St Mary . Alton Barnes . Wilts


GRADE 1. Saxon church, C10-C11 origins with C14 reworking; later work, C19 alterations, subsequent restoration. ‘Awletone’ was first recorded in 825. Historically, at various times united with and detached from All Saints Alton Priors, which is situated just a couple of fields away. Midway between Pewsey and Devizes, close to K&A canal and Marlborough Downs. 51.3572 / -1.8467 / SU107620

St Mary . Alton Barnes . Wilts – Scratch Dial 1


This unassuming little dial is on the N. side of the church, facing the Alton Barnes white horse carved in chalk on Milk Hill nearby. It does not seem to be the dial mentioned elsewhere, for which see Dial 2. I have seen no record of it.

The mortar line acts as the horizontal, and a full circle incorporates both radials and pocks. I sense that this is quite an early dial, perhaps dating from the C14 work on the church. I assume it was originally on the S. side of the church; it must have been relocated to the N. side at some later time. It may look somewhat crude, but fairly robust cutting may have helped to preserve it over the centuries.


Scratch sundial on south-east quoins’ HE

St Mary . Alton Barnes . Wilts – Scratch Sundial 2

This is the dial that seems to be referred to elsewhere. I speculate C18 or possibly C17. It is high up under the eaves, so much so that it was half in shadow at noon (see gallery below). Perhaps that indicates a relocation at some time, but to a less useful position as a sundial. With a gnomon at the top and in the shade, the dial’s effectiveness would be notably diminished. Perhaps, by then, it was mainly decorative.

St Mary . Alton Barnes . Wilts – Scratch Sundial 2


Quite often a possible dial suggests itself, though is probably (or on closer inspection, definitely) not one. Here, I liked the look of the filled style hole and the pocks in a plausible formation. I inverted the image to see if it looked any more likely. Not really (I’m happy to be corrected by an expert).

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen

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