ST MARY . SEAVINGTON ST MARY . SOMERSET
GRADE II* † C13 origins (nave, chancel), considerable enlargement late C15. Norman font, trace wall paintings. Now in the care of CCT. Adjacent to Seavington St Michael and 4m E of Ilminster. 50.9306 / -2.851 / ST402149
DEH visited St Mary in Sept 1912 on one of his early dial research expeditions in Somerset☩. He recorded a single dial on a buttress (Dial 1). BSS does not have a specific record for St Mary. I wasn’t prepared for the multi-dial display on either side of the porch..
Dial 1 is described by DEH in more detail than usual:
This dial is on a buttress half-way between the s. porch and chancel. It is about 5 feet 5 inches above the ground, the noonline is 3 1/2 inches in length, the style hole is 1/2 an inch deep to the top of the metal shank which is still within it, and about 1/2 an inch in diameter. On the noonline, close to the stylehole, is a hole for a peg, and there is another at the extreme end of this line in the next stone. There is also a peg-hole on the mass line.
There are 7 lines, starting with the horizontal 6am. The noon line seems to be a close double line, with noon itself being between them (as other churches in the area). There’s also a hint that it extends to the stone below, with a small terminal pock. The deeper cut line in the lower right quadrant presumably marked the main Mass of the day. No metal shank was evident.
St Mary . Seavington St Mary . Somerset
DIALS 2 & 3
On the W side of the door are 2 adjacent dials on the same stone and of a similar design. Both seem to have been complete circles, now eroded. The larger has a very small style hole. The smaller has a couple of pocks but whether they relate to its function is not clear.
St Mary . Seavington St Mary . Somerset
DIALS 4 – 6
On the E side of the door are 3 dials in a row on a single large stone, one with a string of pocks. Dials are shown in order left to right.
Dial 7 (?)
Completing the line of small circle dials on the stone is a hole lower R. No definite lines / pocks are readily discernible but a photo enlargement suggests faint lines at 11 and 1. A damaged area just above the mortar line might mark extended noon line. There’s a faint impression of a circle. Is this a dial? The hole is in a logical place on the stone and would match the other 3 dials in scale.
Dial 8 ?
On the quoin stone next to Dial 7, another similar hole without noticeable markings. In close-up it’s hard to make much of it – faint evidence of a circle, perhaps? – except that it fits the overall picture of a line of small encircled dials.
In the top R corner is a quite different type of dial, semi-circular with several lines and circumference pocks that more or less match hour line positions. It strays onto the adjacent quoin stone and there’s an impression that it might once have had a top half, with the stone later replaced.
Dials 10 & 11
Both dials are immediately below the others, and resemble dials 2 & 3. 10 is an eroded (part) circle with no discernible style hole. 11 is a complete circle with a very small hole from which – originally or perhaps later – a single line curves downward.
GSS Category: Scratch Dials; Multiple Church Dials
All photos: Keith Salvesen
2 thoughts on “SEAVINGTON ST MARY . SOMERSET . ST MARY – Multiple Scratch Dials”
Greetings from the midlands! Question from grumpy partner (although I’m impressed that he’s shown even this much interest): Why do some churches have multiple dials? Isn’t one enough? The only thing I could think of is that, maybe, as the years go by, trees grow and cut out the sun, thereby creating a need for another one cut in a sunny place? What’s the actual answer please? :o)
a. Dial progression: very rustic to better understanding of sun / time of day, increasing knowledge & accuracy of design, challenge of complexity b. decorative function as dials became more elaborate (and why ’24 hour dials’ if not for pleasing symmetry) c. Rivalry with other settlements locally as churches were built / expanded d. Change of Priest e. Competitive / bored sacristans f. marking a community event (church porches were used for marriages & meetings). g. expansion of church meriting a new dial eg on a new buttress h. all of the above… i. none of the above