St Peter Old Church . Stockbridge . Hants


GRADE II* . C12, later expansion until decay by C19 rendered it ‘unfit for public worship‘. Radical action was taken and the church demolished leaving only the chancel. The ‘new church’ was built in contemporary style on the High Street. Much of the old church was transferred to the new one (including a dial stone, to be featured another time). The old church is still in use and much of interest remains including Elizabethan wall paintings, early bells, and a C13 (or C12?) font. Also a medieval oak door carbon-dated to 1354. 51.1131 / -1.4876 / SU359349


The church information leaflet notes ‘…a Mass Clock ca. 1214 on the door jamb of the west door’. However such a precise date is arrived at, this is a striking example of an early dial and a most unusual one in being set in an approximate rectangle rather than (if anything) a semi or complete circle. In Hants I know of one other, at Laverstoke.

St Peter Old Church . Stockbridge . Hants – Scratch Dial

The dial is set facing south among a selection of witch marks and graffiti scratched around the doorway. I counted 8 (possibly 9) lines rather haphazardly drawn and positioned ’round the clock’, with several pocks on the dial and its perimeter (also a dot pattern below). The noon line seems faintly to be extended. The style hole is filled. I wonder if it is unusual for such a very early dial to mark a full 24-hour cycle?

BSS gives the condition as fair and specifies 8 lines. Pocks are not noted. Comment: Repositioned?Irregular outline. Crudely cut or made. Cannot be classified. Unique shape.

Green ARG includes Stockbridge new church in his indispensable book of 1926 ‘Sundials – Incised Dials or Mass Clocks’. He visited in May 1922 and there is a detailed entry covering the dial stone removed from the old church and repositioned, inverted, high up at the W. end of the N. aisle. I will post about this dial in due course. However ARG makes no specific mention of visiting the old church, and there is no entry for it except in his concluding list of Hants dials.

NOTE: for a short summary of the Stockbridge churches & dials, see the entry on BRITAIN EXPRESS

GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Witch Mark; Church Graffiti

All photos – Keith Salvesen


St Catherine . Montacute . Somerset


GRADE II*. C12 origins on earlier pre-conquest site; extended in C13; tower C15; Victorian restoration. Outcompeted as an historic building by Montacute (the house) NT, worth a visit in its own right, obviously. 4 miles NW of Yeovil. 50.9498 / -2.7178 / ST496169



Repositioned and inverted on a S. buttress. An unusually large style hole, with other holes and pocks that may be markers, or perhaps irrelevant. The top left hole, on the circle, is the most likely to be related – perhaps a emphatic reminder for Mass. The afternoon lines are emphasised and the noon line elongated, though it looks a casual later addition. See below for image with the dial reverted

St Catherine . Montacute . Som – Scratch Dial 1

Father Horne DEH visited Montacute on 18 June 1914 and recorded it thus:

205. This dial is on the second buttress from the tower, at a height of 5 feet 7 inches above the ground. The noonline is 5 inches in length, the stylehole is 1 1/4 inches deep by 3/4 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 12° e. Type 5b.

This is a rare example (and perhaps none exists now, a century later) of a possible style fragment found in situ. The record continues:

This dial is upside down, and hence has been moved from its original place. A fragment of the metal style was extracted about an inch in length, and which had rusted down to about 1/2 of an inch in diameter. It appears to be a piece of iron. June 18th, 1914.


St Catherine . Montacute . Som – Scratch Dial 1 Reverted


On the second (E.) tower buttress on the S. side, another dial, unrecorded by Father Horne presumably because it doesn’t strictly fall within the – or his – scratch dial definition. However, it is a fine dial in its own right and deserves to feature here even if not quite qualified for inclusion.

I haven’t yet found an analysis of this dial in the usual resources. The lines are unevenly spaced but not graduated. The hours are clearly marked from 8 to noon in Arabic numerals; then faintly (eroded?) from 1 to 5 in Roman numerals. The 3-line is barely visible.

This Arabic / Roman numbering mix is not something I have come across before. It may help to date the dial – late C16 perhaps? Any further information would be welcome.

Ref: Somerset Historic Environment Record: There are two engraved sundials on the south side of the church. The first is semicircular and reset upside down on the second buttress west from the steps down to the boiler house. There are three marker holes. The second is on the E buttress for the tower and the divisions are numbered in a combination of Roman and arabic numbers. 

GSS Category: Scratch Dial(s); Old Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen


St Peter and St Paul . Odcombe . Somerset


GRADE II*. C13 origins, mainly C15, later restoration, transepts added 1874. 3 miles W. of Yeovil, close to Montacute. 50.9365 / -2.7031 / ST506154


The dial, once located E. of the porch, is disappointingly half-concealed by a discoloured and broken perspex sheet screwed over it. It’s a well-intended method of protection, of course, but some say it is preferable to leave a dial to erode naturally over the centuries. Possibly a covering like this could actually cause deterioration.

A number of clear graduated lines are visible in the lower R quadrant. There is a large pock, with a couple of small holes in the mortar below. The large one – between the terminus of two afternoon lines – may well be part of the dial. It’s too large to be the location of the missing screw for the covering. Perhaps that was fixed in a smaller hole in the mortar.

St Peter and St Paul . Odcombe . Somerset – Scratch Dial

Dom Ethelbert Horne DEH visited Odcombe church on June 8th, 1915. He noted: this dial is on the s.e. face of the buttress, and hence may not be in its original position and his record states:

208. This dial is on the s.e. angle buttress of the s. porch. It is 4 feet 4 inches above the ground, the noonline is 3 inches in length, the stylehole is 4 1/4 inches deep by 1 inch in diameter, and the aspect is s.e. Type 3. June 8th, 1915.

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

All photographs – Keith Salvesen


A modern dial in the walled garden at Trelissick NT, with a rather charming motto for the couple commemorated ‘Spouses (who) loved gardens’. It may be unique: I have found no other example, and it does not appear in Margaret Gatty’s compendious collection of Cornish sundial mottos.

GSS Category: Modern Dial

Photos: Keith Salvesen


Russborough House . Wicklow . Ireland – Courtyard Gateway Sundial


Russborough House . Wicklow . Ireland – Courtyard Gateway Sundial

Russborough House, built mid C18 for Joseph Leeson, is one of Ireland’s finest Georgian houses. Set in a large estate in the Wicklow Mountains, the house is renowned for its outstanding art collections (see

The pleasing and straightforwardly solid gateway to the Courtyard has a most interesting angled sundial with no part of it in an expected place. One consequence of its position is that the graduations are notably complex. The main photo in the gallery below shows this far better than I can explain it.

It is clearly not an old dial. I have seen one photograph that suggests that at some time it has been painted blue. I need to investigate further and will add the details if I can find a date for the dial.

GSS Category: Modern Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen

HERMITAGE . DORSET . ST MARY (2) – Scatch Dial 2 (unrecorded)

Hermitage . Dorset . St Mary . C14

ST MARY . HERMITAGE . DORSET – Scratch Dial 2 (unrecorded)

DEDICATION † ST MARY C14; C17 restoration; further work c. 1800


LOCATION † 4 miles N. of Cerne Abbas; S. of Sherborne 50.8611 / -2.4991 / ST649069

A very small, simple church (‘free chapel‘) tucked away under a hillside in a discreet corner of this hamlet. Approached along the edge of the drive of the former Rectory. Supposed hermetic origin. If you didn’t know it was there, you’d miss it – the bell-cote hardly shows above the trees.


Hermitage . Dorset . St Mary . Scratch Dial


Hermitage . Dorset . St Mary . Scratch Dial 2 (unrecorded)

A return to Hermitage to check for other church marks / graffiti produced an unexpected reward – a second dial, hitherto unnoticed and unrecorded, on a quoin stone at the W. corner of the S. side. In strong sunlight, it was clearly visible through a coating of lichen.

Hermitage . Dorset . St Mary . Scratch Dial 2 (unrecorded)

The dial is encircled, with a clear cut noon-line that extends vertically but less markedly to a diameter. There is a fainter full width 6-line, so that the visible lines form roughly equal quadrants. No other radials are definite, though the rough cut at 10 might be one and seems to emanate from the centre. There is a hint of (part of a) second circle on the right side. At the centre is a very small hole in the lichen, so assessing its actual size is not possible. The gallery below includes photos taken from 3 slightly different angles.

Hermitage . Dorset . St Mary . Witch marks and graffiti

GSS Category: Scratch Dial; witch marks and graffiti

All photos: Keith Salvesen


St Mary . Marston Magna . Som


GRADE I. Pre-conquest origins, largely rebuilt in c.1360 and reworked thereafter. Plenty to investigate and to test your building dating skills. BLB summary HERE. 5m NE of Yeovil, NW of Sherborne. 50.999 / -2.5807 / ST593223


A single dial. St Mary was visited by DEH on May 18th 1915 and he recorded:

199. This dial is on the first buttress to the w. of the priest’s door. It is 7 feet 4 inches above the ground, the noon-line is 4 1/2 inches in length, the style hole is 1/2 an inch deep by 3/4 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 10°e. Type 3. May 18th, 1915.

St Mary . Marston Magna . Som – Scratch Dial

The radials go beyond 180º, with quite a variation in spacing, depth, and length. There are notably longer and deeper afternoon lines, with one extending to the stone below. Possibly that quadrant was more deeply incised, or maybe recut at a later date. The lower left quadrant certainly looks more eroded.

The style hole is large. DEH makes no comment on the equally large hole immediately above. I could see no other dial signs – lines or pocks – linked to it. I wondered if it was the original dial on this prominent buttress, of the most basic type – simply a hole with a stick in it (the shadow would still be an indicator of the passage of time). Rather than elaborate it, a new dial was added beneath.

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

Photos: Keith Salvesen


Temple Guiting . Glos . St Mary

GRADE 1. C12 chancel, nave; continuing development; Largely rebuilt C16, tower in C17. Mid-Victorian restoration (Cutts). Cotswolds, between Winchcombe and Stow-on-the-Wold. 51.949 / -1.8685 / SP091278


TWC in his 1935 ‘Origins and Use of Scratch Dials’ includes Temple Guiting in his county lists (along with nearby Guiting Power). There is no other information that I can find in any of the usual resources nor going beyond them. The century-by-century work on this church make it hard to know where to look, especially as stones may have been relocated or even removed.


Within an hour of posting this, more research revealed Guiting sightings of 3 dials. An article by Rev. P. Sullivan for the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society (1924, Vol 46, 169-86) lists many Glos. dials including the following:

All are quite high up, which is no real excuse for missing all of them, even when in a hurry. I clearly need to go back. Please stop here unless you want to check out a less obvious / certain dial

Temple Guiting . Glos . St Mary – Scratch Dial

With limited time for a visit, the only dial-like marks I could find were under window of the transept (if that’s the right term) on the N. side. There are 2 clear lines; one faint line; and a couple of possibles but too eroded to be sure. I may easily have missed a real dial(s); this is the candidate I noticed.

My thoughts are that this is a small, simple dial cut on an older-seeming stone; that it has been relocated, presumably from the S. front; and that it has been rotated 90º anticlockwise. There’s the hint of a filled style hole below the dark patch that looks different from the lichen.

Temple Guiting . Glos . St Mary – Scratch Dial
Temple Guiting . Glos . St Mary – Scratch Dial
Temple Guiting . Glos . St Mary – Scratch Dial

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

Photos: Keith Salvesen


Winterbourne Bassett . Wilts . St Katherine & St Peter


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).

Winterbourne Bassett . Wilts . St Katherine & St Peter – Scratch Dial 1

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.

Winterbourne Bassett . Wilts . St Katherine & St Peter – Scratch Dials 2 & 3

DIALS 1, 2 & 3

Winterbourne Bassett . Wilts . St Katherine & St Peter – Scratch Dials 1 – 3
Winterbourne Bassett . Wilts . St Katherine & St Peter – Priest’s Door with 3 scratch dials


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?

Winterbourne Bassett . Wilts . St Katherine & St Peter – Scientific Dial with Roman Numerals
Winterbourne Bassett . Wilts . St Katherine & St Peter – Scientific Dial with Roman Numerals

GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Scientific Dial

All photos – Keith Salvesen


Rhubha Rèidh Lighthouse Sundial . Gairloch Museum .

Rhubha Rèidh lighthouse is situated at Melvaig, near Gairloch, Wester Ross. Confusingly, there are several ways to spell the name. Correctly, it is as shown in the title above. However the map below omits the first h in Rhubha. The Northern Lighthouse Board uses Rubh Reidh for the lighthouse itself, perhaps for simplicity. The dial featured is marked Rudh Re. The brass plaque for the lighthouse is headed Rhu Rhea. Whichever, the pronunciation ‘roo ray’ is roughly correct. OS grid · NG7396491847

The lighthouse stands at the remote north west tip of a plump peninsular at the end of a narrow track, with Loch Ewe emerging into the sea to the east. It is one of the ‘Stevenson’ lighthouses, designed by David and completed in 1912. It was automated in 1980 and is still operational. If you want a secluded and unusual place to stay, you can book accommodation in the main building. Official tarmac ends halfway along the 6 mile (or so) road, which continues as an access road. This part of the coastline can be a good place for dolphin and whale watching – if you are lucky, a Minke.

‘Rudh Re’ Lighthouse Sundial . Gairloch Museum .

The dial is on display in the outstanding GAIRLOCH MUSEUM, winner of the Art Fund’s Museum of the Year 2020. Small it may be, but packed with interest. The dial is in a glass case displayed with related items. The entire lantern is housed in the main room, viewable from a gallery above as well as at floor level. Its Fresnel lenses are intact. In a parallel life, I have been peripherally involved with a working ‘clockwork lighthouse’ bedded on mercury, with its original Fresnel lenses (Hope Town, Abaco, Bahamas) – possibly the last survivor. There is another lighthouse on the island, long abandoned but still with at least some of its Fresnel lenses.

‘Rudh Re’ Lighthouse Sundial . Gairloch Museum .
‘Rhu Rhea’ Lighthouse – Brass Plaque

Rubh Reidh Lighthouse lantern . Gairloch Museum . Sundial in display case

Rubh Reidh Lighthouse lantern . Gairloch Museum

GSS Category: Lighthouse Dial

Photos: Keith Salvesen, with thanks to the Gairloch Museum