LES CADRANS SOLAIRES DE ST GEORGES de BOSCHERVILLE
This decorative sundial – one of two – is something rather special. It is both elegant and complex, and must have taken a long time to devise and lay out accurately. It stands in the extensive grounds of the fine Abbey Church of St Georges de Boscherville in Normandy. I managed to get the last small pamphlet in the Abbey bookshop. Even then I failed to understand the sundial properly, and not simply because of my rusty but workable French. I’m not even going to attempt to describe the dial, but it was easy to photograph in detail in its picturesque setting, and I have included a shot of the explanatory plaque at the end for the science-minded.
One fact I learnt is that until WWII, France was on Greenwich Meantime. During the occupation, the Germans changed the time zone to Central European time, a practice that has remained ever since.
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 I † C12 origins (Chancel c1100), C13 et seq, restored 1862. A pleasingly geometric church in a fine setting below Ham Hill, the Iron Age hill fort where the original stone for the Norman church was quarried. Close to Montacute House (NT) and St Catherine Montacute. 50.9526 / -2.7361 / ST483172
St Mary has 4 dials on the S. side, all of different types and all quite easily found. The different styles and levels of sophistication on a single church reflect the development of scratch dials with increasing scientific knowledge, and their continuing usefulness to the church and the community.
Dial 1 is low-down on a quoin at the W. end, unusually assertive and straightforward. However, in the middle of the 4 strong lines is a very faint one with a dot at the end. Since it adds little to the dial’s purpose, I wonder if evidences eroded remains of an earlier dial? Also, are the dots either side of the gnomon hole part of the original dial or were they added later? It’s hard to see how they might help the dial’s function. Or so I thought until I saw similar oblique marks in Dial 2, in that case lines (see below).
DEH visited St Mary in July 1914 and recorded: 216. (1) This dial is on the s.w. corner of the nave on a quoin. It is 4 feet 3 inches above the ground, the noonline is about 4 inches in length or a little less, the stylehole is 1 3/4 inches in depth by 3/4 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 30° e. Type 3.
In the first image, note the Norman window, one of 2 that survive. The other is shown below.
Dial 2 on the E. side of the recessed priest’s door, is a fine example of a later, more complex design. It certainly marks the hours with clarity and precision. Its sophistication suggests it must be a late dial, my guess being late C15 / early C16. The morning hours are all marked with carefully graduated lines down to the noon line. All terminate in pocks which themselves are graduated from large to small at noon. Two half-hours are marked with pocks. The emphatic oblique incision is hard to analyse other than in terms of marking canonical hours (Compline & Nones?) cf the pocks on Dial 1. Any help to explain it would be welcome.
DEH recorded: 219. (4) This dial is on the e. side of the priest’s door. It is 4 feet 6 inches above the ground, the noonline is 5 inches in length, the stylehole is 1 1/2 inches in depth by 3/4 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 25° e. Type 3.
A final note for Dial 2. There is some evidence that there was originally a dial on a stone above it, later replaced. There are scratch marks that suggest the end of radials; and a row of dots, including a double dot that might relate to a noon line.
DIALS 3 & 4
Dials 3 & 4 are together, one above the other, E. of the blocked doorway with its slender columns. They are quite high (about 10′) in the angle where the S. wall meets the transept.
Dial 3 is the lower of the two. The style hole would have been in the mortar line acting as the horizontal ‘6-to-6’ line, but the area has a large repair that presumably covers it. 6 lines descend from it in a conventional fan, mainly in the lower L. quadrant. Their spacing is imprecise; the noon line is extended.
Dial 4 above is less ambitious. I imagine it is the earlier of the two. There are 3 long lines emerging from a filled style hole. The noon line runs down the edge of the adjacent stone, which looks as though it was a replacement from later restoration work. If so, perhaps the dial originally had lines in the lower R. quadrant.
DEH wrote: 217. (2) This dial is on the s.w. corner of the s. transept. It is 5 feet 1 inch above the ground, the noonhole is 2 inches distant, the stylehole is 1 inch in depth by 1/4 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 20° e. Type 9.
His record for this location is puzzling because there are in fact 2 dials not one; and they are much higher than he gives. It’s quite possible I missed a dial – his single dial – nearby and at the height DEH specifies. However, since DEH records only 3 definite dials for St Mary, he must therefore have missed (for height?) this pair.
DEH recorded a possible 4th dial, but with reservations. He wrote: 218. (3) This doubtful dial is on the e. side of the closed doorway in the nave. It is 5 feet 2inches above the ground, the noonline is 3 1/2 inches in length, the stylehole, if it exists at all, is filled.
I had already photographed it thinking it might be a damaged dial. I’m an optimist and an amateur, not the best combination for a balanced judgement. If this is the dial candidate referred to by DEH, then the style hole is no longer blocked. It looks plausible as a very crude dial, and it is a conventional dial location. Is it a much earlier dial than the others, cut beside what was clearly a significant doorway and now degraded by time and weather? Any views welcome.
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).
‘ UNEXPECTED TIMES’: A SUNDIAL ON THE PONTE VECCHIO
This article was written a while back, in the pre-Covid era. Now I have a sundial site up and running, this dial and some others from Florence have a new space.
Florence in January. -8°C at night, zero during the day – but sunny enough in the middle of the day to be able to have coffee or even lunch outside. Apart from the Uffizi, no queues for anywhere. Most significant places on the tourist trail almost to oneself. Despite the cold, there is no frost: the air is so dry that the pavements, piazzas and even the cars are quite clear of frozen white crystals. By the river I caught the electric flash of a male kingfisher flying up from the water to an overhanging bush, his hunting perch. I watched him as he scanned the water below, occasionally diving down and returning to the same branch. Twice, I could see the glint of a tiny fish in his beak.
Over the years I don’t know how often I have crossed the Ponte Vecchio – or even simply walked to the mid-point to admire the views up and down river from the open areas between the pricey shops. This time I was walking the length of the Vasari corridor that connects the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti on the other side of the Arno. A section runs straight over the bridge and then passes across the facade of Santa Felicita, into which the Medici family could sneak from the corridor to a large private balcony for spiritual refreshment. Passing the middle of the west side of the bridge, in the ‘tourist photo op’ gap where Cellini’s bust adds to the photogenic view, I have never before looked upwards.
Here, on the roof of a shop, is an ancient sundial, supported by a white marble pillar. An eroded and almost illegible engraving below the pillar records that in 1333, floods caused the bridge to collapse and that “twelve years later, as pleased the Commune, it was rebuilt with this ornamentation”. The sundial itself, with its columnar divisions reminiscent of a rose window, marks the CANONICAL HOURS. The gnomon’s shadow indicates the hour of the day. If the sundial is the ‘ornamentation’ to which the inscription refers, then it is around 650 years old.
If you look closely, you’ll see, halfway up the south face of the hexagonal column, a lizard
Seeing the sundial for the first time ever, yet in such a familiar place was a reminder that Florence is a city that demands great attention as one walks through the streets. Many buildings, even unassuming ones, have fine adornments high up that will catch the eye… but only if you are looking out for them.
GRADE I † Saxon origins; surviving work of C12 and all subsequent periodsBLB. Chancel C12 / late C13, Victorian restorations. An attractive church with its squat tower and portico; secluded and approached by narrow lanes. 6m N. of Sherborne; 7m W. of Wincanton. 51.0214 / -2.537 / ST624248
Holy Trinity has 2 dials. The first is a small unobtrusive scratch dial by the S. doorway, possibly unrecorded unless in the church archives. It was not noted by DEH during his thorough coverage of the area; and it is not in the BSS register. The second (C18?) is clearly not strictly a scratch dial but an early vertical sundial. It definitely deserves inclusion as a most intriguing dial from a later period.
This simple conventional scratch dial is inside the portico on LHS of the door. There are 2 clear lines from the style hole, with a fainter 3rd somewhat offset between them. The deeper cut line possibly indicates a Mass time (Terce).
On the central buttress of the chancel. A single oblong stone slab with the mortar line as the horizontal ‘6-to-6’ and the numerals framed. The top edge of the frame is cut along the stones above; clear on the left one, faint on the right. Large Roman numerals on each side; small ones along the bottom of the dial. IIII for IV. The radials – more distinct on RHS – are graduated, with the noon line termination in a cross. The present gnomon is a simple metal triangle. It is hard to tell whether there was originally a wood or iron style or not.
It is unclear what the 2 iron pegs at the bottom are for, though they appear to be designed to hold up a stone tablet – perhaps at one time a different dial or a memorial slab was placed over the original dial.
Holy Trinity has other features to note – graffiti including dates and initials; at least one Marian (witch) symbol; and a mystery inscription. Sutton Montis indicates a hill hamlet and is clearly marked on historical maps. However I can find no historical or cartographic reference to the ‘valley hamlet’ of Sutton Vallis. And yet…
GRADE 1 † An exceptional Romanesque church built mid to late C12 (nave, tower, chancel) with later additions, restoration, and conservation. The Norman features dominate, especially the wonderful doorways. There’s too much history here (and in Iffley village) to distil: PEV should be the first stop, or BHO online Best of all, go there. SE. Oxford 51.7274 / -1.2382 / SP527034
St Mary has two dials, one conventional, and one of a most unusual type that I haven’t met before. In relation to Dial 1, it’s worth mentioning that in 2017 conservation architects oversaw “a programme of conservative repair to the exuberant Romanesque masonry of the church’s west front and south door. This included the application by stone conservators of a pigmented limewash, helping to preserve the stone and improve the overall legibility of the facade”.
Dial 1 is on the right side of the lovely S. doorway. It has 4 straight radials, 3 with terminal pocks. The noon line may have a second pock above the end one; there are perhaps other dots. The style hole in the join of the stones creates the horizontal line. The careful preservation methods noted above have to an extent made the dial hard to analyse in greater detail. Fortunately BSS has an archive image that predates recent work. Much more detail is evident; for example the pocks are clearer (and there are more of them). It makes for an interesting comparison.
DIAL 1 GALLERY
This highly unusual dial (if it is one at all) is on the S. side of the church, in the angle where the tower meets the nave. It consists of 4 incised parallel lines on a single stone. Just that. The passage of the day can be observed as the sun moves round, with the quoin acting as a vertical gnomon. The shadow cast moves gradually over the 4 lines from left to right, indicating the time of day. Its position suggests that it was primarily of use as a morning dial, perhaps signifying the Canonical hours for Mass. BSS records it as a ‘linear scale of markings from the wall shadow’.
The photos below give an idea of how the dial works in practice. I visited on a sunny day, but unfortunately at the wrong time of day to test the shadow theory. This dial is yet another that I need to revisit to understand it.
GRADE II* † C13 with C15 reworking and C19 restoration. Like nearby PODIMORE, a 4-stage tower with octagonal upper stages. One of several churches in the area with (unusually in such a close group) dials inside S. porch. A modern memorial horizontal sundial by Silas Higgon has an interesting plate (see below). Located S. of the A303, between Queen Camel and Cadbury Castle (a dominant hill fort nearby, and well worth the climb). 51.0226 / -2.5564 / ST610249
Another small and attractive church in the Yeovilton area, most of which have scratch dials. Like some of its neighbours, the dial of Holy Cross is located within the S. porch, a later addition. On his visit in 2014, DEHrecorded:
183. This dial is on the e. side of the inner door of the s. porch. It is 3 feet 7 inches above the floor, the noonline is 5 inches in length, the stylehole, which is filled up, is in the solid stone and not in a joint. The aspect is s. by 20° E. Type 3. April 24th, 1914.DEH
The dial is scratched into a stone on RHS of the original doorway. The filled gnomon hole, near the centre of the stone, has 5 long lines descending. At some stage the porch has been whitewashed (as was often done cf WAYFORD), and paint traces remain evident on the dial and elsewhere in the porch (on graffiti and witch marks, for example).
As I understand it, 2 almost parallel vertical lines on dials like this were probably intended as the edges of an ‘absent’ noon line, with the true vertical midway between them as opposed to a line marker.
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.
DEDICATION † ST MARY – C12 nave and chancel; later additions include bellcote & S. porch
LISTING † Grade 1
LOCATION † North-west of Maiden Newton. A very small secluded Dorset hamlet (comprising Lower & Higher) with a handful of houses, a handsome ford, and 2 rushing feeder streams for the upper River Frome. 50.8054 / -2.6035 / ST575008
DIALS † ‘On S. wall of nave, remains of two scratch-dials, reused’ (BHO)
St Mary was one of the first churches I visited soon after I started this project nearly a year ago. I was just beginning to sort out the format and I had yet to discover the resources I later came to rely on. Taking the BHO entry (italics above) at face value, I looked for 2 dials, found them, and wrote them up HERE. Since then, I learnt of a third dial that I missed (GLP). After a recent revisit to check St Mary and photograph all 3 dials, I am replacing the original images of Dials 1 & 2, and featuring Dial 3 to complete the set.
All 3 dials are on the S. wall of the nave E. of the porch, quite close to each other. Dial 1 is on a quoin stone, with 4 lines descending from the mortar-line. The arrangement is haphazard. The lines aren’t straight, the two longer ones have split ends, the other two are shorter and almost parallel, the overall spacing seems completely random. It’s hard to see how useful such an endearingly wonky dial could have been.
Dial 2 is very low down, between Dial 1 and the porch. There are 4 lines, one very faint. The stone is at a slight angle and GLP suggests it may have been reused and – if slightly rotated – a vertical (noon) line might result.
This ‘new’ dial is also low down between the other 2, nearest Dial 1. It is inverted. There are 3 very clear lines of differing widths and depths, with the (upside down) noon line extending to the edge of the stone and ending in a (faint) cross noted by GLP. He mentions 6 lines (3 eroded) in all, and adds This dial would appear to record the Saxon ‘Tides’