GRADE II † Established C12, first recorded 1207; mostly C15; restoration 1863. C13 (?) font. Originally the chapelry to nearby Seavington St Mary. Very pretty, both the building and the dial. 5m NW of Crewkerne. 50.9113 / -2.8505 / ST403127
DEH visited in August 1915 and added a note to his often largely measurement-based record.
There is a full complement of 24 lines, with areas of erosion, radiating from the gnomon hole in the centre of the dial stone. I am not clear which added lines DEH refers to. I infer that the dial may have been a hemisphere marking dawn to dusk only from the horizontal 6-to-6 lines. Then perhaps for reasons of aesthetics / symmetry an upper hemisphere was cut to match it.
There’s another conundrum concerning the 4 terminal pocks in UR quadrant (above). If the dial is in its original position (L), they would have been useless and indeed pointless. But if the dial stone was at some stage at 90º or (more likely and convincingly) 180º from its present position, they would be effective as daytime Mass markers. In the rotated image (R), the pocks are in the right place to emphasise forenoon Mass.
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial
All photos: Keith Salvesen, except header image Sarah Smith / Geo /
GRADE II* † C13 origins (nave, chancel), considerable enlargement late C15. Norman font, trace wall paintings. Now in the care of CCT. Adjacent to Seavington St Michael and 4m E of Ilminster. 50.9306 / -2.851 / ST402149
DEH visited St Mary in Sept 1912 on one of his early dial research expeditions in Somerset☩. He recorded a single dial on a buttress (Dial 1). BSS does not have a specific record for St Mary. I wasn’t prepared for the multi-dial display on either side of the porch..
Dial 1 is described by DEH in more detail than usual:
This dial is on a buttress half-way between the s. porch and chancel. It is about 5 feet 5 inches above the ground, the noonline is 3 1/2 inches in length, the style hole is 1/2 an inch deep to the top of the metal shank which is still within it, and about 1/2 an inch in diameter. On the noonline, close to the stylehole, is a hole for a peg, and there is another at the extreme end of this line in the next stone. There is also a peg-hole on the mass line.
There are 7 lines, starting with the horizontal 6am. The noon line seems to be a close double line, with noon itself being between them (as other churches in the area). There’s also a hint that it extends to the stone below, with a small terminal pock. The deeper cut line in the lower right quadrant presumably marked the main Mass of the day. No metal shank was evident.
St Mary . Seavington St Mary . Somerset
DIALS 2 & 3
On the W side of the door are 2 adjacent dials on the same stone and of a similar design. Both seem to have been complete circles, now eroded. The larger has a very small style hole. The smaller has a couple of pocks but whether they relate to its function is not clear.
St Mary . Seavington St Mary . Somerset
DIALS 4 – 6
On the E side of the door are 3 dials in a row on a single large stone, one with a string of pocks. Dials are shown in order left to right.
Dial 7 (?)
Completing the line of small circle dials on the stone is a hole lower R. No definite lines / pocks are readily discernible but a photo enlargement suggests faint lines at 11 and 1. A damaged area just above the mortar line might mark extended noon line. There’s a faint impression of a circle. Is this a dial? The hole is in a logical place on the stone and would match the other 3 dials in scale.
Dial 8 ?
On the quoin stone next to Dial 7, another similar hole without noticeable markings. In close-up it’s hard to make much of it – faint evidence of a circle, perhaps? – except that it fits the overall picture of a line of small encircled dials.
In the top R corner is a quite different type of dial, semi-circular with several lines and circumference pocks that more or less match hour line positions. It strays onto the adjacent quoin stone and there’s an impression that it might once have had a top half, with the stone later replaced.
Dials 10 & 11
Both dials are immediately below the others, and resemble dials 2 & 3. 10 is an eroded (part) circle with no discernible style hole. 11 is a complete circle with a very small hole from which – originally or perhaps later – a single line curves downward.
GSS Category: Scratch Dials; Multiple Church Dials
GRADE II † C14 nave, chancel, 3-stage W tower; C15 nave rebuilt, N chapel added. Victorian restoration 1866. 14 Consecration Crosses (usually 12 or fewer). S. of the Sherborne – Yeovil A30 road, approx half way between the two towns 50.9175 / 50°55’3″N / ST603132
I last wrote about St Mary at a time when churches were locked for Covid reasons. I was able to feature the 2 extraordinary and very rare external sill dials in a post HERE Recently, I returned to the church to investigate the third and most unusual dial located actually inside the church. Here is that dial, with a recap of the sill dials.
Scratch Dials located inside a porch are not especially rare, with quite a few examples within a 25 mile radius of Thornford. They are found where dials were originally cut in the stone surrounds of a medieval church doorway and a porch was subsequently added. In some cases, the new porch entrance had a new dial cut to replace its redundant predecessor.
THORNFORD DIAL 3 – INSIDE THE CHURCH
Very rarely is a dial found actually inside the church itself. This may occur when a dial stone has been relocated from the outside to repair an interior wall; or as part of wider building works, as with Stoke St Gregory Somerset. Thornford has a most interesting example.
A remarkable dial – relocated, inverted, overpainted, and all but hidden in the chancel on the N side of the church on the E face of the window jamb, with a wooden toy castle for company. There are 8 lines of almost the same length, somewhat rough-hewn. 2 are barely perceptible.
TWO RARE SILL DIALS
St Mary was one of the earliest churches to be covered in this project, probably because it is only 2 villages away from ours. I featured the 2 the two very rare ‘sill’ scratch dials, both on the quoins of the E. corner of the window sills either side of the blocked chancel doorway, with the window jambs acting as gnomon. These are not unique, but I believe there are fewer than 5 other examples. The link to that article is HERE.
NOTES † Stone screen, c15 font, early organ, a number of Consecration crosses (RCHM says 14), from badly eroded Hamstone to clear-cut. Tithe Tomb in the churchyard with a basin into which tenants contributed to the wealth of the Lord of the Manor by making an annual payment ‘on St Thomas’s Day’ to be allowed to keep their own hay
GRADE I † Norman origin, gradually growing from c1300 to a substantial building for a village. C19 further expansion and rebuilding. Mostly local sandstone, some blue lias (as found on the Jurassic Coast). Octagonal tower cf neighbouring Stoke St Gregory. 8m E of Taunton. 51.0255 / -2.9717 / ST319255
DEH visited in 1912 and somewhat hesitantly included this church in his pioneering survey of Somerset dials: There is a doubtful dial on the w. side of the s. porch. It consists of a much worn stone, with a stylehole (?) which is filled up, and some marks that might be lines. The stone is so soft and worn that it is impossible to say with certainty whether it was once a dial.
There is nothing extant in that location to match the description given. The reference to soft, worn stone suggests the blue lias component of the porch front (built c1502). If so, the obvious candidate for a dial is shown in the photos: but how might such a confiruration have worked? BBS does not mention it. The conclusion must be… not a dial.
GRADE 1 † C14 origins, mainly C15 expansion; customary C19 work. A surprisingly large church for a small community hidden away in deepest (though not darkest) Dorset. Approached by lanes. The unusual name may derive from OE word ‘mapluldor’ (maple tree); shown as ‘Mapledre’ in DB*. 50.8528 / -2.3773 / ST735059
Located on the S wall near E window, a small single dial with 10 lines radiating from a fairly large style hole. C15. Of particular interest is that, most unusually, 2 of the lines meet at their outer ends (GLP) or even cross (BSS). The angled shot shows it best – and see diagram below. GLP suggests this arrangement roughly coincides with the Mass time Terce (9h) and may emphasise it, as a pock or a deeper cut radial might.
Mappowder . Dorset . St Peter & St Paul – Scratch Dial
GRADE 1. Late C13 / early C14 Decorated, C15 tower, restored 1864 & 1900. Set elegantly in a spacious and pleasant churchyard on the W. side of the Vale of Pewsey. Besides an excellent collection of dials, much else of interest – see BLB entry. 4m SE. of Devizes. 51.3148 / -1.9429 / SU040573
This is the second post about the 8 scratch dials of Urchfont. The first post for dials 1 – 4 can be found HERE. There is some duplication of general details so that this post can be read without cross-reference.
DIALS 5 – 8
A fine ‘multi-dial’ church. There are 8 (possibly 9) dials in all. 6 of these dials are recorded in the BSS register. Dials 5 & 6 are close together on the edge of E. side of the transept. Dials 7 & 8 are low down on adjacent buttresses on the Chancel wall. They are somewhat concealed by chest tombs and easy to miss.
DIALS 5 & 6
DIAL 5 has 10 distinct lines in additional to the horizontal in the mortar line, and a couple of ?line traces. The gnomon hole is within a larger filled area of (presumably) damage. An emphasised ?Mass line leads down to a crowed noon line area with a possible 1/2 hour radial. The dial seems truncated LHS and along the bottom edge, suggesting a relocation. However, RHS has 2 lines that sweep across into the adjacent stone, suggesting repair / restoration beside and below it.
DIAL 6 is a simple complete circle with a small style hole in the centre. Given that medieval dials marked the passage of the day and not ‘clock time’, this very basic type of dial may have been almost as helpful as later, more elaborate ones.
Dial 7 is located low on the middle S. facing Chancel buttress. A semicircle with a complete complement of lines around from the horizontal. Almost all end in pocks (2 in L. quadrant may be lost in the join with the adjacent stone). RHS is partly eroded from the faint noon line upwards. The symbol to the left may be a ritual protection / witch mark – too large for a mason’s mark.
Dial 8 is on the Chancel buttress E. of Dial 7, at the same low level. It is more rustic. Unusually, the dial, though quite small, was cut across 6 stones. Originally the circle was presumably complete, but damage top L and a relocated stone top R have removed the upper segment. The gnomon hole is notably off-centre. Perhaps odd that the dial wasn’t cut using the mortar line for the style hole and as the horizontal 6-to-6 line? Like Dial 7, a full complement of lines with pocks. There is a some graduation, but irregular.
The first is a deliberate pattern of pocks by a doorway – an obvious dial location – with a possible style hole in the mortar. There are similar short curved dot patterns elsewhere, eg Maiden Newton (Dorset). A plausible dial. The second dial is higher on the same buttress as Dial 8, a small hole with 2 apparently intentional lines just before and at noon. Doubtful, but I have seen rather less convincing patterns credited with dial status…
GRADE 1 † An exceptional Romanesque church built mid to late C12 (nave, tower, chancel) with later additions, restoration, and conservation. The Norman features dominate, especially the wonderful doorways. There’s too much history here (and in Iffley village) to distil: PEV should be the first stop, or BHO online Best of all, go there. SE. Oxford 51.7274 / -1.2382 / SP527034
St Mary has two dials, one conventional, and one of a most unusual type that I haven’t met before. In relation to Dial 1, it’s worth mentioning that in 2017 conservation architects oversaw “a programme of conservative repair to the exuberant Romanesque masonry of the church’s west front and south door. This included the application by stone conservators of a pigmented limewash, helping to preserve the stone and improve the overall legibility of the facade”.
Dial 1 is on the right side of the lovely S. doorway. It has 4 straight radials, 3 with terminal pocks. The noon line may have a second pock above the end one; there are perhaps other dots. The style hole in the join of the stones creates the horizontal line. The careful preservation methods noted above have to an extent made the dial hard to analyse in greater detail. Fortunately BSS has an archive image that predates recent work. Much more detail is evident; for example the pocks are clearer (and there are more of them). It makes for an interesting comparison.
DIAL 1 GALLERY
This highly unusual dial (if it is one at all) is on the S. side of the church, in the angle where the tower meets the nave. It consists of 4 incised parallel lines on a single stone. Just that. The passage of the day can be observed as the sun moves round, with the quoin acting as a vertical gnomon. The shadow cast moves gradually over the 4 lines from left to right, indicating the time of day. Its position suggests that it was primarily of use as a morning dial, perhaps signifying the Canonical hours for Mass. BSS records it as a ‘linear scale of markings from the wall shadow’.
The photos below give an idea of how the dial works in practice. I visited on a sunny day, but unfortunately at the wrong time of day to test the shadow theory. This dial is yet another that I need to revisit to understand it.
GRADE II* † C13 with C15 reworking and C19 restoration. Like nearby PODIMORE, a 4-stage tower with octagonal upper stages. One of several churches in the area with (unusually in such a close group) dials inside S. porch. A modern memorial horizontal sundial by Silas Higgon has an interesting plate (see below). Located S. of the A303, between Queen Camel and Cadbury Castle (a dominant hill fort nearby, and well worth the climb). 51.0226 / -2.5564 / ST610249
Another small and attractive church in the Yeovilton area, most of which have scratch dials. Like some of its neighbours, the dial of Holy Cross is located within the S. porch, a later addition. On his visit in 2014, DEHrecorded:
183. This dial is on the e. side of the inner door of the s. porch. It is 3 feet 7 inches above the floor, the noonline is 5 inches in length, the stylehole, which is filled up, is in the solid stone and not in a joint. The aspect is s. by 20° E. Type 3. April 24th, 1914.DEH
The dial is scratched into a stone on RHS of the original doorway. The filled gnomon hole, near the centre of the stone, has 5 long lines descending. At some stage the porch has been whitewashed (as was often done cf WAYFORD), and paint traces remain evident on the dial and elsewhere in the porch (on graffiti and witch marks, for example).
As I understand it, 2 almost parallel vertical lines on dials like this were probably intended as the edges of an ‘absent’ noon line, with the true vertical midway between them as opposed to a line marker.
GRADE 1 † Late C13 / early C14 Decorated, C15 tower, restored 1864 & 1900. Set elegantly in a spacious and pleasant churchyard. Besides an excellent collection of dials, much else of interest – see BLB entry. 4m SE. of Devizes. 51.3148 / -1.9429 / SU040573
This fine church in an attractive village on the W. edge of the Vale of Pewsey is well worth a visit, not least (in the context of this site) because it is a ‘multi-dial’ church. There are 8 (possibly 9) dials in all, mostly easy to spot and rewarding to examine in detail. 6 of these dials are recorded in the BSS register. I have split them into 2 groups. The first 4, featured here, are all on the S. transept.
DIALS 1 – 4
Dials 1 – 4 are all close to each other on the S. face of the transept. Dials 1 – 3 are cut into quoin stones on the W. edge of the transept, nearest the porch. Two are close to each other; the third is higher up (I was fortunate to spot it). All 3 dials are marked mainly in the lower L. quadrant. Dial 4 is a quite different type, within a circle. Located immediately W. of the large transept window.
DIALS 1 & 2
DIAL 1 has 3 distinct lines and a trace at (roughly) 07. 11 is faintly extended. A partial (semi?) circle encloses the lines and the sector continues past the slightly offset noon line. There are 4 pocks that are part of the design, one a terminal dot. The shape of the style hole is (now) square, suggesting a later replacement (cf Glanvilles Wootton, which still has its square gnomon).
DIAL 2 has a large style hole drilled between the 2 stones that form the horizontal. There are 3 clear lines – the noon line extended – and possibly a couple of faint / eroded lines. Small pocks on the edge are dwarfed by a huge ‘mid-morning’ hole that was perhaps added later – or was a forthright call to Mass.
The third dial on the same quoin is much higher, and easy to miss. A large style hole with 3 clear-cut lines, the middle one extended and with a pock at the end. There’s a fainter line R. of the (slightly offset) noon line. Presumably, although the quoin as a whole seems uniform, the stone was relocated to its elevated position.
This is a pretty dial enclosed by a complete outer circle. The dial markings are enclosed within a very faint inner circle. There are 5 clear lines and traces of 3 or 4 others. There is no clear noon line, and overall the positions of the radials seem rather unusual.
Image 1 in the gallery below includes dials 1 -3 on their respective quoin stones, alongside dial 4.
DEDICATION † ST MARY – C12 nave and chancel; later additions include bellcote & S. porch
LISTING † Grade 1
LOCATION † North-west of Maiden Newton. A very small secluded Dorset hamlet (comprising Lower & Higher) with a handful of houses, a handsome ford, and 2 rushing feeder streams for the upper River Frome. 50.8054 / -2.6035 / ST575008
DIALS † ‘On S. wall of nave, remains of two scratch-dials, reused’ (BHO)
St Mary was one of the first churches I visited soon after I started this project nearly a year ago. I was just beginning to sort out the format and I had yet to discover the resources I later came to rely on. Taking the BHO entry (italics above) at face value, I looked for 2 dials, found them, and wrote them up HERE. Since then, I learnt of a third dial that I missed (GLP). After a recent revisit to check St Mary and photograph all 3 dials, I am replacing the original images of Dials 1 & 2, and featuring Dial 3 to complete the set.
All 3 dials are on the S. wall of the nave E. of the porch, quite close to each other. Dial 1 is on a quoin stone, with 4 lines descending from the mortar-line. The arrangement is haphazard. The lines aren’t straight, the two longer ones have split ends, the other two are shorter and almost parallel, the overall spacing seems completely random. It’s hard to see how useful such an endearingly wonky dial could have been.
Dial 2 is very low down, between Dial 1 and the porch. There are 4 lines, one very faint. The stone is at a slight angle and GLP suggests it may have been reused and – if slightly rotated – a vertical (noon) line might result.
This ‘new’ dial is also low down between the other 2, nearest Dial 1. It is inverted. There are 3 very clear lines of differing widths and depths, with the (upside down) noon line extending to the edge of the stone and ending in a (faint) cross noted by GLP. He mentions 6 lines (3 eroded) in all, and adds This dial would appear to record the Saxon ‘Tides’