Alciston Church . E Sussex

GRADE I Saxon origins; DB as Aelfsige. Dedication unknown. Dated to C14 (BLB notes C13 chancel & porch). C19 restoration. Incumbents recorded from 1353. In a most attractive setting down a long path, and grouped with a large medieval tithe barn, dovecote &co. 8m E of Lewes, 6m W of Polegate. 50.8299 / 0.1369 /  TQ505055


All 4 dials are cut on either side of the blocked S doorway of the nave. 1 LHS and 3 RHS, of which an adjacent pair are low down, almost at ground level.


On the L jamb of the blocked doorway, the most advanced and clearest of the 4 dials. Mid-C15? Encircled, with a full cross of vertical (12-12) and horizontal (6-6) lines emphasised by deeper incision. The lower half has 6 additional lines (and hints of a couple more). A single line UR quadrant divides it fairly accurately. The gnomon hole is (now) rather large for the size of the dial but that may have happened in the course of its history.


RHS of the doorway, the same height as Dial 1. A much simpler dial with 2 lines only. The worn circle contains just 2 lines LLQ, one faint and the other deeper cut. Possibly the faint line was originally the marker for Mass, and was superseded by a more visible line (hand-cut without a rule, it would seem).

Alciston Church . E Sussex – Scratch Dial 2

DIALS 3 & 4

Just above ground level are 2 enjoyable dials on the same stone, presumably re-sited from a more visible position. However the stone sits comfortably with the overall design of the doorway, so I wonder whether all the dials (or those RHS) were moved to their present position when the doorway was blocked / during restoration?

The dials are adjacent – in fact, contiguous. Both circles are endearingly wonky, though the lines are cleanly cut. Dial 3 has been more carefully incised, with some attention paid to accuracy. Dial 4 probably came first and the more sophisticated Dial 3 later replaced it.

Dial 3 has 2 small dotted crosses within its circumference, also suggesting a later date than Dial 4. One cross consists of 4 separate dots; the other has the dots connected by lines (the vertical is very faint).

Alciston Church . E Sussex – Scratch Dial 3 & 4

DIALS 2, 3, and 4 as a group

Alciston is one of several rewarding churches in the area for a visit. You could combine it with climbing Firle Beacon which, at a height of 217m, counts as a Marilyn.

 Frederick Barrett – Sussex Archaeological Collections 100 1962

GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial; Medieval Sundial; Dotted Cross graffiti

Photos: Keith Salvesen except as shown; Church Information appreciated

FIRLE . E SUSSEX . ST PETER – 2 Scratch Dials

St Peter . Firle . E Sussex


GRADE I C12 with earlier origins; chancel & tower C13. Spiritual home of the Gage family of Firle Place, with fine memorials to the family; also close connections with the Charleston set. Good brasses, work by modern artists. St Peter has 2 dials. 5m E of Lewes. 50.845 / 0.0884 / TQ471071


This dial was recorded (1993) as located on a quoin stone on the W side of the N porch and repositioned at some time in its history. Since then, in 2018, the N door has been incorporated in an extension for a loo and related purposes. It is very well done but from the outside there is now no access to the old doorway. The dial must be reached from inside the church, where in the new annex the dial can be seen RHS of the original N door. Commendably, the dial is behind a small perspex screen to protect it, but not directly over it – a thoughtful way to display and conserve a small piece of history.

BSS notes the dial as repositioned, eroded, damaged and it was deemed a rudimentary (Norman) dial. The only marks detectable now are the faint remnants of a circle among the blotches of lichen.

St Peter . Firle . E Sussex – Scratch Dial 1


Located on the E-facing wall of the S doorway, and obviously re-sited at some stage to be of any use. A clean straight hole in the centre of the stone but even close to, no lines or dots now visible. I am pretty certain it is / was a dial, but some might call it doubtful. The stone is quite frangible amid the flint, and erosion over the centuries was perhaps inevitable.

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen

Pilgrim Cross


St Andrew . Alfriston . Sussex

GRADE 1 † C14 flint-faced cruciform church of considerable interest, in an attractive setting between Lewes and Polegate. Oddly, the usual reliable research resources (BLB, BHO, HE) have minimal or no entry for St Andrew. Luckily the CUCKMERE CHURCHES website gives helpful details.  50.8066 /  0.1581 / TQ521030

St Andrew . Alfriston . Sussex – Scratch Dial


The neat compact dial is located on the S porch, on a W side quoin stone. It is encircled, with 12 radials of which the noon line – though the faintest – extends some way beyond the circumference. The style used in the original style hole, now blocked, was evidently superseded by an iron gnomon set in the oblong hole above the cement; probably not earlier than C17. This adaptation is also found at St Michael Litlington, situated opposite Alfriston on the E side of the Cuckmere valley. The dials there are famous and I will post about them separately.

St Andrew . Alfriston . Sussex – Scratch Dial

The radials are contained within the lower half of the dial (below the 6 – 6 horizontal) and are rather randomly spaced at (roughly) the 15º intervals usual in this design. In a later dial, the lines would be graduated. This form is a Canonical dial designed to mark the times of Mass. The significant lines were Terce, Sext and None – the 3rd, 6th (noon) and 9th hours. These are not emphasised here (eg by being cut wider, deeper or longer) although on many dials they are . There is a suggestion (BSS) that at some time the dial was recut / rescratched.

St Andrew . Alfriston . Sussex – Scratch Dial

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

Photos: John Renner (dial); Camilla Pennant (church view across the village green known as the Tye)