A sundial on the terrace of this fine house, with its C17 origins and unbroken line of Digbys. The renowned gardens are especially worth visiting in Spring. It features a collapsible gnomon, an unusual feature not conducive to enhancing its primary purpose.
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 I † Cistercian Abbey dating from C12, becoming a fine stately home C17 with beautiful gardens and landscaping. Near Chard. 50.8434° N, 2.9113° W
Dial 1 is prominently in the centre of the parapet, crowned with a broken pediment and ball. It has been dated late c17 or early c18. The spindly gnomon has been considerably bent to make the dial as accurate as possible (and see dial 2), given the orientation of the building. At some time, the top end has had to be re-fixed into the stone.
BSS records as Located in roof line castellations. An apparently blank dial plate with painted numbers on the stonework outside – possibly a later innovation. Upright white sans-serif hour numerals VII – IIII. Noon is marked with a square box and 4pm as IIII. Long thin rod gnomon with unusual support formed by a second rod to the tip, itself with a short stay near its foot. Declination is E.
Dial 2 is located high on a tower, in effect at right-angles to dial 1. It is basically all gnomon and no actual dial face. I haven’t seen a large spindly design like this before. Although it has a rather home-made look to it, the design and positioning must have been carefully calculated, As with dial 1, the orientation of the building necessitated a corrective angle in relation to the sun’s movement. The shadow cast by this rather intriguing ‘gnomon sundial’ seems completely adequate for marking the passage of the day even without additional markings.
GRADE I † Late C12 or early C13; porch added C15, C19 general restoration. A pretty and rewarding small church to visit, close to the R Stour. A simple building, comprising a nave, chancel and porch, topped with a small bell cote. Useful photos HE. Seems off the beaten track but only 3 miles E of Sturminster Newton. 50.9304 / -2.2606 / ST817145
The dial is on S side, inside the C15 porch. It is cut into the R end of the original doorway arch (as you look at it; other sources say at the top of the L jamb). It clearly precedes the new porch by at least a century; GLP dates it C13.
This is more or less a 1/4 ‘afternoon’ dial, quite roughly cut. Of the 5 lines (GLP suggests 7 but I could not make them all out). Only one line is before noon, and gives the impression of being an afterthought. 4 have slight curves. None of them (now) is connected to the style hole. The noon line is emphasised in both depth and length. GLP suggests some lines recut. There are 5 pocks rather randomly placed.
NOTE: the pleasing name for the village seems to derive from its historical manor, the ‘hame’ of William de Mohun
GRADE I † C13 origins, gradual expansion to C16 – nave, tower, north aisle, chancel, south porch. General restoration first half of C19, further restoration later C19. A fine Dorset church in a lovely setting. 6m W of Shaftsbury. 50.9932 / -2.2948 / ST794215
St Michael has 3 dials, all different in style and complexity. With the lengthy development of the church over 3 centuries, and subsequently 2 significant C19 restorations, not all may be in their original positions (for example dial 3 is nearly 3m from ground level). If moved, at least they remained the right way up.
Dial 1 is on W side of the S porch. The squared-off stone looks relocated – especially as the porch was a late (C16?) addition. There are 9 lines of varying length, with bad erosion in lower R quadrant.
The dial is / was encircled but little of the circumference line remains. GLP notes that the noon line is marked with a pock where is meets the circle and that the dial is rather inaccurately laid out and the lines do not converge on a point.
Dial 2 is on a quoin stone on the SW corner of the tower. 6 long lines radiate from the blocked gnomon hole to the lower L quadrant, in effect forming a ‘morning dial’. It is not accurate.
The dial stone seems to match the others round it. Possibly it is in its original position, but it could have been moved as a block with similar stones either during the medieval period or (more probably) in C19.
Dial 3 is quite high up on the S wall of the tower and difficult to examine closely. Luckily the lines, though lightly incised, are legible and the overall design is clear.
The are 12 in all, with the noon line extending upwards from the style hole to the mortar line above. Unlike the other dials, GLP notes that this one is accurately laid out, suggesting that it may have been the last dial to be cut.
ACTUAL / PLAUSIBLE / DOUBTFUL / NOT
2 other stones caught my eye during my visit. Both are dial-ish and in appropriate locations. Which category do these fall into?
GRADE I † A fine church with C12 origins, gradually enlarged C13 & C14. C19 restoration by T H Wyatt. BLB link. A village irrevocably associated with the 6 Martyrs, at least one of whom (James Hammett) lies in the churchyard. The tree where the Martyr’s met stands just outside the churchyard of St John the Baptist, on the main road through the villageBE. 10m E of Dorchester. 50.7497 / -2.298 / SY790945
Both dials are on the S transept wall, dial 1 being on a quoin stone and dial 2 being below a window. They are easily visible. GLP has some doubts about dial 2, explained below.
Dial 1 is located on a quoin stone of the S transept, with the gnomon hole in the lower half. There are 6 detectible lines, 2 of which point upwards. In addition there are about 11 pocks, though it is hard to be sure of the exact number. The BSS recorded configuration shows 3 holes marking the horizontal, with the main cluster either side of the noon line, which is emphasised with 2 holes (as are 2 other lines). GLP notes the dial is very accurately laid out and no line is more than 1″ from its ideal position
This design cut just below a window on S wall looks decidedly dial-ish as a very simple way to record the passage of the day. There are no detectable lines or pocks, but a stick in the now-cemented style hole would have served some purpose. The circle was perhaps to attract attention and / or highlight the shadow cast. This minimalist approach is not especially rare: for example there’s a similarly-sized slightly more elaborate dial at HAZELBURY BRYAN.
GLP calls it a dubious dial, and suggests that it would work if hour lines were marked in some other way, possibly with paint. It is not included in the BSS record for Tolpuddle
GRADE 1 † C12 Norman origins, mostly enlarged and rebuilt C13 -C15 with relatively little remaining of the earlier church. One of several ‘Puddle’ villages in the Piddle valley, each of considerable merit. St Mary is of exceptional interest for its furnishings and monuments (RCHM Dorset Vol III), including a C12 font. Atmospheric interior; like a Dickensian law court (SJ 1000 *** p.159). 50.7483 / -2.3433 / SY758943
From a distance the dial of St Mary might easily be taken for an ammonite, especially as the church is only 20 miles from the famed Jurassic Coast. It is located on the E buttress W of the S chapel, on the L side of a large quoin stone. This is a very crudely cut dial (GLP) with 13 rather randomly cut lines extending from a now-filled gnomon hole. Its position and condition suggest that it was relocated during rebuilding or restoration. The left side is badly damaged: it would be interesting to know how it originally looked when intact.
Some time ago I wrote about the intriguing scratch dial rather hidden away through a low archway at the E end of the church: LONGBURTON SCRATCH DIAL 1
The village is better known dial-wise for the vertical dial on the S-facing tower buttress (see below). Yesterday I went back to look for apotropaic and other church marks, and to my surprise found an excellent conventional sundial hidden in plain sight and hitherto unrecorded. I can’t think how I – or any dial gatherer – would miss it…
The previously unrecorded dial is near the base of the same buttress as the vertical dial. There are 4 lines, the more clearly cut noon line being longer and reaching the edge of the dial stone (and possible trace of extension onto the stone below). The angles are almost equal. There is the distinct trace of a circle in around the top half, but strangely the gnomon hole would not be at its centre.
The dial is high up on the buttress of the tower, and nearly as wide. It is quite eroded, esp. RHS. The lines are contained within a frame, and half hours and some quarter hours are also marked.
BSS notes Triple dot motif at head of half hour lines. Gnomon formed from iron strip with supporter. Supporter is detached at contact with gnomon
The dial numerals are Roman, yet there are Arabic numerals in both bottom corners signifying the date. It is hard to make it out, but I think it is 1798. There are the remains of an inscription along the top of the dial, just the last 2 letters being discernible (O & W?).
ST CANDIDA & HOLY CROSS . WHITCHURCH CANONICORUM . DORSET
GRADE I † C12 onwards on a Saxon site, with tower not until C15; C19 restoration. Also known as St Wite (hence Candida?), whose relics are in a shrine inside the church.* A building of outstanding interest in a secluded valley, the Cathedral of the Vale. Too much else to be said for inclusion here. For more details, see BLBBE & ST CANDIDA WIKI 5m NW of Bridport. 50.7554 / -2.8565 / SY396954
Dial 1 can be found in a corner of the W buttress of the S transept. It has 12 lines, and the stone has been cut to give a rectangular outline to the dial, the gnomon hole being R of centre. Sited uncomfortably in a corner, the dial seems unlikely to have been effective and certainly not year-round. Nor would it have been very visible to passers-by. So it seems likely – given the way the lower lines are truncated – that the dial was re-sited during later renovation.
This dial (if it is one) is as simple as could be – 2 holes, large and small, on the vertical. It is located on the W jamb of the C13 blocked door of the chancel. BSS describes it as a ‘Noon Mark’, a style in the upper dial indicating the passage of the day either side of noon. GLP suggests this might originally have been a painted (as opposed to incised) dial. I wondered if the 2 slightly inward-curving faint lines descending from each side of the lower hole were there to emphasise noon (as was done using pocks).
* In 1900 the tomb was opened and was found to hold a lead casket containing the bones of a small woman. On the casket was the Latin inscription “HIC-REQESCT-RELIQE-SCE-WITE” (“Here lie the remains of St Wite”) ST CANDIDA WIKI