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* † Saxon origins, mentioned DB, no remnants remain. Nave dated c1180; rebuilding ± 1200, chancel added; tower added then or soon after. Mid-Victorian restorations; shingled spire rebuilt 1913. Much of interest within the church – see HERE for highlights. 6m NE of Guildford. 51.2509 / -0.5052 / TQ044512
There are 4 dials, each of significance. On the S wall of the chancel, there is a wonderful dial framed in ashlar stone as if to emphasise its qualities. Inside the church – not just inside the porch – are 3 dials cut on the same stone. Interior dials are almost inevitably the result of relocation and are scarce enough (cf THORNFORD); 3 together must be very rare.
POSITION Relocated from a buttress to the S wall of the chancel, enclosed by a surround of 4 stones set into the local flint and described elsewhere as …marred by the addition of an inappropriate stone frame (an arguable view?). BSS notes a possible inversion based on variations in the size of the dots; but that would nullify the point of the emphatic noon line design. Unless the 4 pocks were added later of course…
DATE The dial seems so sophisticated in design and execution that I had thought it ±C15. However BHO records a stone on which is cut an early circular sundial probably of the 12th century; it has three circles and is divided in twenty-four spaces by radiating lines; four dots mark the hour of noon and a small cross that of six p.m. A Surrey survey records Dated c 1180 by Johnston (1900, 74), SyAC, 21 (1908), 83-100. This date certainly corresponds to the construction of the nave / the additions soon after. So this is a very early dial probably dating from the construction of the church in its present form and clearly merits its prominent location and ashlar protection.
DEREK RENN in his research on the dials of Surrey considered this dial to be the most elaborate in the county, describing it as three concentric circles divided by 24 equidistant radii, having drilled holes at the intersections, as well as on the arms of an external cross and beside another line at right angles to the cross.
HOW THE DIAL WORKS AS A CALENDAR
DR also explains ingeniously how the dial might have worked: This would function best as an equatorial dial… mounted in the plane of the equator with its upright pointer parallel to the earth’s axis and not vertical, but even then little more than one-half of the dial would be necessary. A possible explanation is that the dial also functioned as a calendar: a peg was moved daily from hole to hole, the cross marking the point at which the peg progressed to the next circle. Another peg counted the number of complete circuits of the ‘board’ for the year on the four separate holes, with the odd days as well. In arithmetical terms: 24 x 3 x (4+1) – 360, +(4+1) = 365
DIALS 2 – 4
These 3 dials are closely grouped on a single stone on the north face of the west jamb of the south doorway. It would be interesting to know where they were originally located, and when / why they were moved to their present position with a purely decorative function.
DIAL 1 has 7 lines including the horizontals in a late a.m. to early p.m. formation. They are rather untidily incised and only 6 are clearly distinguishable. They are within a very faint perimeter curve, with 3 extending beyond it.
DIAL 2 has 5 lines radiating from a large (for its size) style hole. The lines are interestingly formed: 2 lightly cut a.m. lines; 2 deeper cut p.m. lines and extended noon line. The incisions of the latter 3 are unusually decorative, with one being slightly wedge-shaped. Overall, it seems clear that the afternoon was the most important time for daily religious purposes.
DIAL 3 is fully encircled with one clear line roughly corresponding to Tierce. The other 2 (3?) are faint and rudimentary in comparison. Another large style hole completes the design.
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Multiple Dials; Early Dials
All photos: Keith Salvesen. Research material: usual resources BLB HE BHO &co; David Ross; Derek Renn
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.
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.
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).
GRADE II* † Built 1776. A fine, uncomplicated Georgian building externally; restored and much remodelled internally 1890s by Temple Moore. ‘Urbane and assured‘PEV. Original clock on the bell tower replaced by a memorial sundial dated 19†18. Selected for the cover image for Cumbria in Pevsner’s Buildings of England series. 8m N of Longtown. 55.0386 / -2.9543 / NY391719
This handsome church has a moving story to tell. The tower originally had a clock. In 1918, this was replaced by a commemorative sundial to honour the two sons of the Graham family from nearby Netherby, after their safe return home from WW1.
The dial has an inscription around the circumference that reads in two parts, and a Motto
FOR OUR TWO DEAR SONS FFG & RPG WHO LIVED TO COME HOME FROM THE GREAT WAR THANKS BE TO GOD ALONE
LUX POST UMBRAM
The motto and its sentiments are self-explanatory. The same – or very similar – formula has been noted in northern Italy MG; and (I notice) for abstract art works that contain both light and shadow…
The dial has an attractive design marking hours and 1/2 hours from 6 round 5. It appears to be hand-painted rather than machine made. The robust gnomon casts a clear shadow that also benefits sheep, cows, and salmon-fishermen in season.
GSS Category: Vertical Dial; Sundial Motto; Memorial Mottos
Credits: Keith Salvesen; Walter Baxter dial close-up Geo ; Alun Bull English Heritage PEV; Yale University Press (cover image)
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
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
GRADE II* † C14 / 15 origins, with later / C19 enlargement. Besides 2 scratch dials there is a vertical dial on the tower dated 1706. 6m NW of Leicester. 52.6832 / -1.2292 / SK522097
The scratch dials are both on the S side. One is on SW corner of the tower; the other on the lower part of the L jamb of a window (I don’t have a more precise location at the moment).
Dial 1 gives the impression of a spider, with legs radiating from the (blocked) gnomon hole in the centre of the dial stone. The clearest lines are at 11 and noon, the latter faintly extended. The others are rather randomly placed. There’s a line in the top L quadrant; and the hint of a line very roughly extending the noon line upwards. The 2 pocks don’t seem to be part of the design.
Dial 2 is more conventional ‘morning dial’, with 6 more or less evenly spaced lines descending (but not very accurately) from a large filled style hole. Only one of the lines is after noon. Simple and straightforward.
Set on the SE edge of the second stage of the tower, close to the intersection with the roof of the nave. Slate, made by Thomas Woodcock in 1706. Deeply cut and in excellent condition for its age. Initials I K. Cross for 12 noon. Quarter hours marked. The angles of the Roman numerals are carefully graduated as they descend and ascend, suggesting the work of a skilled craftsman dial-maker.
BSS notes very similar dials at Breedon on the Hill and at Leicester, all three being within a few miles of each other.
This interesting dial has been analysed and recorded in some detail by BSS:
The dial is fitted with iron dog nails to the south face of the tower, at the south-east corner, adjacent to the nave junction. The date 1706 is across the top, and being of the local slate, the dial is in remarkable condition for its age. Initials ‘I K’ are on each side of the date. Upright hours VI – + – IV – VI are aligned to the hour lines, which are drawn to a large semicircle around the gnomon root. Short lines mark the half hours, with fleur de lys or arrow heads, and quarter hours. The rusty iron bar gnomon has a straight horizontal support.
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Vertical Dial
Photos of church and scratch dials, Erika Clarkson; vertical dial from BSS archive
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?).
Barfleur is a small town / large village on the NE tip of the Contentin peninsula in Normandy, roughly due E of Cherbourg. The church of St Nicolas, despite the initial impression, was built mid-C17. Later additions and restoration mid-C19 incorporated an impressively large sundial (it doesn’t seem to have been a later addition).
The face of the dial has almost entirely been obliterated, with half a dozen very faint lines just visible in the lower L quadrant. There is also the hint of a frame under the cast shadow, though it might simply be the remains of a horizontal line. Erosion by the sea over many decades has made the details speculative. The gnomon may possibly be original. Whether or not, the design of the tip is clever and includes a small hole at the tip that creates a neat spearhead.