GRADE II* † C14, with (unusually) few changes until C19 additions and restorations (Street). An attractively uncomplicated church and churchyard. The tower houses 7 bells, of which 4 are dated 1600. 14m E of Dorchester 50.7778 / -2.1967 / SY862976
As I read it, the dial has a clear ‘midnight to noon’ line, extended at both ends; and a fainter 6-to-6 horizontal that ends more or less on the circumference. There are 3 other clear lines in LL quadrant, and perhaps other faint traces. I can’t make out more than that, even in a close-up. GLP recorded 13 lines, 7 of which extend beyond the circumference and notes that the dial is partially divided into decimal hours (LL quadrant), with ‘morning hours’ divided into 5 sections and the ‘afternoon hours’ into 6 (I’m not seeing the afternoon hours). He compares it to PIDDLEHINTON.
GRADE I † C13 origin (nave, chancel); C14 S porch; C15 enlargement, tower; C19 restorations inc Wyatt. Good C13 south door: cusped arch, carved heads as dripstones BHO. 2 Purdue bells. Early C16 oak pulpit, bench ends. 10m NE Dorchester. A most attractive and well-kept church. 50.7427 / -2.2772 / SY805937
THES SEATYS WERE MADE YN THE YERE OF OWRE LORD GOD MCCCCCXLV
IN THE THYME OF THOMAS LYLLYNGTON VICAR O THYS CHERCH.
St Laurence has 2 dials, one either side of the nave window. Unusually, both are entirely designed with holes (cf TRENT) apart from a token noon indicator on Dial 1, barely discernible (see diagram).
W jamb of the nave window, in poor condition. Besides the single vertical line, there are 8 small holes in a curve below the style hole. 2 further holes emphasise Nones, the Mass time equating in clock terms to 3pm. GLP notes that the dial is accurately cut.
Dial 2 is on the E jamb, a longer and clearer semicircle of 12 holes. There are a couple of small holes that might be for emphasis / to mark a half hour (see eg between 9 and 10). GLP notes that the style hole is very small / shallow for a gnomon. Again he found the dial very accurate, most holes being within 4º of true, with 5 exactly correct.
CHURCH MARKS OF ST LAURENCE
Some of those interested in medieval church dials (and you have after all reached here) are likely to check a church for other medieval marks. St Laurence is worth visiting for these alone. Here are just 3 examples, of which one is especially intriguing and needs be researched further (not by me).
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial; Church Marks; Medieval Graffitti
GRADE I † C13 origin nave, N chapel, later enlarged; C14 tower & porch; C15 rebuilt chancel; subsequent repairs and C19 restorations. One of only 3 Dorset medieval churches with a spire (with Iwerne Minster & Winterborne Steepleton). A fascinating church smothered in history, the details best researched separately. C15 font. Pride of place is taken by the superb 16th century screen, which is one of the best in DorsetNCT. Good C16 bench ends. For a quick overview of St Andrew BLB. At the centre of the Sherborne – Yeovil – Marston Magna triangle. 50.9648 / -2.5859 / ST589185
There are 4 dials in 2 pairs. They have much in common. All are on buttresses; all are C15; and unusually, all are designed entirely with pocks, without any lines at all. There are a couple of other plausible dials with a promising style hole in a mortar line or roughly central on a stone. There are hints of pocks that may be related, but erosion and lichen make it hard to be sure. Best left as a mystery.
On the chancel, SW face of the end buttress. The gnomon hole is in the dial stone, with a curve of 7 pocks below it, of which one has a second that perhaps marked a an off-vertical noon line.
Dial 2 is the most intriguing of the 4 dials. It is below Dial 1 on the SW face of the chancel buttress. There are 24 holes drilled in a curve of 3 rows, with 8 in each row. The careful design has the dots radiating accurately from the gnomon hole as though they were lines. Additionally, there are outlier dots – 3, perhaps 4 – below the neat curve: see image above. They are drilled more or less in line with the design on the main dots, in a way that looks meant. GLP refers to them as extra dots.
Dial 3 is on the cancel buttress E of the doorway. There are 6 pocks in a curve below a gnomon hole presumed to have been in the mortar but no longer identifiable. GLP concluded that this dial and its companion below were unlikely to have been accurate.
A similar dial with 4 pocks and a cement-filled gnomon hole in the mortar line. GLP also doubted its accuracy. It is hard to account for the fact that 2 such similar basic dials are so close. Rival sextons? A competition? A new incumbent?
Note: To see the Vertical Dial, visit the Old Dial page HERE
GRADE II* † Early C13 chancel, nave, N doorway; C15 N porch; c1500 W Tower; later additions; C19 restorations. A simple typically Dorset small church in an attractive location. 2m S of Dorchester (can be combined with Winterborne Steepleton nearby (2 dials). 50.6884 / -2.4604 / SY675877
GLP notes a single doubtful dial over a blocked doorway, not included in BSS records. However there is a clear inverted dial elsewhere on S side. There is also a dial-ish quoin stone that I include. There’s not enough evidence to consider it much more than doubtful, but the location is conventional and the overall ‘jizz’ (to use a birding term) invited more than a glance.
Above the blocked S aisle door, C16. GLP suggests a masons’ mark rather than a scratch dial and notes a similar ‘dial’ at Hilton, near Blandford. There are 2 faint concentric circles. The very small central hole that would be more consistent with the use of a compass inscribe the circle.
Quite high up at the W end of the S face is a very clear dial that I have not found recorded elsewhere. There are 7 lines, each ending in a pock and with the (presumed) 9-line having a second pock, doubtless the main Mass time. The reversion below shows how the design would have worked well as a morning dial.
The most intriguing feature is the presence of (the remains of) a square rod in the style hole, with filler material round it. It seems highly unlikely to be original, though it may have been inserted many years ago perhaps as a replacement gnomon. A square rod in not so rare: there is one at St Mary, Glanvilles Wootton, for example.
DIAL 3 ?
An excellent dial position, a hole almost central to the stone, and inverted (if a dial at all) as often the case where a dial has been superseded or its stone relocated. I have included a reversion that makes the upwards mark into a noon line. There are hints of perimeter pocks in LR quadrant.
Finally, there are 3 fine C17 memorial floor slabs to admire
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial; Gnomon Rod; Masons’ Mark, C17 memorial floor slabs
GRADE II † C13th origins of which traces survive at the W end; substantial rebuilding 1860s by Wyatt. Set in peaceful countryside close to R. Frome. An excellent folder with details about the church and contents is kept in the church. Woodsford Castle / fortified house is nearby, the largest thatched building in England. 5m E of Dorchester 50.7143 / -2.3383 / SY762905
The single dial is just E of the entrance door, on the quoin of the S chapel. Plain and clearly cut. Now adorned with a slim metal rod bedded into blu-tack in the large gnomon hole (not quite as strange as the drill bit gnomon I found in Shropshire…).
The dial has 5 clear lines descending from the gnomon hole to the lower perimeter of the complete circle. There are large terminal pocks and several other smaller pocks round the circumference that plausibly could be part of the overall design.
A most informative diagram with commentary explains the intricacies of the medieval day and the significance of the passing hours between dawn and dusk. You can find more on this topic HERE but the material below provides a good straightforward overview.
GSS Category: Scratch Dial
All photos Keith Salvesen; Dial Diagram and Explanation courtesy of the Church
GRADE I † C13 nave, chancel, S porch inc outer archway. C15 alterations & additions – chapel, tower. Restored 1885. 2 Purdue bells. 4m W of Sherborne and E of Yeovil. 50.9532 / -2.5732 / ST598172
There are 3 dials beside the porch doorway, 1 on the left side and 2 on the right. The intricacies of the dials are clearer from the BSS archive photos and diagrams compared with my photos, taken in bright sunlight and not picking up the details.
South Porch L of doorway. 13 lines, with the noon line extended, and 23 pocks. The diagram suggests 1, perhaps 2, mid-morning Mass markers. GLP points out that the lines are below the horizontal whereas almost all the pocks are above it; and that the design is accurate.
South porch R of doorway. Despite the extended ‘noon line’ (as it appears), the dial must in fact be upside down. If not, it can’t have had any practical use. 10 lines with very variable angles and 12 pocks. GLP describes it as crudely cut as a tide / octaval dial. The white item is a stone, which was in place when I originally saw the dial, and still 18m later. I left it in peace.
A semi-circular dial with 13 lines, almost all of which end pocks. There is a complete inner circle round the gnomon hole, with semi-circle outside it. GLP found the dial to be accurately cut.
On chancel—(a) on external S. wall, W. of S. window; on N. chapel—(b) on N. external wall, W. of N.E. window, reset; on nave—(c) on external N. wall, between N.E. window and doorway; (d) on E. splay of N. doorway; (e and f) on E. jamb of S. doorway, two crosses; (g) on E. splay of S. doorway; (h) on E. splay of S.W. window; on W. face of tower— (i) against N. buttress; all formy crosses in circles except second on jamb of S. doorway, mediæval (BLB)
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Consecration Cross
All photos Keith Salvesen + BSS archive (also diagrams)
DEDICATION † ST ANDREW . Parish church. Late C13, consecrated 1312, completed C15, restoration from C19. A ‘major church’PEV. A good place to find out more is the RCHM entry ST ANDREW YETMINSTER. Carefully compiled church and Parish Archive. 10 Consecration Crosses from medieval to (relatively) modern. An important very early (1683) clock, now in restoration (see below).
LISTING † Grade 1
LOCATION † 5 miles SW of Sherborne, / SE of Yeovil. Noteworthy village easily accessed. Fine vernacular Ham stone buildings give the feel of an earlier era. Many listed buildings. Village also highly regarded by PEV. Station in village (not, as elsewhere locally, a wayside halt). Etiminstre in DB 50.8939 / -2.578 / ST594106
DIALS † Two dials on the buttress E. of S door, both C15
A semicircle dial with 13 lines (including the horizontal). BSS notes no circumferential circle. The noon line is extended, and 4 others end slightly beyond the circumference . GLP describes it as very neat and accurately marked. Both dials have been thoroughly examined – clips of the original records from the excellent church archive are below.
An unusual rather drooping design, explained below. Gnomon hole in the mortar line. The dial is split across 2 stones by a vertical mortar line. There are 11 lines, if one includes the mortar joint as the vertical / noon line. The lines RHS are badly eroded.
GLP noted that this dial is of particular interest as the angle of the lines suggest that it may be an early Scientific Dial. Comparing the lines with the correct angles for the latitude only one of the lines is more than 4º out. A further even more technical conclusion is that to function this dial would have needed a gnomon at an angle of 39º to the wall. This evidences an advance from earlier dials where the gnomon was simply inserted into its hole straight rather than angled.
CLOCK † The historic faceless pendulum clock (1683) is being restored at the moment. I am writing the day after the Queen’s death, and by coincidence the clock has a specific significance: The Clock carillon plays the National Anthem at 3-hourly intervals. This dates from 1897 when it was installed by local benefactors for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, and is very rare, and possibly unique. For the Platinum Jubilee of HM The Queen this year, the carillon was operated manually to ring out as part of our Jubilee Celebrations.
NOTES † 10 ‘formy’ Consecration Crosses in sunk round panels on external wall-facesBHO (locations specified); C10 Saxon cross shaft fragment; faceless clock of interest; good hunky punks. Links with Robert Boyle (chemistry, founder of the school) and Benjamin Jesty (smallpox); quite a lot of external graffiti – initials, dates and some Marian (‘witch’) marks
St Andrew . Yetminster . Dorset – Graffiti and a Marian (ritual protection) mark. The 3 initialled and dated marks are likely to be cut by masons who did work on the church in the 1830s (cf Melbury Osmond)
GRADE II* † C12 origins, chancel added C13, nave & tower C15. Considerable C19 restoration & rebuilding. Quite a large church, with its gradual development evident. 6 confusing scratch dials. SE of Dorchester, W of Wareham. 50.6585 / -2.277 / SY805843
The scratch dials are in a group arranged around the S. door of the chancel. There are 6 in all (BHO records 4) but on the very dark local ironstone none is very clear. BSS / GLP dates them to C15, and their diagrams below are very helpful in marking the locations and configurations. I should say at once that I couldn’t definitively identify dial 3 (at / near the apex of the doorway’s arch) at the time nor in the photos I took see below.
GLP concluded that none of the dials was in its original position. 1, 3, 6 are inverted; the stones of 2, 4, 5 were shaped after the dials were cut, truncating them. Perhaps the entire doorway was originally built using reshaped stones from elsewhere on the church; or perhaps an existing doorway was later rebuilt or reshaped.
Dial 1 is on L side of the doorway. Inverted, with 5 lines pointing upwards. Style hole area heavily filled (possible repair of damage?). GLP suggests the lines are not convergent so very inaccurate.
Dial 2 is above dial 1, on the lowest stone of the doorway arch. Parts of the dial have been cut off at the edges. There are 12 lines, 5 pocks and a cement-filled style hole. Of all the dials, it is more or less correctly orientated, with a noon line emphasised by depth and length.
This is my candidate for dial 3. GLP describes it as very worn and inverted. Apart from the very clear unfilled style hole, he describes 2 trace lines above the dial. I couldn’t detect the 2 lines. The BSS diagram (see below) indicates dial 3 as being on the apex stone, but I found no evidence of a dial there.
Dial 4 is upper R side of the arch. There are 9 lines radiating from a plugged style hole, one (perhaps 3) with terminal pocks. The dial has clearly been rotated 90º clockwise. Sited correctly, the deeper incised lines L side would become midday lines. GLP considers it clearly and accurately marked (given the correct position).
Dial 5 is below dial 4 on a larger stone. It is very degraded and it isn’t easy to read. BSS notes 3 lines, and a pock possibly marking noon. My impression was of 2 additional trace lines. This dial is recorded as repositioned, set at a very oblique angle, and could never have been used in its present position.
Dial 6 is lower down on the R jamb approx level with dial 1. Again, it is inverted, with 6 distinct lines radiating upwards. One is marked with a cross, probably the Mass line.
BSS DIAGRAMS OF THE 6 INDIVIDUAL DIALS
NOTE: because of the dark ironstone I have brightened the images to make them clearer
GSS CATEGORY: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial; Medieval Sundial
All photos Keith Salvesen; diagrams and research material GLP / BSS
GRADE II* † Mainly C14, tower C15. C12 vestiges of earlier church. General C19 restorations including by T H Wyatt. A slightly unharmonious impression reflects the changes. Roughly midway between Shaftsbury to NW & Blandford to SW. 50.9135 / -2.1078 / ST925126
A single dial on S porch E of doorway. GLP calls it a remarkable dial, somewhat damaged. Its perplexing design has provoked several theories. The most straightforward is that it is in fact a transitional dial rather than a true scratch dial. BHO notes: Scratch Dial: on S. wall of porch, with black-letter numerals and stump of iron gnomon, early 16th century, which is probably meant generically rather than specifically. GLP, with his compendious knowledge of Dorset dials, dates this one much earlier, late C14.
The dial stone is far larger than any other porch stone and seems out of place. The first impression is of a large dial doubly encircled but with the upper half damaged and eroded over the centuries. GLP suggests remnants of large dial with all hour lines marked. The fact that the gnomon hole – still with the stub of an iron rod – is almost exactly at the centre of the dial stone supports the theory of an originally complete circular dial rather than partial arcs. In the upper L quadrant there are hints of double circumference lines continuing upwards.
LINES & POCKS
The details of the dial are intriguing. There are 10 lines leading to numerals carved in blackletter / Gothic form. Legible numbers run from 5am to noon, then there are 2 lines with eroded numerals. There is a plausible very faint near-horizontal line RHS. Hours 9, 10, 11, & 12 are marked with a cross rather than the roman numeral X (see diagram below).
There are also 5 pocks. 4 decorate the noon line. 1 is halfway down the 11 line which is nearly vertical, indicating (I think) that the dial was cut to take account of the orientation of the wall.
Unusually, the dial has the stump of an iron gnomon. It seems unlikely to be original and looks more square than round (cf GLANVILLES WOOTTON , also in Dorset). Whether original or not, there is no way of telling how (if at all) it was angled.
GLP suggests that the dial may be an interesting transitional dial and notes that it would probably not have been accurate. One theory is that this was a horizontal dial set vertically; or with a horizontal design used for this vertical dial. He concludes that it is as much a decorative feature as a real timekeeper. My query is whether C14 dials were sophisticated enough to be making the transition from basic scratch to accurate scientific dials.
GRADE II* † Chancel & porch early C14; some C15 & C18 work; remainder of church rebuilt 1877 (Crickmay). For more details (my visit having been curtailed) see St Mary Sixpenny Handley BHO. The village is halfway between Salisbury and Blandford. 50.9552 / -2.0077 / ST995173
There are two dials recorded for St Mary. I visited just after a funeral service had begun, and I paused for a circumspect and respectful moment at the chancel end of the church, where the dial featured here is situated. I took a couple of photos of the dial before stealing away. The other dial (not noted by GLP) is on the W side of the porch, and I will have to check it another time. Hence the header image is an archive postcard showing the church and its handsome lych gate instead of a photo of the church; and there is a diagram only of the porch dial.
This large C14 dial looks out of place and seems clearly to have been relocated. The hamstone on which it is cut doesn’t match any others in the vicinity, and the dial is awkwardly angled with the presumed extended noon line some 15º from the vertical. An upper segment appears to be missing from the visible semicircle. There isn’t a definite gnomon hole and the 9 lines seem to radiate from a higher point than the edge of the stone, further suggesting a re-siting. 4 lines extend beyond the circumference. There is a trace of a cross at the end on the apparent ‘noon’ line and GLP notes that it may in fact be a Mass line rather a noon line. Overall he found the dial to be accurately cut.
Dial 2 is on the W side of the S porch, and the BSS record suggests it is not easy to make out. There is an arc of 7 pocks RHS, from noon on. Not having seen the dial, I am not sure how much else is now visible. I’ll have to time my next visit to the area with more care, and expand this article accordingly.