SHERBORNE ABBEY . DORSET . ST MARY THE VIRGIN – Vertical Dial 1745

St Mary the Virgin . Sherborne Abbey . Dorset

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 major PEV] 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 

St Mary the Virgin . Sherborne Abbey . Dorset

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.

GSS Category: Vertical Dial; Abbey Church

All photos: Keith Salvesen

WINTERBORNE WHITECHURCH . DORSET . ST MARY – Octagonal Vertical Dial C17

St Mary . Winterborne Whitechurch . Dorset

GRADE I † Early C13 chancel with trace transepts (BHO); C14 crossing tower; C15 south chapel and nave; restoration mid-C19 (Ferrey). A most unusual late C17 octagonal dial; 6m SW of Blandford Forum, just off the main road to Dorchester (12m). 50.8004 /  -2.234 / ST836001

VERTICAL DIAL C17

The remarkable vertical dial is located at the apex of the S Chapel gable. It dates to late C17 (BHO). The lines radiating from the top end of the gnomon are reminiscent of a scratch dial. The dial is canted for accuracy, and deeply enough to accommodate a rare E dial. Both gnomons are unusual, not least by being more toothed than merely serrated.

THE EAST DIAL

It is very unusual (and possibly unique) to bother to delineate the east or west edge of a canted dial; and really quite strange to use such a tall gnomon, which will only cast a shadow for an hour or two at most. JF / BSS

John Foad (BSS) kindly marked up a close-up of the E. dial to show how it would have worked. He writes: It should have diagonal hour lines on it, though there is probably only room for a couple, as it will only see the sun briefly around 6 each morning. There is a suggestion in the records that there were at one time 2 raised lines, but a magnified image reveals no surviving evidence.

GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Rare Dial; Canted Dial; East-facing sundial

All photos: Keith Salvesen. Thanks as ever to John Foad for his contribution.

SALISBURY . THE CLOSE . ‘LIFE’S BUT A WALKING SHADOW’ – Vertical Dial 1749

Malmesbury House . St Ann’s Gate . Salisbury . Wilts – Vertical Dial 1749

The Close in Salisbury has plenty to recommend it besides a central building for which superlatives are inadequate. Malmesbury House (GV I) by St Ann’s Gate has a particular claim to fame in sundial terms, with the context succinctly explained in the image below. 51.0659 / -1.7938 / SU145296

The very fine sundial on the house is dated 1749. The motto is part of the familiar speech taken from Macbeth Act 5 Scene 5 as Macbeth reacts to the news of Lady Macbeth’s death. It’s not exactly uplifting.

Below is a short text from the Gospel of St John. The dial itself is in very good condition. My amateurishness precludes any meaningful interpretation of the scientific aspect. I will add any significant details in due course.

GSS Category: Vertical Dial; Sundial Motto

All photos: Keith Salvesen

BROUGHTON GRANGE GARDENS . OXON – Pedestal Dial

Broughton Grange dates from early C17. Gradual development resulted in a fine house with an extensive estate owned by the Morrell family and associated with the Bloomsbury Group via Lady Ottoline. The whole estate was bought in the 1990s. New gardens have been beautifully landscaped and an arboretum created. The property is renowned as one of the finest contemporary private gardens, to which there is public access. You can find out more here: BROUGHTON GRANGE 3m SW of Banbury 52.0415 / 1.3776 / SP4338

The dial stands at the centre of the Parterre and Rose Garden, overlooking the smart box hedges. It is dated MDCCLI (1751). I’ve spent some time trying to figure out the inscription, some of which cannot be read even with a magnifying glass. I have settled (provisionally) on Tempora Servio, ‘I Serve the Times’ or a similar conjunction of tempus and servere. This formulation does not specifically appear in eg the expanded edition of Gatty; however tempora is in common usage, often with its companion, mores. Any other suggestions welcome, a definitive ruling would be ideal.

GSS Category: Horizontal Dial; Pedestal Dial; Garden Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen

DEWLISH . DORSET . ALL SAINTS – Vertical Dial 1671

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 VITA As 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).

GSS Category: Vertical Dial; Dial Date; Dial Motto

All photos: Keith Salvesen

WOLFETON HOUSE . DORCHESTER . DORSET – Multiple Sundial

WOLFETON HOUSE . DORCHESTER

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:

DORSETLIFE HISTORIC HOUSES LANDMARK TRUST

SUNDIAL

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.

INSCRIPTION

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.

ADDENDUM *

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.

DATE

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)

TINTINHULL . SOMERSET . ST MARGARET OF ANTIOCH – Triple Polar Scaphe Dial

St Margaret of Antioch . Tintinhull . Somerset

GRADE I † C13 et seq, on early C12 site. Gradual development but (unusually) with little obvious C19 work BHO. Good C16 bench ends. S porch built c1440, originally thatched, with the cube sundial added later. The scratch dials of St Margaret will be written up separately from this unusual dial that, in fact, is not strictly cubic. 5m NW of Yeovil; just S of dread A303. 50.9746 / -2.7156 / ST498197

St Margaret of Antioch . Tintinhull . Somerset – Scaphe Sundial

ADDENDUM 4.11.22

I wrote this piece without access to the BSS dial records, temporarily unavailable online. I had originally described this dial rather broadly as a cube, aware that it wasn’t quite right. Having now got back into the archive, I am better informed (if not wiser). Some of the points I raise below are clarified. Here is the official entry:

There are 3 polar scaphe dials on the porch gable. Possibly C17 or C18. The dial probably showed all hours of sunlight when correctly installed. Now the orientation is incorrect, the polar axis points East and the dial is shaded by a yew tree. The stone is heavily lichened.

DIAL

The large block of stone cut as a sundial is balanced (as it seems) on the end of the S porch roof. Its usefulness as a dial nowadays is reduced by it being partly obscured by the shadows of nearby trees. I have not seen similar dials in England but I believe there are a few in Scotland.

I originally confessed that I had no idea how this dial might have worked in practice, nor could I comment on the design, nor suggest how many dials (3?) or even ‘shadow casting edges’ there are. John Foad BSS has kindly marked up 2 images which help to understand the way the dial functioned.

St Margaret of Antioch . Tintinhull . Somerset – Scaphe Sundial

GSS Category: Polar Dial; Scaphe Dial; Scaphe Sundial; Multiple Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen; thanks to John Foad for clarifying the design

ROTHBURY . NORTHUMBERLAND . ALL SAINTS – RARE CUBE DIAL 1714

All Saints Church . Rothbury . Northumberland – David Evans for CofE Heritage

ALL SAINTS ROTHBURY NORTHUMBERLAND

GRADE II* † On Pre-Conquest / Anglo-Saxon site. C13 / C14, rebuilding & restoration C19 (Pickering) in similar style. Located in Coquetdale with linked churches. 2 medieval scratch dials and further church details LINK. 12m SW of Alnwick, close to NT Cragside. 55.309 /  -1.9106 / NU057016

CUBE SUNDIAL

The cube (‘block’) sundial is on the ground in the churchyard, S side. Originally it was on the porch roof. Parish records show that it was once whitewashed, which cost 1s 9p in 1728. I have included 2 images of each dial face, the whole face and close-up.

BSS record: Main S face has date ‘1714’ and upright Arabic numerals 6 – 6. Hour and half-hour lines. Above is a polar dial with hours 8am to 4pm and a cross for noon. The dial, a substantial chunk of masonry, was most likely taken down from its original site aloft for safety.

FRONT FACE

EAST FACE

There is an excellent article about the THE ROTHBURY SUNDIALS in the Nov 1991 Clock Magazine (Pendulum Publications). The relevant parts relating to the cube dial are as clear and concise as anything I can devise:

  1. A cubic dial which is said to have been situated on top of the old church porch, was lost after the demolition work of 1850 but was later found among the old grave stones and is now sited near the new porch entrance. ​It measures 18in by 18in by 19in and has four dials carved on its surfaces, one each on the east and west faces and two on the south face. The south face has the date 1714 carved into it and some remains of old writing between the numerals and crossed line at 12 noon.
  2. An entry in the vestry accounts for the church in 1728 states that “For white lead and Lamb black for ye Sun Dial – 0   0   9, For Whitning and new drawing the lines and figures – 0  1  0”.

3. If, as the historians tell us, the sundial was on top of the old porch the dials would have been difficult to read, especially the upper south dial sloping as it does at an angle of 45 degrees and has the remains of what was a ½ in thick cast iron gnomon. It would be essential for the lines and figures of the south main dial to be well marked in order to be able to read it.

4. The remains of an angled style (gnomon) 1/8in thick made of cast iron and held in two places by lead filling are easily observed. The east and west styles were set into recesses, scooped out of the faces, and set at 90 degrees to the faces. ​​

WEST FACE

This dial – and its history – is a most unusual one and I am grateful, as ever, to Erika Clarkson for her dial-hunting and photography skills and the resulting coverage of the midlands and the north of England that is well beyond my own territory in the west country.

GSS Category: Cube Dial

All photos by Erika Clarkson except header image of church, David Evans / CofE Heritage Record

ABBOTSBURY . DORSET . ST NICHOLAS – Vertical Dial

St Nicholas . Abbotsbury . Dorset

ST NICHOLAS . ABBOTSBURY . DORSET

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

DIAL

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?

St Nicholas . Abbotsbury . Dorset – Vertical Sundial

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.

St Nicholas . Abbotsbury . Dorset – Vertical Sundial

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.

St Nicholas . Abbotsbury . Dorset – Vertical Sundial

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.

GNOMON

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.

St Nicholas . Abbotsbury . Dorset – Vertical Sundial / S. face with parapet dial above centre windows – stevekeirtsu cc

GSS Category: Vertical Dial; Church Sundial; Gnomon

All photos Keith Salvesen except the last, stevekeiretsu Geo cc

BOCONNOC PARISH CHURCH . CORNWALL – Vertical Dial (1716)

Boconnoc Parish Church

BOCONNOC PARISH CHURCH . CORNWALL

GRADE I † The Church forms part of the Boconnoc Estate and has no Dedication*. Probably C12 origins as the Manor Chapel; gradual development; restored 1873. Now in the care of the Cornwall Historic Churches Trust. 10 m SW of Liskeard. 50.4159 / -4.6099 / SX146605

DIAL

The time-worn dial is set into the apex of the porch and canted westwards. Dated 1716, it is also inscribed with a set of 3 double initials RC, DT, & TG. ‘RC’ is in a different style, and the date – perhaps significantly – is below the two other pairs of initials. Possibly the latter installed the dial in honour of the former.

The dial shows 1/4 as well as 1/2 hours. The 12 of noon is replaced by a cross. IIII is used for IV. The gnomon is presumably not original, but has clearly been in situ for a considerable time.

* Sadly no St Boconnoc is listed in the Ox. Book of Saints)

GSS Category: Vertical Dial. Old (post medieval) Dial

Photos: Keith Salvesen; Header CHCT