MILBORNE ST ANDREW . DORSET . ST ANDREW – 3 Scratch Dials

St Andrew . Milborne St Andrew . Dorset

ST ANDREW . MILBORNE ST ANDREW . DORSET

GRADE II* C12 origins; tower & S porch C15; chancel, vestry, south aisle and chapel c1876 (G E Street). Wonderful C12 inner door with chevrons, shielded by porch; C12 font with a story to tell (below). A charming and very Dorset church. 4m SE of Bere Regis; 10m NE of Dorchester. 50.7759 /  -2.2833 / SY801974

DIALS

St Andrew has 3 dials. Dial 1 is a true scratch dial located in the NE corner of the nave, as is Dial 2 on the stone below (largely obscured by lichen, easy to overlook). Dial 3 is a transitional dial above the porch entrance.

DIAL 1

St Andrew . Milborne St Andrew . Dorset – Scratch Dial 1

Dial 1 is easily identified by its prominent filled gnomon hole from which 3 lines radiate in LLQ. There is also a perimeter curve of 5 (?6) pocks (diag).

DIAL 2

St Andrew . Milborne St Andrew . Dorset – Dials 1 & 2, NE corner of the nave

Dial 2, on the stone immediately below Dial, 1 has no discernible lines. BSS records 5 pocks of varying size that are (given the lichen) more or less visible seen in conjunction with the BSS diagram below. They are basically shallow dents, in contrast to the ‘drilled hole’ type of pock usually encountered.

St Andrew . Milborne St Andrew . Dorset – Scratch Dial 2

DIAL 3

St Andrew . Milborne St Andrew . Dorset – Scratch Dial 3

A transitional dial above the archway of the C15 S porch. Accuracy in marking the passage of time became increasingly important, not least with the advent of clocks. Dial design and construction involved taking a scientific approach to making time-telling more reliable and more legible. St Andrew is a good example. Rather than being scratched directly onto a stone intrinsic to the church structure, this dial stone is on what BHO describes as a square raised panel.

The dial has slightly angled edges with ‘extensions’ on both sides. It is not canted, so probably faces due S. It is a six-to-six dial with – originally – 12 lines (14, with the horizontal as 2). The hours 4 & 5 are cut deeper, perhaps denoting the most important Mass of the day. Some lines have weathered away in part or completely. There are a number of pocks. The recorder noted 4 trace (semi-)circles, one being close to the gnomon hole. The original gnomon was in the upper hole where there is now a square stub of iron rod. The lower arrangement indicates, I think, a later conversion / updating from a simple rod gnomon to a ‘proper’ one that required a footing; and perhaps a lamp bracket.

RARE FEATURE It’s not completely clear from my rather poor iPhone photos, but if you look carefully at the edge R side where there is the wide margin, you can see that the lines marking 4 & 5 extend onto the side of the dial face and continue down the side of the stone panel. Those short lines are visible from the side even if the rest of the dial is not. I wouldn’t have paid it much attention had I not also visited the neighbouring village of Winterbourne Whitchurch where there is an emphatic example of a ‘side-dial’ complete with a most unusual gnomon. My understanding is that this arrangement amounts to a morning dial read from E.

This is the 4th church I have come across where church events have entailed the use of a dial to tie in decorations etc with wire. In each case the wire was effective as an improvised gnomon.

FONT STORY

During the Victorian period it was sometimes the fashion to throw out ancient fonts and Street did just that, installing in its place a new replacement.  Fortunately, the old Norman font, decorated with a cable motif, was rediscovered in 1930 and put back in the north aisle, where it remains in use to this day. DHCT [This is an example of throwing the bath out with the baby water]

St Andrew . Milborne St Andrew . Dorset – S Porch and Norman Doorway

GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial ; Transitional Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen

HOLNEST . DORSET . ST MARY – Rare windowsill scratch dial; protection marks & graffiti

St Mary . Holnest . Dorset

GRADE I † Late C14, C15; C17 alterations inc. porch with date 1650 on keystone. Restorations mid-C19. Very recent skilled restoration 2020. Millennial dial with date-casting gnomon (cf BUCKLAND NEWTON). C18 box pews, candlelit services, Purdue bell c1580. Graffiti and witch marks. 14 formy consecration crosses both outside and inside (see locations below). A perfect small Dorset church standing alone, remnant of a plague village. There has been a recent very skilful restoration that has not impacted on the original charm of St Mary. 6m S of Sherborne. 50.8868 / -2.4902 / ST656098

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St Mary . Holnest . Dorset – Keystone

SCRATCH DIAL

St Mary . Holnest . Dorset – rare scratch dial on window-sill

A remarkable and very rare C15 dial, possibly unique (cf nearby THORNFORD). It is located on a window sill of the S aisle, incised at an angle of 35º. It is quite difficult to examine – even close to – because of erosion and lichen. The style hole is centred on the stone divide between 2 windows. To be effective it must have been angled forwards: C15 dial deliberately positioned centrally. Gnomon must have been bent over, perhaps horizontally. Lines are quite accurately cut GLP.

There were originally 12 lines – the full complement for a semicircular dial. However, many are so weathered that they are barely visible – some not at all. The church is across the fields from us and I have spent some time with the dial, examining it and photographing it at different angles and in different light. I’ve managed to identify 8 lines including the horizontals, much as shown on the second BSS diagram below. The most visible lines are these:

St Mary . Holnest . Dorset – diagram of scratch dial on window-sill

St Mary . Holnest . Dorset – scratch dial diagrams BSS

VERTICAL DIAL

The porch has a date of 1650 and a new [millennium] sundial commemorates the Great Crested Newt that meant that a field nearby could not be developed for housing. Friends of Holnest Church.

A particularly good example of a meaningful local dial designed specifically for its location and time. The Battle of the Newt being won as the new Millennium approached, a fine dial to record both events was fully merited.

St Mary Holnest: millennial vertical dial dated 2000 with unique Newt Protection Symbol

WITCH MARKS & GRAFFITI

The S porch has a rich variety of medieval church marks. The example stones shown above have witch / ritual protection / apotropaic marks to ward off evil, in particular a number of Marian marks VV (Virgo Virginum / Virgin of Virgins). There are also initials and C17 dates.

CONSECRATION CROSSES

There are 14 in all, 12 being the usual maximum. 5 are inside the church on the tower walls

Consecration Crosses: On chancel— flanking E. window externally, four crosses; flanking S. doorway, two crosses. On nave—W. of heads of N. windows, two crosses. On S. aisle—over E. window and W. of S. window, two crosses. On W. tower, on N. and S. walls, one cross and below W. window, two crosses; formy crosses fourteen in all, mediæval. BHO

GSS Category: Scratch Dial, Mass Dial; Church Marks, Witch Marks, Protection Marks; Consecration Crosses

All photos: Keith Salvesen

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

KILMAINHAM . DUBLIN . ROYAL HOSPITAL / IMMA – Vertical Dial

Kilmainham . Dublin . Royal Hospital / IMMA -Vertical Dial

A painted (gold Roman numerals and hour lines on white) vertical timber dial 1000 mm wide by 1200 mm high on the south wall of the courtyard of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham over the entrance to the dining hall. It has an ornate scroll gnomon also painted gold. The RHK, built in 1684, was in use as a retirement home for soldiers until 1927. Following restoration the building was reopened in 1991 as the Irish Museum of Modern Art .

Kilmainham . Royal Hospital / IMMA -Vertical Dial BSS

I am hoping to be able to get more detailed / close-up photos of the dial…

Kilmainham . Dublin . Royal Hospital / IMMA -Vertical Dial

GSS Category: Vertical Dial

Photos: Keith Salvesen; BSS Archive; Text M. J. Harley BSS

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

GRUNDISBURGH . SUFFOLK . ST MARY – Vertical Dial

St Mary . Grundisburgh . Suffolk

ST MARY . GRUNDISBURGH . SUFFOLK

GRADE I † Late C13; C15 enlargement and alterations. Tower c1730 with a plaque over the doorway: This Steeple was Built The Bells set in Order and Fixt. At the Charge of Robert Thinge Gent. Lately Deceased A.D. 1731-1732. Dial undated. 8m NE of Ipswich. 52.1133 / 1.2459 / TM223510

St Mary . Grundisburgh . Suffolk – Vertical Dial

The vertical sundial is immediately below the clock. As David Ross has written, what is immediately obvious as you walk up the path to the door is a large sundial set against the south wall of the tower, below a Victorian clock – as if the Victorians did not quite trust the sundial. Both timepieces are set below a round-headed window that would be perfectly at home in a railway station. (David Ross, Britain Express)

PEV (Suffolk E) is also unenthusiasic about the tower, which showed how the Georgians could be every bit as insensitive as the much-maligned Victorians. 

St Mary . Grundisburgh . Suffolk – Vertical Dial

HOW THE DIAL WORKS (1)

The break-arch shaped dial has a motto within the arch that reads: Life pas’s like a shadow. Roman and Arabic numerals are used to show the time. At the gnomon base are two arcs showing the time elsewhere. Analysis indicates that the scale with Roman numerals suggests Damascus; the scale with Arabic numerals suggests Barbados.

The main dial shows 5am to 4pm in Roman numerals, divided into quarter hours. The gnomon rod has an ‘S’ shaped supporter and a ball nodus. This is associated with the 11 declination lines numbered 8, 9, J0, J1, J2, J3, J4, J5, J6 (8 to 16 for daylight hours), with outer lines unnumbered.

The above notes are based on BSS records. The complete entry is below

HOW THE DIAL WORKS (2)

This break-arch shaped dial on the south wall of the church tower, below a clock, declines about 23° to the east.  The tower dates from 1731-32, but it is not known whether the dial is contemporary. 

A motto within the arch reads: LIFE PAS’S LIKE / A SHADOW.  Scales around the gnomon root show the time at two other places, but they are not named.  The outer scale, with Roman numerals for 8am to 7pm, using XII and IIII, shows the time at about 37° E, so may be intended to show Damascus time.  The inner scale, with Arabic numerals 1 to 12, shows the time at about longitude 60° W, possibly for Barbados. 

The main dial shows 5am to 4pm in upright Roman numerals using XII and IIII, divided to quarter hours. The gnomon rod has an ‘S’ shaped supporter and carries a ball nodus, which is associated with nine declination lines numbered 8, 9, J0,J1, J2, J3, J4, J5, J6 (8 to 16 for the hours of daylight).

The nine vertical lines crossing these are for azimuth, the nodus shadow showing the direction of the sun.  They are also unlabelled, but will indicate bearings of SEbE, SE, SEbS, SSE, SbE, S, SbW, SSW and SWbS.  

A report in September 1983 found the dial completely bare, presumably prior to a restoration.

St Mary . Grundisburgh . Suffolk – Vertical Dial Motto

MOTTOS

LIFE PAS’S LIKE A SHADOW

A rare variant of the many inscriptions that link Life with Shadow(s). Pas’s is said to reflect the Suffolk dialect at the time. There is another example of the ‘misspelling’ (as we might say now) of the word pass. At St Mary, Bucknall, Shropshire, the 1712 dial is inscribed Tyme Paseth.

Tempus Fugit on the C19 clock is… comfortingly familiar

If you want to find out more about St Mary and other churches in Suffolk, I recommend the website of Simon Knott SUFFOLK CHURCHES a journey through the churches of Suffolk

St Mary . Grundisburgh . Suffolk – Vertical Dial

GSS Category: Vertical Dial; Sundial Motto

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

MONUMENTAL SUNDIAL . MUSEO GALILEO . FLORENCE

Lizard / Viper Gnomon of Monumental Dial . Museo Galileo . Florence

MONUMENTAL SUNDIAL . MUSEO GALILEO . FLORENCE

The Museo Galileo‘s Monumental Sundial was built as a mathematical ornament in 2007. The slender bronze column (stele) is in fact formed from two matching columns closely aligned, symbolising day and night. The (mid)day stele faces south, with a vertical meridian line on which the shadow is cast by a lizard’s tail (actually, an imaginary half-lizard, half-viper). The night stele faces north and signifies the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor that enable the Pole Star to be identified.

Monumental Dial . Museo Galileo . Florence

The encircled quadrant design on the pavement at the base of the bronze columns indicates the geographic orientation. This glass base of the gnomon, and also the Zodiac signs in the meridian line (below), are up-lit after dark.

Orientation dial . Monumental Dial . Museo Galileo . Florence

The Museo explains the meridian line in helpfully simple terms: A travertine and brass meridian line is drawn on the pavement, flanked with glass and marble signs of the Zodiac. The meridian line extends for about 15 metres from the museum entrance, where the winter solstice is marked, to the base of the gnomon, where the summer solstice is marked. The travertine curves crossing the meridian line indicate the date. The brass radial lines forming a grid with the two solstitial curves indicate the hours.

The seasons and the four elements are symbolised by the choice of materials: travertine for the earth and autumn; glass for the water and winter; grey stone for the air and spring; bronze for the fire and summer.

LIZARD / VIPER GNOMON ON THE SOUTH FACE OF THE COLUMN

This extraordinary sundial stands by the Arno with the Ponte Vecchio (which itself has a wonderful dial LINK) close by to the west. For anyone with even a minuscule interest in or curiosity about the gradual development of scientific instruments and techniques from medieval times onwards, pay a visit to the excellent online gallery LINK. Look in particular for the two astronomical telescopes made by Galileo himself.

The North American Sundial Society has very good online information about this unique dial. You can watch a short animation of how this gnomonic sundial works here LINK

For those interested in finer details of the way the dial works, the museum’s detailed account is included at the end of this article.

Museo Galileo – Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza

Museo Galileo – Monumental Sundial

NASS (North American Sundial Society) Video: Filippo Camerota, Luise Schnabel, Giorgio Strano

How the Sundial works

The shadow cast by the glass polyhedron atop the large bronze gnomon indicates the date and time. The hours from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM are marked out by radial brass lines. The date is indicated by the travertine traversal lines which mark the Sun’s diurnal course for various periods of the year – precisely when the Star enters the signs of the Zodiac. The shadow cast by the gnomon changes in length during the course of the days and seasons, and indicates true solar time for the place where it is located, which is a different time than that of our wristwatches, known as mean time. In respect to mean timetrue solar time has a periodic variation that can exceed a quarter of an hour.

schema minuti

Moreover, during daylight saving time, the hands of a clock are moved forward one hour. For example, true midday in the month of February would be indicated by the sundial around 12:28 AM while in the month of July it would be indicated around 1:20 PM daylight saving time.

To read the hour and date, you have to identify the hour lines and the calendrical lines closest to the gnomon’s shadow. When the shadow does not fall exactly on a hour line, you can read the half-hours and quarters with close approximation by ideally subdividing the space between two hour lines in two or four parts. The date can also be read by referring to the Zodiac signs and the start of the months marked out along the meridian line.

© 2018 – 2022 Museo Galileo – Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza
Piazza dei Giudici 1 · 50122 Firenze · ITALIA
tel. +39 055 265 311 – P.I. 01346820481

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