GRADE I † C12 origins; gradual development C13 on, with later restorations C15 / C16. S porch (where the dials are) added C16, with earlier material reused. 8m SW of Dorchester. 50.6709 / -2.5638 / SY602858
St Peter has 4 scratch dials, 3 on the E side of the S porch, 1 on the W side. One of my nemesis churches. I have visited in rain, in cloud, and in sunshine. Of the cluster of 3 on E side, I could only make out the obvious one. Eventually I managed to identify them from an enlarged photo. The BSS recorder’s diagram below gives an idea of the dials rather more clearly than my photos can.
Dial 1 is located on the E side of S porch. Five lines are noted in the BSS records, of which 3 are clear and reasonably accurate. The gnomon hole is in the mortar line, where the lines converge.
DIALS 2 & 3
Dial 2 is very basic, and would be easy to overlook. There are 2 faint lines, with the top part including the gnomon hole cemented over a damaged area.
Dial 3 is even less conspicuous: a faint wishbone shape, 2 (3?) lines, one with a pock at the end.
I would doubtless have passed over this pair; and even had I noticed them I would have discounted them in my amateur way.
Dial 4 is on the west side of the south porch, on an inner quoin stone. At first glance it might be taken for an area of damage. In fact it is a dial with 6 lines, 4 of which end in pocks. It was described many years ago as not very accurately laid out and the passage of time has not improved the situation.
GRADE II* † C12 origins; tower & S porch C15; chancel, vestry, south aisle and chapel c1876 (G E Street). Wonderful C12 inner door with chevrons, shielded by porch; C12 font with a story to tell (below). A charming and very Dorset church. 4m SE of Bere Regis; 10m NE of Dorchester. 50.7759 / -2.2833 / SY801974
St Andrew has 3 dials. Dial 1 is a true scratch dial located in the NE corner of the nave, as is Dial 2 on the stone below (largely obscured by lichen, easy to overlook). Dial 3 is a transitional dial above the porch entrance.
Dial 1 is easily identified by its prominent filled gnomon hole from which 3 lines radiate in LLQ. There is also a perimeter curve of 5 (?6) pocks (diag).
Dial 2, on the stone immediately below Dial, 1 has no discernible lines. BSS records 5 pocks of varying size that are (given the lichen) more or less visible seen in conjunction with the BSS diagram below. They are basically shallow dents, in contrast to the ‘drilled hole’ type of pock usually encountered.
A transitional dial above the archway of the C15 S porch. Accuracy in marking the passage of time became increasingly important, not least with the advent of clocks. Dial design and construction involved taking a scientific approach to making time-telling more reliable and more legible. St Andrew is a good example. Rather than being scratched directly onto a stone intrinsic to the church structure, this dial stone is on what BHO describes as a square raised panel.
The dial has slightly angled edges with ‘extensions’ on both sides. It is not canted, so probably faces due S. It is a six-to-six dial with – originally – 12 lines (14, with the horizontal as 2). The hours 4 & 5 are cut deeper, perhaps denoting the most important Mass of the day. Some lines have weathered away in part or completely. There are a number of pocks. The recorder noted 4 trace (semi-)circles, one being close to the gnomon hole. The original gnomon was in the upper hole where there is now a square stub of iron rod. The lower arrangement indicates, I think, a later conversion / updating from a simple rod gnomon to a ‘proper’ one that required a footing; and perhaps a lamp bracket.
RARE FEATURE It’s not completely clear from my rather poor iPhone photos, but if you look carefully at the edge R side where there is the wide margin, you can see that the lines marking 4 & 5 extend onto the side of the dial face and continue down the side of the stone panel. Those short lines are visible from the side even if the rest of the dial is not. I wouldn’t have paid it much attention had I not also visited the neighbouring village of Winterbourne Whitchurch where there is an emphatic example of a ‘side-dial’ complete with a most unusual gnomon. My understanding is that this arrangement amounts to a morning dial read from E.
This is the 4th church I have come across where church events have entailed the use of a dial to tie in decorations etc with wire. In each case the wire was effective as an improvised gnomon.
During the Victorian period it was sometimes the fashion to throw out ancient fonts and Street did just that, installing in its place a new replacement. Fortunately, the old Norman font, decorated with a cable motif, was rediscovered in 1930 and put back in the north aisle, where it remains in use to this day.DHCT [This is an example of throwing the bath out with the baby water]
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial ; Transitional Dial
GRADE I † Founded by St. Aldhelm in AD 705 as a Saxon Cathedral, Sherborne Abbey became a Benedictine monastery, and following the Dissolution of the monasteries, a Parish Church of some splendour. Of all the architectural features, the astonishing [earliest majorPEV] fan vaulting is arguably the finest. This is not the place for discussion of the merits of the church. The Wiki entry is a helpful source for an overview of SHERBORNE ABBEY
The large Vertical dial at the E end is impressive and visible from some distance. The Old Shirburnian Society records:
The south-facing vertical dial on the south-east end of Sherborne Abbey was erected in 1745 by Sherborne School at a cost of £5.5s.0d. It was built by the Sherborne architect Benjamin Bastard (1690-1776), son of Thomas Bastard of Blandford Forum.
The modern gnomon is effective and casts an attractive shadow; it could be argued that its style and fixings do not quite do justice to a C18 dial.
The gallery above might suggest overuse of saturation, but the photos – at various distances to show other features – were taken on an iPhone on a bright sunny early winter’s morning, and are un-enhanced (not always the case, I must admit). We were fortunate enough to be married in this glorious building.
GRADE II* † C12 origin; alterations / enlargement in C14, C15, C16; restored 1872 (Wyatt). Walls mainly rubble stone and flint. A lovely setting, with a fine manor house. Much older-seeming even than the ubiquitous ‘Hardyesque’ description in these parts. Subtly hidden away 8m NE of Dorchester. 50.7827 / -2.3198 / SY775981
From the ground, this is a difficult dial to admire. It is high up, eroded, damaged, and gnomon-less. It would be easy to dismiss it as a disappointment after you have negotiated the narrow lanes that lead circuitously to the church. Luckily I brought a real camera with me (for scratch dials I just use my phone) to catch the details of 3 vertical dials on churches in the area.
The dial, on a rectangular stone slab, is dated 1671, and marks the hours from VIII am to VII pm. The motto across the top reads UT UMBRA SIC VITAAs a shadow so is life, one of several similar motto variants commonly found. The motto is enclosed within the initials A and R. (BHO elides the initials and the motto to form AUT UMBRA SIC VITAR).
The Borough Gardens in Dorchester are close to the centre of town. They were laid out and opened in the 1890s as ‘pleasure grounds’, as they remain. There is plenty to offer for all ages in an agreeable undulating space. Lawns, tennis courts, a bandstand, paddling pool, playground, a fountain, a memorial obelisk and more.
Amongst the attractions, close to the bandstand, is a modern analemmatic sundial. I don’t know the date it was laid out, but the BSS record is 1998 with the note: The dial is laid out in the play area near the bandstand. Hour markers adjusted for longitude, an hour added for summertime use. Shows hours from 7am to 7pm.
When I visited a few days ago, several small boys were having a kick around, with the dial in the centre of the pitch. No other type of dial would have worked for the purpose. The dial was partly concealed by uncut grass and leaves – the latter covering each numbered stone completely (I had to move some). I liked the way that the dial has several roles: time-telling in an interesting way; an open invitation to be the gnomon; an educative function; and artful horizontal stonework blending in with grassy and leafy surroundings. And a ‘jumpers for goalposts’ pitch into the bargain.
Wolfeton House (sometimes Wolveton) is a fine Grade 1 Elizabethan manor house with medieval origins. It stands amidst the the water meadows of the River Frome near Charminster, just N of Dorchester. Admired by Hardy. For more about the house, its history, and how to stay in the Gatehouse (dated 1534) see:
Some time ago we went to Wolfeton in connection with the the Pevsner Buildings of England series. I was able to photograph this most interesting sundial, though with a rather rustic camera and in low light. The dial is not in the optimum place for its primary purpose, but with its pleasing symmetrical design it suits where it stands.
The inscription is an intriguing mystery. At the time I was less engaged with dials, or I might have made more effort to record the details and to take a decent photo. As it is, I cannot make much sense of it. The initial letter U… could perhaps be the start of Umbra? But that assumes the words are in Latin. I have checked the main motto resources including Gatty (original, and revised & expanded); and various less comprehensive sources. I will add the translation if I can make any more sense of the text. Meanwhile, any ideas would be welcome. Actual knowledge, the more so.
UMBRA VIDET UMBRAM VIVE HODIE. A shadow marks the shadow. Live to day.
As it turns out, Gatty did record this dial, attributing it to a neighbouring village Bradford Peverell rather than Charminster. She noted the inscription is somewhat defaced. The dial was possibly erected by George Purling about 1815-20, when the garden was laid out). The same motto is on the tower of Broughton-Gifford Church, near Melksham,
HOW THE DIAL WORKS
This is a polar dial, with the end edges of the cross pieces acting as gnomons (cf the polar dial at Tintinhull). The dial should be oriented so these point north, ie with the inscription on the south face. However, it is clearly not orientated like that, so it now acts as an interesting garden ornament. John Foad (BSS) has kindly marked up a photo to show how the dial would work if correctly positioned.
The inscription might give a clue to the dial’s date. My amateur guess is that it is somewhere between mid-C18 and early C19.
GSS Category: Multiple Dial; Old Dial; Garden Dial
All photos: Keith Salvesen; *John Foad BSS for additional material / expertise (see Addendum)
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 I † C14 with older origins; gradual development, rebuilding and restorations. This church represents a far wider history of the area ecclesiastically, architecturally and socially. There are a great many good online sources of information, both general and specific, accessible with a single Gxxgle search. One of the most authoritative resources for deeper delving is British History Online BHO. 50.665 / -2.5989 / SY577852
The vertical dial is set in the parapet of the south wall of the south aisle. It is weathered, like the stone around it. A survey some time ago found no visible markings; the high position, extent of weathering and prevailing light probably explains that. A long lens picks out more detail. It is hard to date the dial – ± 1800?
The dial is cemented onto the parapet, supported by a ledge and with 2 iron supports at above it. A frame surrounds the dial. In the upper section is a semicircular dial, with the footing of the rather hefty gnomon centred within it. 2 clear lines descend either side of the noon line / gnomon blade.
The hint of 2 converging lines above the bolts suggest they radiate down from the horizontal line of the dial. At the base of the semicircle there are traces of an outer semicircle and, significantly, of a few short lines between the two. These seem to be half hour markers. If so, there was once a more complex dial that has all but vanished.
Beneath the lower gnomon footing, the number XII is very clear. Possibly it was recut (maybe more than once) to continue to emphasise the noon marker. Apart from that, all other numbers are completely erased except for a ghost of XI.
Is the rather clunky gnomon original? Initially I thought not, but some features suggest it might be. The precision of the tip of the top being exactly on the edge of the frame; the extent of the staining; and the degree to which it has protected the centre line of the dial and in particular XII. Against that, the angled view of the dial makes it seem rather incongruous.
GSS Category: Vertical Dial; Church Sundial; Gnomon
All photos Keith Salvesen except the last, stevekeiretsu Geo cc
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