St Nicholas . Abbotsbury . Dorset


GRADE I † C14 with older origins; gradual development, rebuilding and restorations. This church represents a far wider history of the area ecclesiastically, architecturally and socially. There are a great many good online sources of information, both general and specific, accessible with a single Gxxgle search. One of the most authoritative resources for deeper delving is British History Online BHO. 50.665 / -2.5989 / SY577852


The vertical dial is set in the parapet of the south wall of the south aisle. It is weathered, like the stone around it. A survey some time ago found no visible markings; the high position, extent of weathering and prevailing light probably explains that. A long lens picks out more detail. It is hard to date the dial – ± 1800?

St Nicholas . Abbotsbury . Dorset – Vertical Sundial

The dial is cemented onto the parapet, supported by a ledge and with 2 iron supports at above it. A frame surrounds the dial. In the upper section is a semicircular dial, with the footing of the rather hefty gnomon centred within it. 2 clear lines descend either side of the noon line / gnomon blade.

St Nicholas . Abbotsbury . Dorset – Vertical Sundial

The hint of 2 converging lines above the bolts suggest they radiate down from the horizontal line of the dial. At the base of the semicircle there are traces of an outer semicircle and, significantly, of a few short lines between the two. These seem to be half hour markers. If so, there was once a more complex dial that has all but vanished.

St Nicholas . Abbotsbury . Dorset – Vertical Sundial

Beneath the lower gnomon footing, the number XII is very clear. Possibly it was recut (maybe more than once) to continue to emphasise the noon marker. Apart from that, all other numbers are completely erased except for a ghost of XI.


Is the rather clunky gnomon original? Initially I thought not, but some features suggest it might be. The precision of the tip of the top being exactly on the edge of the frame; the extent of the staining; and the degree to which it has protected the centre line of the dial and in particular XII. Against that, the angled view of the dial makes it seem rather incongruous.

St Nicholas . Abbotsbury . Dorset – Vertical Sundial / S. face with parapet dial above centre windows – stevekeirtsu cc

GSS Category: Vertical Dial; Church Sundial; Gnomon

All photos Keith Salvesen except the last, stevekeiretsu Geo cc

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