ST MICHAEL . BLACKFORD . SOM.
GRADE II*. C11 origins with Norman features inc. doorway inside the porch; enlarged in C14 (tower) and C15 (S. porch); C19 restoration. One of many attractive villages in the area. 4m W of Wincanton, with only the A303 to spoil the peace. 51.2261 / -2.8478 / ST 65722673
Dom Ethelbert Horne DEH visited Blackford on April 24th, 1914, during one of his tours around Somerset examining medieval churches and recording the details of the scratch dials he discovered. Blackford is one of a very small number of Somerset churches where he found a dial inside the porch. It must predate the added C14 S. porch to have had any practical use. Another example of an interior dial can be found at WAYFORD.
DEH 165. (1) This dial is on the e. side of the inner door of the s. porch, at a height of 4 feet 6 inches above the floor. The noonline is 4 inches in length, the stylehole, which is in a joint, is filled, and the aspect is due s. Type 2
There are 4 sharply incised lines with no discernible traces of others. The mortar line at the top acts as the horizontal ‘6-line’ and the style location. The spacing of the lines is somewhat unusual for such a well-cut, being neither the 15º equal segments of an old design nor the carefully graduated lines of a later scientific dial. Perhaps this indicates an even earlier origin, even possibly contemporary with the original doorway?
The stone immediately below the dial has a very small (apparent) dial descending in the same way from the mortar line. One could probably dismiss it as a later copy or doodle of the dial above. On the other hand, crude though it is, the radials are differently configured with more emphasis on the LR quadrant. Perhaps a practice dial?
DEH 166. (2) This dial is on the w. side of the priest’s door, which is blocked up. It is 2 feet 6 inches above the ground, the noonline is 2 1/2 inches in length, the stylehole is small and shallow, and the aspect is due s. Type 3. April 24th, 1914.
This dial on W. side of the blocked Priest’s door would be easy to miss, though the newly mortared surround is not. DEH doesn’t note its state, but I wonder if has eroded significantly in the intervening century since his visit. There is the hint of a full circle. It’s hard to make out a noon line as such. Now only a single pock below the shallow style hole indicates the vertical.
Besides the small ‘dial’ in the porch mentioned above, there are 2 other candidates, both by the Priest’s door. The first one is faint, but there are 2 visible lines leading from a small hole in the stone. Each has a pock at or near the end. Other pocks in the vicinity may be relevant to the theory. The other candidate looked promising, but is less likely I think.
St Michael is worth visiting just for the splendid apotropaic marks (ritual protection / witch marks) in the porch, in particular a deeply incised flower-like hexafoil; and a delicate and complex multiple hexafoil design.
Useful general information can be found at CAMELOT PARISHES
GSS Category – Scratch Dial
All photos – Keith Salvesen