St George is a wonderful church with Saxon origins, C12 foundation, C15 tower; and much T H Wyatt work / restoration mid C19. Treasures include the C12 font, a `truly amazing piece’ (Pevsner) of black Tournai marble. High up on the third stage of the C15 tower is a magnificent C18 sundial: details HERE and an image below.
While visiting St George, I decided to have a brief look at the exterior for church marks in general: graffiti, dates, masons’ marks etc. I was not expecting much, in particular because of the extensive C19 work. However on the W end buttress of the C15 tower, facing SW, there was a large incised design worth inspection.
The design is a partial / eroded circle with a central shallow style hole. A noon line extends downwards to the edge of the circle, passing through a pock on the way and ending with a shallow pock. Other pocks mark the approximate edge of the circle on both sides of the noon line. In the lower L quadrant, the pock between the style hole and the pock at the edge of the circle may have been to emphasise the 9-line as indicating the time of a morning Mass, in this case Nones.
The British Sundial Society BSS has considered the evidence and added the Preshute dial to its Mass Dial records. In many ways a lucky find, since I was not looking for nor expecting a dial at all.
GRADE 1. Late C13 / early C14 Decorated, C15 tower, restored 1864 & 1900. Set elegantly in a spacious and pleasant churchyard on the W. side of the Vale of Pewsey. Besides an excellent collection of dials, much else of interest – see BLB entry. 4m SE. of Devizes. 51.3148 / -1.9429 / SU040573
This is the second post about the 8 scratch dials of Urchfont. The first post for dials 1 – 4 can be found HERE. There is some duplication of general details so that this post can be read without cross-reference.
DIALS 5 – 8
A fine ‘multi-dial’ church. There are 8 (possibly 9) dials in all. 6 of these dials are recorded in the BSS register. Dials 5 & 6 are close together on the edge of E. side of the transept. Dials 7 & 8 are low down on adjacent buttresses on the Chancel wall. They are somewhat concealed by chest tombs and easy to miss.
DIALS 5 & 6
DIAL 5 has 10 distinct lines in additional to the horizontal in the mortar line, and a couple of ?line traces. The gnomon hole is within a larger filled area of (presumably) damage. An emphasised ?Mass line leads down to a crowed noon line area with a possible 1/2 hour radial. The dial seems truncated LHS and along the bottom edge, suggesting a relocation. However, RHS has 2 lines that sweep across into the adjacent stone, suggesting repair / restoration beside and below it.
DIAL 6 is a simple complete circle with a small style hole in the centre. Given that medieval dials marked the passage of the day and not ‘clock time’, this very basic type of dial may have been almost as helpful as later, more elaborate ones.
Dial 7 is located low on the middle S. facing Chancel buttress. A semicircle with a complete complement of lines around from the horizontal. Almost all end in pocks (2 in L. quadrant may be lost in the join with the adjacent stone). RHS is partly eroded from the faint noon line upwards. The symbol to the left may be a ritual protection / witch mark – too large for a mason’s mark.
Dial 8 is on the Chancel buttress E. of Dial 7, at the same low level. It is more rustic. Unusually, the dial, though quite small, was cut across 6 stones. Originally the circle was presumably complete, but damage top L and a relocated stone top R have removed the upper segment. The gnomon hole is notably off-centre. Perhaps odd that the dial wasn’t cut using the mortar line for the style hole and as the horizontal 6-to-6 line? Like Dial 7, a full complement of lines with pocks. There is a some graduation, but irregular.
The first is a deliberate pattern of pocks by a doorway – an obvious dial location – with a possible style hole in the mortar. There are similar short curved dot patterns elsewhere, eg Maiden Newton (Dorset). A plausible dial. The second dial is higher on the same buttress as Dial 8, a small hole with 2 apparently intentional lines just before and at noon. Doubtful, but I have seen rather less convincing patterns credited with dial status…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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).
GRADE 1 † Late C13 / early C14 Decorated, C15 tower, restored 1864 & 1900. Set elegantly in a spacious and pleasant churchyard. Besides an excellent collection of dials, much else of interest – see BLB entry. 4m SE. of Devizes. 51.3148 / -1.9429 / SU040573
This fine church in an attractive village on the W. edge of the Vale of Pewsey is well worth a visit, not least (in the context of this site) because it is a ‘multi-dial’ church. There are 8 (possibly 9) dials in all, mostly easy to spot and rewarding to examine in detail. 6 of these dials are recorded in the BSS register. I have split them into 2 groups. The first 4, featured here, are all on the S. transept.
DIALS 1 – 4
Dials 1 – 4 are all close to each other on the S. face of the transept. Dials 1 – 3 are cut into quoin stones on the W. edge of the transept, nearest the porch. Two are close to each other; the third is higher up (I was fortunate to spot it). All 3 dials are marked mainly in the lower L. quadrant. Dial 4 is a quite different type, within a circle. Located immediately W. of the large transept window.
DIALS 1 & 2
DIAL 1 has 3 distinct lines and a trace at (roughly) 07. 11 is faintly extended. A partial (semi?) circle encloses the lines and the sector continues past the slightly offset noon line. There are 4 pocks that are part of the design, one a terminal dot. The shape of the style hole is (now) square, suggesting a later replacement (cf Glanvilles Wootton, which still has its square gnomon).
DIAL 2 has a large style hole drilled between the 2 stones that form the horizontal. There are 3 clear lines – the noon line extended – and possibly a couple of faint / eroded lines. Small pocks on the edge are dwarfed by a huge ‘mid-morning’ hole that was perhaps added later – or was a forthright call to Mass.
The third dial on the same quoin is much higher, and easy to miss. A large style hole with 3 clear-cut lines, the middle one extended and with a pock at the end. There’s a fainter line R. of the (slightly offset) noon line. Presumably, although the quoin as a whole seems uniform, the stone was relocated to its elevated position.
This is a pretty dial enclosed by a complete outer circle. The dial markings are enclosed within a very faint inner circle. There are 5 clear lines and traces of 3 or 4 others. There is no clear noon line, and overall the positions of the radials seem rather unusual.
Image 1 in the gallery below includes dials 1 -3 on their respective quoin stones, alongside dial 4.
GRADE II* † Late C12, C15, 1718, 1825 and much restored after fire in 1876 by A.J. Style BLB. A fine church in a small village close to PEWSEY and the Kennet & Avon canal. There is a vertical dial (1840) with a lengthy gnomon; and graffiti including witch marks. I was pleased to see a small memorial to my best friend from school, killed on army manoeuvres by an avalanche. 51.346 / -1.8003 / SU140607
The dial is on the SE. face of the end buttress W. of the porch. The style hole is prominent; the radials are faint and shallow scratched (and / or eroded). 8 are fairly clear, seen close to. The sector containing them is at an unusual angle of (roughly) 7.00 am to 8.00 pm. The obligatory drainpipe is close by.
GRADE I † Saxon origins. C11 Norman and later development inc. C12 nave, C13 aisles, C16 tower, C18 expansion, C19 restorations. An interesting church, with C12 Norman limestone font with suspended cover; and wonderful early C17 clock. Enjoy the Kennet & Avon canal while you are there. 51.3379 / -1.7664 / SU163598
The dial is on S. side of the chancel, on the E. quoin stone of E. end buttress. The appearance is of a classic 6-to-6 dial (not within a semicircle) on a lovely colourful stone. 11 clear lines (the 9 line is not visible – erosion? Omission of the Terce line seems unlikely). The longer 11 line extends to the mortar line below. 3 lines are emphasised inc. noon line. There are several pocks, a few at the end of lines – those at the ends of the horizontal must almost certainly part of the dial.
I wrote ‘appearance’ above, because looking closely at the photos, the dial is in fact slightly less straightforward. There are 2 faint lines and the hint of another in the upper right quadrant (see large image below).
DIAL 2? (unrecorded)
In several places on the outside walls there are groups of church marks and graffiti – initials, dates, apotropaic (witch) marks / Marian symbols. While photographing these I noticed a very small rustic dial scratched in the angle of wall and buttress on the S. side. I might have ignored it or classified it as ‘doubtful’, but the crude cuts in the stone running from the putative style hole suggest a casual dial attempt – possibly a trial run, and / or a contribution to the gallery of marks in this area.
Grade II. Mid C13, with a Norman font suggesting earlier origins. Tower C15. By early C19, dilapidated and demolished (apart from the tower) and rebuilt. The work was inferior and re-rebuilding was soon required. Close to the Kennet & Avon canal between Devizes and Pewsey. 51.3598 / -1.8703 / SU09162
Badly eroded and degraded, the dial is located on the SW face of the buttress S of the W door. Apart from the semicircle at the top it is hard to discern how the dial might have looked. At first sight, this is a dial cut across 2 stones (there’s a hint of a circle on the lower stone), with the style hole presumably lost in the damaged area (the mortar line looks too high for one). Listed by TWC; not in the BSS register
Alternatively, possibly the combination of dilapidation, demolition and double rebuilding in C19 included rearranging some of the stonework of the tower that otherwise survived the chaos. Conceivably the present visible ‘semicircle stone’ was parted from a companion stone cut with the rest of the dial that was repurposed elsewhere.
Apart from the dial, there are quite a few witch marks and graffiti / initials. I take the double triangle mark beside the dial to be an emphatic ritual protection mark rather than, for example, a mason’s mark.
ST KATHERINE & ST PETER . WINTERBOURNE BASSETT . WILTS
GRADE 1. Records from C12. Mainly late C13 / C14, expanded C15, restored mid-C19. An architectural gem (Betjeman). Dedication has varied over time. 4m N. of Avebury. 51.4731 / -1.8554 / SU101749
4 dials identified: 3 scratch dials and 1 ‘very early scientific dial’(BBS)
Priest’s Door R. Pock dial with 5 clear dots on pinkish stone (similar position and style to eg Maiden Newton Dorset).
DIALS 2 & 3
Priest’s Door R, lower down. Dial 2 is a conventional dial with 4 lines in L. lower quadrant; noon line emphasised. Adjacent to less clear Dial 3 with filled style hole and 2 clear thin radials and (perhaps) a very faint noon line. There’s a possible additional dial on this stone, at best a style hole with eroded lines.
DIALS 1, 2 & 3
High on quoin on S. side, a far more sophisticated gnomon dial. The BSS record from some years ago states: ‘Probably upright Roman numerals with cross for noon (not easy to see). Very early scientific dial. Gnomon may be a replacement’.
A photo taken last month removes the doubt. The incised lines – of variable width, some with a slight wedge shape, some quite deep (or less eroded) – have Roman numerals from VII round to VI. The IX to III horizontal line of numerals works well. The noon cross is very clear. I wonder if the stumpy little gnomon indicates that it is old (even if not original). Did gnomon design later develop to more elegant and longer markers?
GRADE ll*. Mainly C14 / C15, broadly Perp. Earlier origins. C19 work by G. Scott & T. Wyatt. Solitary in a combe behind the village and a real challenge to discover (ignore ‘Church Lane’). Well worth the effort to visit, as is Bratton Camp iron-age hill fort with its early white horse to W. 51.2665 / -2.1244 / ST914519
A simple small dial, encircled, with several slightly curving radials. 3 or 4 pocks that may relate to it. Located W. of the S. porch, level with the head stop L. of the arch.
On S. face of the tower, a large painted dial dated 1801 ‘TEMPUS FUGIT’. The long spindly gnomon casts an impressively long shadow.
GRADE 1 . On a Roman site. Late C11 or early C12 origin. Development C13 and C15, restoration 1882. Romanesque features. Between Amesbury and Marlborough, close to UPAVON. 51.3212 / -1.801 / SU139580
E. quoin stones of transept. Two adjacent and remarkably similar encircled dials with complete semicircles of radials. Both have additional pocks in LR quadrant. Both edge into the mortar at the top; and Dial 2 is cut short by the quoin edge RHS. Possibly this evidences relocation of one or both dials.
DIAL 1 (upper)
Complete semicircle of lines, 5 pocks. Equal 15º radials. BSS notes ‘eroded, damaged, irregular dial with 15º lines in both quadrants’.
DIAL 2 (lower)
Also complete semicircle of lines, 5 pocks, 15º radials. BSS notes as ‘worn’ and with shorter radials.
It is almost as if two people competed to make the most complete or accurate dial to the same design
Dial 3? Near the bottom of the image above there are 3 radials spreading downwards from the mortar line. The farthest left is vertical, and (if a dial) is the noon line. The lines were clearly deliberately cut, and it is quite possible that there is a filled style hole above them, though it is hard to tell from the image.
Graffiti: Initials, dates on quoin stones
GSS Category – Scratch Dial
Dial photographs: Jenny John, to whom many thanks. I recently failed to visit St Peter, having driven through the village en route from Upavon to Marlborough. Next time, I clearly need to check it…
Photographs of the Church: Wilts Council / History Centre; ‘Vale of Pewsey Churches’