HOLNEST . DORSET . ST MARY – Rare windowsill scratch dial; protection marks & graffiti

St Mary . Holnest . Dorset

GRADE I † Late C14, C15; C17 alterations inc. porch with date 1650 on keystone. Restorations mid-C19. Very recent skilled restoration 2020. Millennial dial with date-casting gnomon (cf BUCKLAND NEWTON). C18 box pews, candlelit services, Purdue bell c1580. Graffiti and witch marks. 14 formy consecration crosses both outside and inside (see locations below). A perfect small Dorset church standing alone, remnant of a plague village. There has been a recent very skilful restoration that has not impacted on the original charm of St Mary. 6m S of Sherborne. 50.8868 / -2.4902 / ST656098

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St Mary . Holnest . Dorset – Keystone

SCRATCH DIAL

St Mary . Holnest . Dorset – rare scratch dial on window-sill

A remarkable and very rare C15 dial, possibly unique (cf nearby THORNFORD). It is located on a window sill of the S aisle, incised at an angle of 35º. It is quite difficult to examine – even close to – because of erosion and lichen. The style hole is centred on the stone divide between 2 windows. To be effective it must have been angled forwards: C15 dial deliberately positioned centrally. Gnomon must have been bent over, perhaps horizontally. Lines are quite accurately cut GLP.

There were originally 12 lines – the full complement for a semicircular dial. However, many are so weathered that they are barely visible – some not at all. The church is across the fields from us and I have spent some time with the dial, examining it and photographing it at different angles and in different light. I’ve managed to identify 8 lines including the horizontals, much as shown on the second BSS diagram below. The most visible lines are these:

St Mary . Holnest . Dorset – diagram of scratch dial on window-sill

St Mary . Holnest . Dorset – scratch dial diagrams BSS

VERTICAL DIAL

The porch has a date of 1650 and a new [millennium] sundial commemorates the Great Crested Newt that meant that a field nearby could not be developed for housing. Friends of Holnest Church.

A particularly good example of a meaningful local dial designed specifically for its location and time. The Battle of the Newt being won as the new Millennium approached, a fine dial to record both events was fully merited.

St Mary Holnest: millennial vertical dial dated 2000 with unique Newt Protection Symbol

WITCH MARKS & GRAFFITI

The S porch has a rich variety of medieval church marks. The example stones shown above have witch / ritual protection / apotropaic marks to ward off evil, in particular a number of Marian marks VV (Virgo Virginum / Virgin of Virgins). There are also initials and C17 dates.

CONSECRATION CROSSES

There are 14 in all, 12 being the usual maximum. 5 are inside the church on the tower walls

Consecration Crosses: On chancel— flanking E. window externally, four crosses; flanking S. doorway, two crosses. On nave—W. of heads of N. windows, two crosses. On S. aisle—over E. window and W. of S. window, two crosses. On W. tower, on N. and S. walls, one cross and below W. window, two crosses; formy crosses fourteen in all, mediæval. BHO

GSS Category: Scratch Dial, Mass Dial; Church Marks, Witch Marks, Protection Marks; Consecration Crosses

All photos: Keith Salvesen

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