GRADE II † C13, C14, C15, restored 1863 (T.H.Wyatt); tower restored 1988. A sad history of disrepair (C15, C17), but nowadays a most attractive and surprisingly secluded church. One bell (of 6) is C15. A cluster of votive / pilgrim crosses externally. Midway between Salisbury and Shaftesbury, N of A30. Note: the church is some way past the centre of the village – persevere. 51.0654 / -2.0068 / ST996295
St George is a multi-dial church. There are certainly 6, plus one candidate that is debatable and may have a different function entirely. I have a note of an 8th dial, and seen a passing reference to one. Unusually, there are 5 dials spread over 2 adjacent stones, a rare proximity of so many.
DIALS 1 – 3
This group of dials are all cut on a single stone. It looks as if the simplest dial (3) was superseded by a similar more detailed one (2) ; and that both were eventually made redundant for practical purposes by a relatively sophisticated replacement (1).
Dial 1 has 10 lines (including the horizontals) that radiate from the filled gnomon hole, within a semicircle. The spacing of the lines is rather haphazard and it is quite hard to relate their positions to specific hours. One line in LRQ has a cross, presumably to emphasise the afternoon Mass time Nones. In LLQ there are 4 (perhaps 5) holes denoting an important part of the day for observance. The positions of the radials on the 2 earlier dials beneath Dial 1 rather confirm this theory. Is the horizontal line above the semicircle part of the dial? There is a short vertical line from its centre – a short ‘midnight’ line? – that suggests some connection but not one that would assist marking the passage of the day. Probably a later addition, purpose unknown.
Dial 2 is simple dial with a homespun attempt at incising a perimeter. It has 3 strong lines LLQ, each ending in a pock. The noon area is a confusion of trace / eroded lines with pocks that extend further round the approximate circumference, signifying the early afternoon hours
Dial 3 is a rustic-looking little dial, presumably the earliest of the group. Although from a distance it seems to be just a pair of stubby lines descending from the style hole, close inspection suggests shallow pocks on a curve beyond the noon line – others perhaps hidden by the lichen. If so, it is more sophisticated that it looks at first sight. But for the size of the style hole, it is a candidate for the ‘smallest dial’ category, of which Tintinhull is supposedly the leader
DIALS 4 – 5
Both dials are together on the same stone, immediately W of the dial stone of dials 1 – 3.
Dial 4 is hard to analyse in detail because of lichen. The style hole is filled. There is a semicircle – again with an inexact curve – and a hint that there was once a full (misshapen) circle. It is just about possible to make out 12 lines, of which only 6 or 7 are distinct. There are no visible pocks.
Dial 5 is the only dial with all lines in LRQ: an afternoon dial (but see also dial 8). There are 6 lines, of which 5 radiate directly from the style hole. The line at (roughly) 1pm, if part of the dial, passes to L of the hole.
DIALS 1 – 5
Dial 6 is different from the other dials, and relatively uncomplicated. The style hole is quite high on the dial stone. There are no radials, simply a gentle curve of several pocks either side of noon. There are 7 in all, and presumably the central one marked noon. There’s a significantly clearer image than mine via the first link below!
DIAL 7 -v- NOT A DIAL
There is debate as to whether this design is a dial, or was incised for some other purpose. Two concentric circles with a hole at the centre are not rare for a dial but one would expect to see lines – even just a noon line – and / or dots around the perimeter of the inner circle. Being sited at the W end, it would only be effective late in the day. Again, this is not particularly unusual where a church has been rebuilt stones relocated – Rimpton, Lillington and Stockbridge are examples.
Sometimes it helps to interpret a possible dial – one that may have been re-sited – by rotating the image. It could be argued that the two small pocks equidistant either side of a notional the noon line indicate a simple rather elegant double-ringed marker of the passage of time in the later part of the day. Alternatively it could be a straightforward dial with two pocks that was moved from the S side to W end. Anyway, it looks more dial-ish with this orientation.
DEH noted that this line-less, pock-less design – a hole at the centre of one or two circles – is not uncommon. He suggests that such configurations may have been dials with the details painted within the circles or on the circumference. This was a common practice and can still be seen in a few churches where there is a dial within the porch, cut next to the pre-porch main doorway. West Camel is one example; Chilthorne Domer nearby even has 2.
Local research (see below), originally in conjunction with Tony Woods / BBS, suggests this may in fact be a form of Consecration Cross or ‘event’ mark. That may well be so. However while these often have double circles, crosses generally (always?) do actually feature a cross or at least some form of incised device.
As mentioned earlier, I have a note of – and seen a reference to – an 8th dial. It may have been this faint spidery design with its shallow style hole, the lines all LRQ. If it is a dial at all – on balance I am 66% in favour.
These links will take you to two excellent analyses of the dials by Fovant village online resources. Both are interesting in their own right; the second link provides a good overview of the whole community.
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial; Consecration Cross
Credits: all photos Keith Salvesen; thanks to the Fovant church research groups