Scratch dial St Mary the Virgin  Hermitage Dorset (Keith Salvesen)
St Mary the Virgin Hermitage Dorset



This project started from scratch and, conveniently, the focus is mainly on scratch (mass) dials.  The period under consideration is spans roughly 500 years from c12 to c16.  The broad area geographically was initially intended to cover the medieval churches of Wessex, specifically Dorset and South Somerset. Gradually it has spread more widely to counties further afield, and occasionally abroad. Post-medieval and modern dials were included from the outset, and divided into categories eg spheres, polyhedral etc. The overall scope also widened to cover other church marks: apotropaic / protection symbols, graffiti, dates, initials and so on. Random categories of objects found both outside and inside churches were added, eg hearses and stocks.

I am a dial amateur so if you are knowledgable, let alone an expert, this is an opportunity to turn aside before you go any further. I have experience of winging it in other specialist areas, so I hope the technique will work here. Also, I am a member of the British Sundial Society BSS which is a great resource to have.

One aspect of the project is to display photographs of medieval dials on the West Country churches. Some will be from past church visits elsewhere. If you are dial purist, a stickler for correct terminology, or keen on the forensic details of radial lengths, style hole depths, dial heights and angles, you may feel short-changed. In many cases the photos will give you as much information as I could by carrying instruments other than a camera. As I have learned more, I have become more opinionated and usually give my own assessment of the construction of a dial. Quite often I am able to incorporate material from other sources eg BSS, and including from the select few who walked round the same churchyards, examined the same porches and investigated the same priest’s doors as I am 100 years later. 

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My background is in Law and more recently in natural history, mainly birds and marine mammal research and conservation elsewhere in the world. If one can have an undercurrent of sundial interest, that’s been there since I discovered an Arts and Crafts ‘Liberty’ by Barker (as it has turned out) sundial hidden under a lot of earth in an overgrown pigsty when I was about 10. It had no gnomon. I still have it, gnomon-less. The motto reads:

I mark the passing hour as the shadows come and go

EMAIL sundials@gaudiumsubsole.org

Keith Salvesen
Keith Salvesen