back into the archive, I am better informed (if not wiser). Some of the points I raise below are clarified. Here is the official entry:
There are 3 polar scaphe dials on the porch gable. Possibly C17 or C18. The dial probably showed all hours of sunlight when correctly installed. Now the orientation is incorrect, the polar axis points East and the dial is shaded by a yew tree. The stone is heavily lichened.
The large block of stone cut as a sundial is balanced (as it seems) on the end of the S porch roof. Its usefulness as a dial nowadays is reduced by it being partly obscured by the shadows of nearby trees. I have not seen similar dials in England but I believe there are a few in Scotland. I need to do some more research on this.
I confess that I have no idea how this dial might have worked in practice, nor can I comment on the design, nor suggest how many dials (3?) or even ‘shadow casting edges’ there are. Possibly it is unique? I can’t find any helpful information online at the moment. In practice, I suspect that one would need a ladder to examine the dial closely and work out how it functions. Any information would be welcome.
GSS Category: Scaphe Dial; Scaphe Sundial; Multiple Dial
All photos: Keith Salvesen
ST LAURENCE . DOWNTON . WILTS
GRADE I † C11 nave; C13 transepts; C14 chancel. From C17, alterations and restorations inc by Wyatt in 1860. Large and interesting cruciform church PEV. Marble Feversham family monuments by Scheemakers. Significant local legacy from Neolithic, Iron Age, Roman (Villa) and Saxon times. 9m S of Salisbury. 50.9937 / -1.7433 / SU181216
St Laurence has 2 dials on the 2nd buttress E of the porch, one above the other. The upper one is a fine example of a large dial filling the dial stone. The lower is so badly damaged / eroded that it would be easy miss; and it is quite hard to imagine what it looked like originally.
Dial 1 is encircled, with 13 lines and 24 pocks around the perimeter and forming 2 crosses . This large dial not only takes up the width of the stone, the circumference continues onto the stone below as do some lines (esp. 11am). The noon line ends in a 4-dot cross on the main stone, and the 9am line has a 5-dot cross on the lower stone.
The gnomon hole is of particular interest; I haven’t come across a square hole with (apparently) a circular one inside it before. Possibly the original gnomon was a basic rod, and its round hole later enlarged to accommodate a more visible square rod.
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial; Medieval Sundial; Church Dated Initials
All photos: Keith Salvesen
ST SIMON & ST JUDE . WINTERBORNE MONKTON . DORSET
GRADE II* † Early C13 chancel, nave, N doorway; C15 N porch; c1500 W Tower; later additions; C19 restorations. A simple typically Dorset small church in an attractive location. 2m S of Dorchester (can be combined with Winterborne Steepleton nearby (2 dials). 50.6884 / -2.4604 / SY675877
GLP notes a single doubtful dial over a blocked doorway, not included in BSS records. However there is a clear inverted dial elsewhere on S side. There is also a dial-ish quoin stone that I include. There’s not enough evidence to consider it much more than doubtful, but the location is conventional and the overall ‘jizz’ (to use a birding term) invited more than a glance.
Above the blocked S aisle door, C16. GLP suggests a masons’ mark rather than a scratch dial and notes a similar ‘dial’ at Hilton, near Blandford. There are 2 faint concentric circles. The very small central hole that would be more consistent with the use of a compass inscribe the circle.
Quite high up at the W end of the S face is a very clear dial that I have not found recorded elsewhere. There are 7 lines, each ending in a pock and with the (presumed) 9-line having a second pock, doubtless the main Mass time. The reversion below shows how the design would have worked well as a morning dial.
The most intriguing feature is the presence of (the remains of) a square rod in the style hole, with filler material round it. It seems highly unlikely to be original, though it may have been inserted many years ago perhaps as a replacement gnomon. A square rod in not so rare: there is one at St Mary, Glanvilles Wootton, for example.
DIAL 3 ?
An excellent dial position, a hole almost central to the stone, and inverted (if a dial at all) as often the case where a dial has been superseded or its stone relocated. I have included a reversion that makes the upwards mark into a noon line. There are hints of perimeter pocks in LR quadrant.
Finally, there are 3 fine C17 memorial floor slabs to admire
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial; Gnomon Rod; Masons’ Mark, C17 memorial floor slabs
All photos: Keith Salvesen
The famous Bewcastle Anglo-Saxon cross is located in St Cuthbert’s churchyard. It is dated in some sources as C8 and in others as early as C7. Whichever, it is generally believed to be the oldest British sundial. PEV praised it, with the similar Ruthwell cross, as the greatest achievement of their date in the whole of Europe. There is a replica in the British Museum.
There is understandably a mass of online material analysing and explaining the cross, the wonderful carvings, and the meanings to be derived from them. I need to bypass these to focus on the astonishing early sundial incorporated into the elaborate decoration. For other aspects the Wiki entry BEWCASTLE CROSS is a good place to start.
THE BEWCASTLE DIAL
The dial is in a prominent position on the upper half of the south face. The BSS record describes the cross as Celtic, with the dial being integral to the overall design. 8 lines are noted, with the vertical line on the right side considered to be a later addition (but see below). The noon line is emphasised by being deeper cut, with 9am even more so and ending (perhaps) in a large hole. The dial must have been easy to read from afar. BSS has 3 close-up images in the archive which give a clear view of the dial and its slightly wider context.
Bewcastle is used as an example in the Wiki entry for the TIDE DIAL The article includes useful explanations and images. These lead to other related topics for those who want to investigate further. More importantly, there is a helpful analysis of the details of the sundial’s design, and how it would have worked in practice. The cross is believed to be in its original position, and one can imagine the way in which the passage of the day would have been marked for the benefit of the community.
The oldest surviving English tide dial is on the 7th- or 8th-century Bewcastle Cross… carved on the south face of a Celtic cross… and is divided by five principal lines into four tides. Two of these lines, those for 9 am and noon, are crossed at the point. The four spaces are further subdivided so as to give the twelve daylight hours of the Romans. On one side of the dial, there is a vertical line which touches the semicircular border at the second afternoon hour. This may be an accident, but the same kind of line is found on the dial in the crypt of Bamburgh Church, where it marks a later hour of the day. The sundial may have been used for calculating the date of the spring equinox and hence Easter.
The Bewcastle Cross Notes by Margaret Gatty in The Book of Sun-Dials
The four faces of the Bewcastle Cross
‘Plaster Cast of an Early English Sundial’ . 1930s. (Science Museum)
Plaster cast (mounted in wooden frame) of the sundial on Bewcastle Cross, Cumberland, 670 CE. The day is divided into ‘tides’, which are cut into the stone. The gnomon is missing. Credit: A. J. Lothian
THE RUTHWELL CROSS FOR COMPARISON (it has no dial)
GSS Category: Saxon Dial; Medieval Dial; Column Dial; Unique Dial
Photos: 1, 3, 4 – BSS Archive; 2, 5, 8 – Keith Salvesen; 6 (diagram) Eixo Wiki CC; 7 – Science Museum