WENTNOR . SHROPSHIRE . ST MICHAEL & ALL ANGELS – Scratch Dial

Wentnor . Shropshire . St Michael and All Angels

Grade II*. Medieval origins, largely rebuilt using old materials in 1886. Some C12 details (small window, S. doorway). One of a number of hilltop churches in the region, and just W. of the Long Mynd. 2.5283 / -2.91 / SO383926

A scratch dial on this church is mentioned in TWC‘s county lists but not, as far as I can find, elsewhere. It seemed worth visiting as we were nearby. The only likely candidate I could find was in much the most likely location for a dial, to the left of the very early door and on the best stone (long before the porch was added). The configuration of the pocks suggest an afternoon dial marked from a (part-filled) style hole. It’s certainly a plausible candidate for TWC’s dial, and I could find no other. On balance, I’d rate it a probable more than a possible.

Wentnor . Shropshire . St Michael and All Angels – probable scratch dial as recorded by TWC

GSS Category – Scratch Dial

Photos: Keith Salvesen

BRAMPTON BRYAN . HEREFORD . ST BARNABAS – Scratch Dial

St Barnabas . Brampton Bryan . Herefordshire

GRADE 1. C14, earliest record for the site 1275. Largely destroyed in 1643 during the Civil War, as was the adjacent castle. Almost entirely rebuilt in 1656. Late C19 alterations and extensions. Much of interest including a triple hammerbeam roof. Most notable as a rare example of a church built (or rebuilt) during the Commonwealth. 52.3471 / -2.9255 / SO370725

DIAL

St Barnabas . Brampton Bryan . Herefordshire – Scratch Dial (Circle type)

The dial, a large circle, is on a short buttress under the E. window. There are few detectable marks, not least because of the lichen that covers most of it. The presumed style hole is basically a dimple in the centre. The present position – and indeed the history of the building – indicates relocation. It’s hard to say how useful it might originally have been, but it adds to the remnants of the church’s medieval past.

PLAUSIBLE ADDITIONAL DIAL (UNRECORDED)

To the right of the E. buttress on the E. end, there is a darker reddish stone, of a type seen elsewhere in the stonework, that caught my eye. There were 2 distinct long downward lines from an apex where there might credibly be a style hole. My photos don’t show the stone and markings as clearly as they looked to the eye. I immediately thought it was a probable dial. If so – given its position – the stone was undoubtedly relocated during reconstruction. I leave these images as food for thought. Comments are welcome.

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

Photos: Keith Salvesen

CHURCH STRETTON . SHROPSHIRE . ST LAURENCE – 2 scratch dials (unrecorded)

St Laurence . Church Stretton . Shropshire

GRADE 1. Church. C12 nave with C13 transepts, crossing and chancel; tower upper stage C15, vestry added 1831; transept aisles added 1868 in restoration; further restoration 1882 and 1932. Large and dignified PEV. Attractive small town and gateway to the remarkable and beautiful Long Mynd (518m). 52.5382 / -2.8088 / SO452936

DIALS

St Laurence at first sight is clearly much expanded and restored over the centuries. Parts of a much earlier church are evident. The existence of any external decorative features such a scratch dial seemed highly unlikely*. However the stonework round the small doorway looked older, reused, possibly in its original configuration. It was certainly worth walking along the path to take a look.

St Laurence . Church Stretton . Shropshire – doorway with medieval stones and 2 scratch dials

On the W. side of the doorway is a single stone with 2 simple part-dials incised. Their edge positions show that 3 stones were originally involved, but no other stones round the doorway matched the patterns, nor had obvious cuts. So in fact the positions of the stones must have been altered. From what remains of the dials, it is hard to guess how they must have looked but presumably their style holes must have been in the mortar dividing the 3 stones. Possibly this stone is inverted.

The dials are unrecorded by BSS, and I can find no other reference. It is understandable that in their present state they attract little or no attention. Perhaps the moral for dial sleuths is that any church that has a ‘dial-y’ look is worth a quick investigation.

* If I had explored further, the church records mention exterior carvings including St Laurence holding a gridiron, and a rare sheela-na-gig, probably of Saxon date. 

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

Photos: Keith Salvesen

MELBURY BUBB . DORSET . ST MARY – Scratch Dial (unrecorded)

Melbury Bubb . Dorset . St Mary

MELBURY BUBB . DORSET . ST MARY THE VIRGIN

GRADE 1. Church origins obscure; existing building dates from C15 with substantial C19 rebuilding. Renowned font carved from the column of a C10 Saxon cross and inverted. Excellent chest tombs. Next to a fine C17 Manor. The hamlet – Hardy’s ‘Little Hintock’ – is a few miles SW. of Sherborne, nestled into a peaceful hillside with outstanding views over the Blackmore Vale, shielded from the roar of the lethal A37 Yeovil – Dorchester road. 50.8571°N / 2.5753°W / ST596065

DIAL

BSS register and GLP describe a ‘doubtful’ dial: On W. buttress of tower, late C15. A doubtful dial consisting of a single horizontal line leading to a shallow hole. This could be the remains of a painted dial, or a piece of graffiti.

BSS Diagram of the doubtful dial

This church is local to us. We can see it clearly from our house 2 miles away. Since I started this blog, I have checked the buttress two or three times and failed to find a mark similar to the diagram. There are some horizontal faults in the stone, but I haven’t seen anything as precise.

Recently I decided to try again, choosing early evening on a sunny day when the light would be shining directly onto the face of the buttress. Which it did. This is what was revealed, faintly visible in direct sunlight.

Melbury Bubb . Dorset . St Mary – Scratch Dial

There’s an element of wish fulfilment with amateur dial sleuthing – each hole a potential gnomon location; two or more proximate lines as radials; adjacent erosion faults and dots as dial pocks. However, close inspection here revealed a clear design conforming to dial norms.

Melbury Bubb . Dorset . St Mary – Scratch Dial

The central hole has horizontal and vertical lines leading from it that divide the enclosed area into quadrants. There is the trace of a circle, slightly off-centre from the style hole. The upper vertical extends close to the circumference; the lower vertical (noon-line) stops slightly short of it; the left horizontal extends beyond almost to the lichen; and the right horizontal extends into the lichen. There’s a trace of what could be a 1-line to the right of the noon-line.

Melbury Bubb . Dorset . St Mary – Scratch Dial annotated

Having examined the dial in situ, made some measurements, and checked my photos I am convinced that this is a simple scratch dial probably from C15 soon after the tower was built rather than later. In any event I have convinced myself.

The remarkable font deserves inclusion. HE describes it as a cylindrical tapering stone bowl, reversed, formerly base of a shaft, carved with continuous design of beasts: stag, horse, wolf, and ?lion, and lesser beasts, and interlacement, C10. There is a helpful description and annotated diagram in the church.

I have seen St Mary described as a ‘one-treasure church’, but the whole interior, the churchyard with its early chest tombs, the lovely setting of the church and hamlet – and possibly a C15 mass dial – make it rather more than that.

Melbury Bubb . Dorset . St Mary – the C10 Saxon-origin font

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen

STANTON ST BERNARD . WILTS . ALL SAINTS – SCRATCH DIAL

Stanton St Bernard . Wilts . All Saints

STANTON ST BERNARD . WILTS . ALL SAINTS

Grade II. Mid C13, with a Norman font suggesting earlier origins. Tower C15. By early C19, dilapidated and demolished (apart from the tower) and rebuilt. The work was inferior and re-rebuilding was soon required. Close to the Kennet & Avon canal between Devizes and Pewsey. 51.3598 / -1.8703 / SU09162

DIAL

Badly eroded and degraded, the dial is located on the SW face of the buttress S of the W door. Apart from the semicircle at the top it is hard to discern how the dial might have looked. At first sight, this is a dial cut across 2 stones (there’s a hint of a circle on the lower stone), with the style hole presumably lost in the damaged area (the mortar line looks too high for one). Listed by TWC; not in the BSS register

Alternatively, possibly the combination of dilapidation, demolition and double rebuilding in C19 included rearranging some of the stonework of the tower that otherwise survived the chaos. Conceivably the present visible ‘semicircle stone’ was parted from a companion stone cut with the rest of the dial that was repurposed elsewhere.

Stanton St Bernard . Wilts . All Saints – Scratch Dial and Graffiti

Apart from the dial, there are quite a few witch marks and graffiti / initials. I take the double triangle mark beside the dial to be an emphatic ritual protection mark rather than, for example, a mason’s mark.

GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Witch Marks; Graffiti

All photos – Keith salvesen

STOCKBRIDGE OLD CHURCH . HANTS . ST PETER – Early Scratch Dial

St Peter Old Church . Stockbridge . Hants

ST PETER OLD CHURCH . STOCKBRIDGE . HANTS

GRADE II* . C12, later expansion until decay by C19 rendered it ‘unfit for public worship‘. Radical action was taken and the church demolished leaving only the chancel. The ‘new church’ was built in contemporary style on the High Street. Much of the old church was transferred to the new one (including a dial stone, to be featured another time). The old church is still in use and much of interest remains including Elizabethan wall paintings, early bells, and a C13 (or C12?) font. Also a medieval oak door carbon-dated to 1354. 51.1131 / -1.4876 / SU359349

DIAL

The church information leaflet notes ‘…a Mass Clock ca. 1214 on the door jamb of the west door’. However such a precise date is arrived at, this is a striking example of an early dial and a most unusual one in being set in an approximate rectangle rather than (if anything) a semi or complete circle. In Hants I know of one other, at Laverstoke.

St Peter Old Church . Stockbridge . Hants – Scratch Dial

The dial is set facing south among a selection of witch marks and graffiti scratched around the doorway. I counted 8 (possibly 9) lines rather haphazardly drawn and positioned ’round the clock’, with several pocks on the dial and its perimeter (also a dot pattern below). The noon line seems faintly to be extended. The style hole is filled. I wonder if it is unusual for such a very early dial to mark a full 24-hour cycle?

BSS gives the condition as fair and specifies 8 lines. Pocks are not noted. Comment: Repositioned?Irregular outline. Crudely cut or made. Cannot be classified. Unique shape.

Green ARG includes Stockbridge new church in his indispensable book of 1926 ‘Sundials – Incised Dials or Mass Clocks’. He visited in May 1922 and there is a detailed entry covering the dial stone removed from the old church and repositioned, inverted, high up at the W. end of the N. aisle. I will post about this dial in due course. However ARG makes no specific mention of visiting the old church, and there is no entry for it except in his concluding list of Hants dials.

NOTE: for a short summary of the Stockbridge churches & dials, see the entry on BRITAIN EXPRESS

GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Witch Mark; Church Graffiti

All photos – Keith Salvesen

MONTACUTE . SOMERSET . ST CATHERINE . 2 dials

St Catherine . Montacute . Somerset

MONTACUTE . SOMERSET . ST CATHERINE

GRADE II*. C12 origins on earlier pre-conquest site; extended in C13; tower C15; Victorian restoration. Outcompeted as an historic building by Montacute (the house) NT, worth a visit in its own right, obviously. 4 miles NW of Yeovil. 50.9498 / -2.7178 / ST496169

DIALS

DIAL 1

Repositioned and inverted on a S. buttress. An unusually large style hole, with other holes and pocks that may be markers, or perhaps irrelevant. The top left hole, on the circle, is the most likely to be related – perhaps a emphatic reminder for Mass. The afternoon lines are emphasised and the noon line elongated, though it looks a casual later addition. See below for image with the dial reverted

St Catherine . Montacute . Som – Scratch Dial 1

Father Horne DEH visited Montacute on 18 June 1914 and recorded it thus:

205. This dial is on the second buttress from the tower, at a height of 5 feet 7 inches above the ground. The noonline is 5 inches in length, the stylehole is 1 1/4 inches deep by 3/4 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 12° e. Type 5b.

This is a rare example (and perhaps none exists now, a century later) of a possible style fragment found in situ. The record continues:

This dial is upside down, and hence has been moved from its original place. A fragment of the metal style was extracted about an inch in length, and which had rusted down to about 1/2 of an inch in diameter. It appears to be a piece of iron. June 18th, 1914.

DIAL 1 REVERTED

St Catherine . Montacute . Som – Scratch Dial 1 Reverted

DIAL 2

On the second (E.) tower buttress on the S. side, another dial, unrecorded by Father Horne presumably because it doesn’t strictly fall within the – or his – scratch dial definition. However, it is a fine dial in its own right and deserves to feature here even if not quite qualified for inclusion.

I haven’t yet found an analysis of this dial in the usual resources. The lines are unevenly spaced but not graduated. The hours are clearly marked from 8 to noon in Arabic numerals; then faintly (eroded?) from 1 to 5 in Roman numerals. The 3-line is barely visible.

This Arabic / Roman numbering mix is not something I have come across before. It may help to date the dial – late C16 perhaps? Any further information would be welcome.

Ref: Somerset Historic Environment Record: There are two engraved sundials on the south side of the church. The first is semicircular and reset upside down on the second buttress west from the steps down to the boiler house. There are three marker holes. The second is on the E buttress for the tower and the divisions are numbered in a combination of Roman and arabic numbers. 

GSS Category: Scratch Dial(s); Old Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen

ODCOMBE . SOMERSET – ST PETER & ST PAUL: SCRATCH DIAL

St Peter and St Paul . Odcombe . Somerset

ST PETER AND ST PAUL . ODCOMBE . SOMERSET

GRADE II*. C13 origins, mainly C15, later restoration, transepts added 1874. 3 miles W. of Yeovil, close to Montacute. 50.9365 / -2.7031 / ST506154

DIAL

The dial, once located E. of the porch, is disappointingly half-concealed by a discoloured and broken perspex sheet screwed over it. It’s a well-intended method of protection, of course, but some say it is preferable to leave a dial to erode naturally over the centuries. Possibly a covering like this could actually cause deterioration.

A number of clear graduated lines are visible in the lower R quadrant. There is a large pock, with a couple of small holes in the mortar below. The large one – between the terminus of two afternoon lines – may well be part of the dial. It’s too large to be the location of the missing screw for the covering. Perhaps that was fixed in a smaller hole in the mortar.

St Peter and St Paul . Odcombe . Somerset – Scratch Dial

Dom Ethelbert Horne DEH visited Odcombe church on June 8th, 1915. He noted: this dial is on the s.e. face of the buttress, and hence may not be in its original position and his record states:

208. This dial is on the s.e. angle buttress of the s. porch. It is 4 feet 4 inches above the ground, the noonline is 3 inches in length, the stylehole is 4 1/4 inches deep by 1 inch in diameter, and the aspect is s.e. Type 3. June 8th, 1915.

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

All photographs – Keith Salvesen

TRELISSICK GARDENS . CORNWALL – CORNUBIAE HORTOS AMABANT

A modern dial in the walled garden at Trelissick NT, with a rather charming motto for the couple commemorated ‘Spouses (who) loved gardens’. It may be unique: I have found no other example, and it does not appear in Margaret Gatty’s compendious collection of Cornish sundial mottos.

GSS Category: Modern Dial

Photos: Keith Salvesen

RUSSBOROUGH HOUSE . WICKLOW . COURTYARD GATEWAY SUNDIAL

Russborough House . Wicklow . Ireland – Courtyard Gateway Sundial

RUSSBOROUGH HOUSE . Co WICKLOW . IRELAND – COURTYARD GATEWAY SUNDIAL

Russborough House . Wicklow . Ireland – Courtyard Gateway Sundial

Russborough House, built mid C18 for Joseph Leeson, is one of Ireland’s finest Georgian houses. Set in a large estate in the Wicklow Mountains, the house is renowned for its outstanding art collections (see http://www.russborough.ie/art).

The pleasing and straightforwardly solid gateway to the Courtyard has a most interesting angled sundial with no part of it in an expected place. One consequence of its position is that the graduations are notably complex. The main photo in the gallery below shows this far better than I can explain it.

It is clearly not an old dial. I have seen one photograph that suggests that at some time it has been painted blue. I need to investigate further and will add the details if I can find a date for the dial.

GSS Category: Modern Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen