PEMBRIDGE . HEREFS . ST MARY – 6 Scratch Dials

St Mary . Pembridge . Herefs


GRADE I † C12 and C13 origins on Norman site; nave, transepts and chancel arch rebuilt during early C14; N porch added late C14. Restorations 1871 and 1903-1909. Large and impressive (PEV). Fine interior, monuments, glass. Of equal note, the wonderful detached belfry with its hint of nordic influence – not to be missed. I have included a few images and notes at the end of this article. 52.2173 /  -2.8929 / SO390580


St Mary merits a collective noun for its dials. A confusion? There are obvious dials, plausible dials, doubtful dials, and 1 or 2 not previously noted as far as I can make out. On my visit I wasn’t equipped with details of dials I might expect to see, and I simply recorded the ones I found. All are on the S wall, starting from the W end. There are some differences from the BSS records.


St Mary . Pembridge . Herefs – Scratch Dial 1

Dial 1 is a straightforward design among an attractive arrangement of stones. 7 lines, a couple emphasised, some faintly extended, hole in the mortar line.

DIALS 2 & 3

St Mary . Pembridge . Herefs – Scratch Dials 2 & 3

Dial 2 is the most interesting of them all, with its double square surround. There are 13 lines, spaced approximately evenly. Some of extend into or beyond the boxes, a couple are above the horizontal. BSS describes the dial as unique and suggests that it appears to be an attempt to follow the pattern for a sundial, but no evidence of sloping gnomon. The conclusion: a very mysterious dial.

Dial 3 is similar to dial 1, with 6 lines radiating from quite a deep hole where the stone meets the mortar line.


St Mary . Pembridge . Herefs – Scratch Dial 4

Dial 4 is small and unobtrusive, just L of the doorway. The style hole is (slightly oddly?) in the top L corner rather than more prominently nearer the centre of the stone. There are 2 slender but clear lines, and 3 (4?) faint lines L of them.


St Mary . Pembridge . Herefs – Scratch Dial 5

Dial 5 is below and to the left of dial 4. It is the most insect-like pattern I have come across – a line drawing might resemble a daddy-longlegs / cranefly. No line is straight, but within the wide variations in dial design and accuracy it would probably have served its purpose marking the passing hours. Unless it really is a carving of a cranefly…

St Mary . Pembridge . Herefs – Scratch Dial 5


St Mary . Pembridge . Herefs – Scratch Dial 6

On darker stone and in shadow on a buttress, it would be easy to miss this dial. If it is one. At the time, I thought it was; and looking weeks later at the photos I still think so, just a noon line and what could be a Mass line.


BSS has a record of 2 dials that I didn’t notice

Here is a candidate for consideration. Two almost parallel lines that look deliberately scratched drop vertically down from an arguable style hole. I have come across a couple of similar dials – though each had some lines – where the vertical (noon line) was emphasised by being the space between two lines.


PEV (Herefs p 542) considers this bell tower remarkable, and points out its structural relationship with Norway’s Stave Churches and Sweden’s Bell Houses. He dates it early C13, with later reconstructed in C17.

GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Belfry; Bell House

All photo, Keith Salvesen; diagrams BSS


Charles Cotton’s Fishing House . Beresford . Staffs – Cube Dial



GRADE II* The most famous and piscatorially significant fishing ‘hut’ in the world, in a clearing beside the River Dove, near Hartington. By a quirk of a bend in the river, the hut is in Staffs rather than Derbyshire. Single cell square plan in an Artisan Mannerist style BLB SK127592

The inscription Piscatoribus Sacrum – a sacred place for anglers – gave rise to the hut’s reverential name among fishermen, The Temple. I can’t improve on this description from HE:

Charles Cotton’s fishing house is a unique building designed specifically for the sport of angling. It was an elaborate building in relation to its simple function, an expression of Cotton’s dedication to angling and to his entertainment of fellow anglers. Izaak Walton and Cotton’s The Compleat Angler was significant in the development and diversification of the sport from the 17th century. The fishing house is a fine preservation of Charles Cotton’s angling endeavours and its association with the popular work The Compleat Angler makes it of national significance.

Dated inscription, and intertwined initials of Charles Cotton & Izaak Walton on the keystone


A while back I spent a couple of days fishing on the Beresford beat of the Dove (to little effect). Just seeing the hut close to – let alone actually using it for its intended purpose – was an amazing experience. The weather was quite poor; the photos (taken on a basic pocket Canon) poorer still. I’ve had to do some work on the images, which I hope are now clear enough to be informative. 3 faces are featured; images of the 4th, away from the sun, were useless.

Charles Cotton’s Fishing House . Beresford . Staffs – Cube Dial

The dial is fixed to the apex of the hut’s roof. It is surmounted by a round finial, then a weather vane, and – a final flourish – a trout.

Charles Cotton’s Fishing House . Beresford . Staffs – Cube Dial

Charles Cotton’s Fishing House . Beresford . Staffs – Cube Dial

Charles Cotton’s Fishing House . Beresford . Staffs – Cube Dial

GSS Category: Cube Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen

HOLTON . SOM . ST NICHOLAS – Scratch Dials

St Nicholas . Holton . Som


GRADE II* † C14 onwards. A small and pretty village W. of Wincanton on a hillside, and a church with a view. Seemingly off the beaten track approached from S / E but in fact rather close to the dread A303 to N. 51.0401 / -2.4503 / ST685268


An outstandingly rewarding Priest’s door. Both sides of the doorway have dials, part dials, traces of dials, together with a variety of graffiti and other church marks. DEH visited St Nicholas in April 2014, for some reason recording only 2 dials, one each side of the doorway. There are certainly 5, with a plausible 6th.

St Nicholas . Holton . Som – Priest’s Door


St Nicholas . Holton . Som – Scratch Dial 1 (E side)

Dial 1 RHS The main dial of 2 is quite roughly incised. A full circle (though not circular); 12 (or so) lines of varying lengths, widths, depths and graduation; all enclosed (at the time or later?) in an approximate rectangle. The lowest 4 lines, with large terminal pocks, are deeply cut. There is an extended part-eroded noon line. The style hole is surprisingly large: with an emerging peg or rod that size, a passer-by would have been able to check the time of day / of Mass from some distance away.

St Nicholas . Holton . Som – Scratch Dial 2 (E side)

Dial 2 RHS In the context of this multi-dial doorway, this is very simple. It is almost level with another minimalist dial on the W. side. Below the small style hole are double noon lines; or perhaps 2 lines bordering a ‘midday space’ between them. They seem intentionally incised below uncut stone directly under the hole. There are pocks in the area but my feeling is that they relate to Dial 3 (with one debatably either).

St Nicholas . Holton . Som – Scratch Dial 3 (E side)

Dial 3 RHS is above and to the L side of dial 2, by the door surround. There is a small shallow hole with a crescent of 5 or 6 pocks in the lower L quadrant of its (imaginary) circumference. Possibly the lowest pock, distanced from the rest, is a Mass mark (Terce?) for dial 2. A faint line can be seen directly pointing at the top pock. Others, if any, are completely eroded. I might describe this dial as merely ‘debatable’ or ‘plausible’, were it not for the neat and apparently intentional configuration.

St Nicholas . Holton . Som – Scratch Dial 3 (E side)


St Nicholas . Holton . Som – Scratch Dial 4 & 5 (W side)

One of the most interesting sides of any Priest’s Door I have come across. There are 3 dials in all, from remarkably exuberant to extreme simplicity. Additionally there are barely visible traces of part circles and lines that, in medieval times, might have been part of the scheme.

St Nicholas . Holton . Som – Scratch Dial 4 (W side)

Dial 4 LHS The upper of 2 main dials. Encircled, with a blocked style hole, 8 clear lines more of less in the lower quadrants. One deeper incised, probably emphasising a local time for Mass. 3 fainter / more eroded lines above the horizontal (including a ‘midnight line’), of decorative use only.

St Nicholas . Holton . Som – Scratch Dial 5 (W side)

Dial 5 LHS Immediately below and touching Dial 1. Unusually adventurous. A large blocked gnomon hole, encircled, and roughly centred within a crudely cut square frame. There are 10 (11?) lines, all except one being in the lower half. The lower R quadrant is significantly eroded with just the faintest hint of ‘missing’ lines. The few pocks seem to be part of the overall design. Most remarkable are the extended lines. The prominent noon line and the faint flanking lines dive confidently downwards.

St Nicholas . Holton . Som – Scratch Dial 5 (W side)

I imagine the noon line – some 4 times longer below the incised frame than between the frame edge and style hole – is close to a record. It effortlessly passes through the crumbled mortar joint onto the stone below.

St Nicholas . Holton . Som – Scratch Dial 6 (W side)

Dial 6 LHS is, like its low-level counterpart RHS, extremely simple – a small style hole with just a cross below it marking the noon line. There is a trace of a line at 5 that may be part of it but I’d prefer to think of this dial as simply a hole and a cross.

St Nicholas . Holton . Som – Scratch Dials 4 – 6 (W side); dial locations

GSS CATEGORY: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial

ALL PHOTOS: Keith Salvesen

STOKE-sub-HAMDON . SOM . ST MARY THE VIRGIN – 4 scratch dials

St Mary the Virgin . Stoke-sub-Hamdon . Som


GRADE I † C12 origins (Chancel c1100), C13 et seq, restored 1862. A pleasingly geometric church in a fine setting below Ham Hill, the Iron Age hill fort where the original stone for the Norman church was quarried. Close to Montacute House (NT) and St Catherine Montacute. 50.9526 /  -2.7361 /  ST483172


St Mary has 4 dials on the S. side, all of different types and all quite easily found. The different styles and levels of sophistication on a single church reflect the development of scratch dials with increasing scientific knowledge, and their continuing usefulness to the church and the community.


St Mary the Virgin . Stoke-sub-Hamdon . Som – Scratch Dial 1

Dial 1 is low-down on a quoin at the W. end, unusually assertive and straightforward. However, in the middle of the 4 strong lines is a very faint one with a dot at the end. Since it adds little to the dial’s purpose, I wonder if evidences eroded remains of an earlier dial? Also, are the dots either side of the gnomon hole part of the original dial or were they added later? It’s hard to see how they might help the dial’s function. Or so I thought until I saw similar oblique marks in Dial 2, in that case lines (see below).

DEH visited St Mary in July 1914 and recorded: 216. (1) This dial is on the s.w. corner of the nave on a quoin. It is 4 feet 3 inches above the ground, the noonline is about 4 inches in length or a little less, the stylehole is 1 3/4 inches in depth by 3/4 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 30° e. Type 3.

In the first image, note the Norman window, one of 2 that survive. The other is shown below.


St Mary the Virgin . Stoke-sub-Hamdon . Som – Scratch Dial 2

Dial 2 on the E. side of the recessed priest’s door, is a fine example of a later, more complex design. It certainly marks the hours with clarity and precision. Its sophistication suggests it must be a late dial, my guess being late C15 / early C16. The morning hours are all marked with carefully graduated lines down to the noon line. All terminate in pocks which themselves are graduated from large to small at noon. Two half-hours are marked with pocks. The emphatic oblique incision is hard to analyse other than in terms of marking canonical hours (Compline & Nones?) cf the pocks on Dial 1. Any help to explain it would be welcome.

DEH recorded: 219. (4) This dial is on the e. side of the priest’s door. It is 4 feet 6 inches above the ground, the noonline is 5 inches in length, the stylehole is 1 1/2 inches in depth by 3/4 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 25° e. Type 3.

A final note for Dial 2. There is some evidence that there was originally a dial on a stone above it, later replaced. There are scratch marks that suggest the end of radials; and a row of dots, including a double dot that might relate to a noon line.

DIALS 3 & 4

St Mary the Virgin . Stoke-sub-Hamdon . Som – Scratch Dials 3 & 4

Dials 3 & 4 are together, one above the other, E. of the blocked doorway with its slender columns. They are quite high (about 10′) in the angle where the S. wall meets the transept.

Dial 3 is the lower of the two. The style hole would have been in the mortar line acting as the horizontal ‘6-to-6’ line, but the area has a large repair that presumably covers it. 6 lines descend from it in a conventional fan, mainly in the lower L. quadrant. Their spacing is imprecise; the noon line is extended.

Dial 4 above is less ambitious. I imagine it is the earlier of the two. There are 3 long lines emerging from a filled style hole. The noon line runs down the edge of the adjacent stone, which looks as though it was a replacement from later restoration work. If so, perhaps the dial originally had lines in the lower R. quadrant.

DEH wrote: 217. (2) This dial is on the s.w. corner of the s. transept. It is 5 feet 1 inch above the ground, the noonhole is 2 inches distant, the stylehole is 1 inch in depth by 1/4 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 20° e. Type 9.

His record for this location is puzzling because there are in fact 2 dials not one; and they are much higher than he gives. It’s quite possible I missed a dial – his single dial – nearby and at the height DEH specifies. However, since DEH records only 3 definite dials for St Mary, he must therefore have missed (for height?) this pair.

St Mary . Stoke-s-Hamdon – Norman window


DEH recorded a possible 4th dial, but with reservations. He wrote: 218. (3) This doubtful dial is on the e. side of the closed doorway in the nave. It is 5 feet 2inches above the ground, the noonline is 3 1/2 inches in length, the stylehole, if it exists at all, is filled.

I had already photographed it thinking it might be a damaged dial. I’m an optimist and an amateur, not the best combination for a balanced judgement. If this is the dial candidate referred to by DEH, then the style hole is no longer blocked. It looks plausible as a very crude dial, and it is a conventional dial location. Is it a much earlier dial than the others, cut beside what was clearly a significant doorway and now degraded by time and weather? Any views welcome.

GSS Category: Scratch Dials (multiple)

All photos: Keith Salvesen

ALL CANNINGS . WILTS . ALL SAINTS – multiple scratch dials

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts


GRADE II* † Early C13 with additions, enlargement and ‘remodelling’ thereafter; restoration 1869 by Henry Weaver. Cruciform plan of Norman origin. Purdue bells. S. of the Kennet & Avon canal between Devizes and Pewsey (close to Woodway Bridge which I ‘adopted’ many years ago). Wonderful views to the escarpments of the S. edge of the Marlborough Downs. 51.3531 / -1.9013 / SU069615


All Saints is an attractive multi-dial church. Wilts is well-served by the Council, which publishes online Wiltshire Community History. It is a valuable resource, informative and thorough while keeping entries short. It helpfully notes: there are six scratch dials on the exterior south wall, once used to determine the correct time for services. Apart from featuring in the county lists by TWC, there is little other information to be found about them. The W C link: ALL CANNINGS In fact, there are more than 6 dials.

DIALS 1 & 2

Side by side on LHS. of the porch, a pair of dials of a broadly similar type. Dial 1 is the more sophisticated in design and ‘clock range’. I wondered if it was a replacement for the obviously less informative Dial 2.

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – Scratch Dials 1 & 2

Dial 1 has distinct lines, of which 4 are more deeply cut. Above these, on both sides, are a further 5 (possibly 6) faint lines. There are pocks at or near the end of some lines. The style hole is quite large and deep.

Dial 2 is simpler and more rustic, with 3 lines of different depths, each with a terminal pock. The noon line is slightly longer. There are a couple of other faint marks and pocks that suggest other lines now eroded.

DIALS 3 – 6

These 4 dials are R. of the transept window, L. of the buttress. The image below shows them all: a prominent dial with a semicircle of lines; above it, a similar, smaller dial with lines mainly in the lower L. quadrant; a rustic spider of a dial below them; and a strange dial with a long noon line and one even longer straggling line.

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – Scratch Dials 3 – 6

Dial 3 has 12 lines, perhaps more, ranging from distinct in lower L. quadrant and eroded / faint on RHS. All have terminal dots – the noon line has a cross. The style hole is surprisingly deep. A pleasing design.

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – Scratch Dial 3

Dial 4 is smaller, with the 9 lines mainly in lower L. quadrant. Some are straight, some have slight curves. The noon line is slightly extended. The short lines LHS terminate in the mortar line and do not extend onto the adjacent stone. After some thought, I discounted the smaller hole above either as related or as a residual dial in its own right.

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – Scratch Dial 4

Dial 5 sprawls at a slightly tipsy angle across a stone lower down. 6 distinct lines of differing depths and a couple of traces; partial pocks; and a large cross at the end of the noon line. Other marks, whether existing or added later, rather confuse the overall picture.

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – Scratch Dial 5

Dial 6 is the strangest of this group. It consists of a filled gnomon hole and a very long noon line cut with some precision, and deeper (separately?) on the stone below. The line also extends slightly upwards from the style hole. As such, it forms a very simple but workable dial, perhaps casting a long shadow easily visible from a distance. The other line is notably longer. It runs at roughly 45º to the junction of 3 stones before swerving downwards, fading, then finishing strongly. Were they cut at the same time? By the same person?

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – Scratch Dial 6

DIALS 7 – 9

Three dials additional to the six noted in Wiltshire Community History. Two are W. side of the transept; the third is at the W. end between the window and the end buttress.

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – Scratch Dials 7 & 8

Dial 7 has 5 lines (one a trace) descending from a patch of black lichen, with no visible style hole. The noon line is longer and a true vertical. The 2 outer ones are perhaps Mass indicators.

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – Scratch Dial 7

Dial 8 is immediately below Dial 7, and the simplest of all. A small filled style hole; an accurately cut noon line; and a single morning line in the same position as the emphasised line in Dial 7. This perhaps reinforces the theory that a Mass time thus marked was the important one at All Saints.

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – Scratch Dial 8

Dial 9 is quite different for all the others, and on its own at the W. end between window and buttress. A small simple circle precisely cut, a large style hole for its size, and a single line with a (possibly related) pock. The line is in almost the same position as the those noted above as possibly marking the most significant Mass for the church. Possibly a trace of a noon line (and extended?). I didn’t notice it at the time but the image hints at one.

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – Scratch Dial 9
All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – Scratch Dial 9


All Saints is also rewarding for those interested more broadly in Church marks – graffiti, dates, initials, and witch marks (aka apotropaic symbols / ritual protection marks for warding off Evil).

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – graffiti

GSS Category: Scratch Dials (multiple)

All photo: Keith Salvesen


Gonville and Caius College Cambridge – Sundial over the Gate of Honour

This handsome modern set of dials was installed in 1963 as part of the 400th anniversary celebration of the college’s re-foundation by John Caius. There are 6 vertical sundials, arranged in 3 pairs placed round the hexagonal tower. They were designed by astronomer and Fellow, Dr Message, and the Junior Bursar Dr Powell. The bronze dial faces are painted with vitreous enamel. They replace the original set of sundials dating from 1557, of which only traces remained.

There is something very satisfying about this set of dials. The symmetry, the proportions, the materials, and the design all seem to work in harmony. Cambridge colleges have many sundials between them, many original and ancient (Queen’s College sundial is a perfect example). Of the modern dials, the Gate of Honour is adorned by arguably the finest.

Gonville and Caius College Cambridge – Sundial over the Gate of Honour

The college has three gates that represent the stages of academic life: matriculation, entered through the Gate of Humility; undergraduate life, with regular passage through the Gate of Virtue during a student’s career; and finally graduation, with students passing through the Gate of Honour to the Senate House to receive their degrees.

Gonville and Caius College is one of the oldest colleges of Cambridge University. It was founded in 1348 by Edmund Gonville, who has suffered the cruel fate of rarely being mentioned nowadays; the college is almost invariably referred to simply as ‘Caius’, after John Caius, the man who re-founded the college in 1557 at a time when it had fallen on hard times.

52.2057 / 0°7’1″E / TL447584

GGS Category- Modern Dial