DEDICATION † St Laurence. Mainly C15, some rebuilding C18, with restoration and additions in 1885 by Crickmay, the notable Dorset architect. One of a number of local churches with stocks.

LISTING † Grade 1

LOCATION † Not actually in Holwell but 1m N. towards Bishop’s Caundle, in a hamlet known as The Borough. Just before you turn down the lane to reach the church, don’t miss the UK’s oldest letter box still in use. It is dated 1853, just one year after roadside boxes were introduced. 50.9064 / -2.4289 / ST699119


On the buttress E. of porch, 2 eroded scratch dials one above the other; a further small rough dial in the upper half of the lower dial. A possible dial, unrecorded, at the W. end quite high on the SW. face of a buttress. If a dial, it is inverted and presumably repositioned. The dials were photographed on different days in different lights from bright sunshine to overcast, hence the colour variations

GLP records that the 3 dials are ‘very important as 2 of them are cut across two adjoining stones. This means that they must be in situ’. He dates them to late C15.

There is also a later dial, included below: On parapet above porch arch, square stone dial with incised degrees, perhaps 18th century BHO


St Laurence . Holwell . Dorset – 3 dials on one buttress

DIAL 1 (upper)

Semicircular with a full complement of 6-to-6 radials, eroded on R side. A disorganised pattern of lines for straightness and distancing, with many ending with pocks. Lines and pocks extend to the stone below, especially the noon line. GLP records 16 lines, 6 with pocks, further pocks including a cross formation at the end of the noon line (triple pock cross BSS). He notes some half-hour lines and comments that the dial is very accurately cut.

St Laurence . Holwell . Dorset – scratch dial 1 (upper)
St Laurence . Holwell . Dorset – scratch dial 1 (upper)

BSS diagram

DIAL 2 (lower)

Dial 2 is encircled, most visibly the upper L quadrant, the R side being eroded. Compared with Dial 1, the details are indistinct. The photos below were taken in different lights to help with examination. The radials – many with terminal pocks – are within the lower half of the dial, with Dial 3 located in the upper half (see below).

GLP notes 11 lines with 6 ending in holes, plus the masonry joint as the horizontal, very inaccurately drawn with only one line in the correct position. GLP concludes that, though impressive, the dial was probably of very little use.

St Laurence . Holwell . Dorset – scratch dial 2 (lower)
St Laurence . Holwell . Dorset – scratch dial 2 (lower)

St Laurence . Holwell . Dorset – scratch dial 2 (lower)
St Laurence . Holwell . Dorset – scratch dial 2 (lower)
BSS diagram

DIAL 3 (inset in Dial 2)

A small rustic dial embedded within the top half of Dial 2. Eroded stone and lichen make it hard to analyse the dial much more. The BSS diagram below is the most helpful guide. GLP mentions 3 lines and a very worn circumference line. He notes that this dial, as with Dial 2, would have been of very little use.

BSS diagram


Featured here for interest and completeness, and will be written up on the OLD DIALS page

The dial is above the S. porch. Hard to date, but relatively complex. There are no numerals, and the lines from 6am to 6pm mark the hours, half-hours and the quarter-hours, carefully graduated. Some lines (eg 8am) are emphasised. There is no gnomon though there must have been one. The presumed site seems to be slightly off-centre at the top, where there is an area of damage. The dial was renovated in 1998 by S&L Kellard of Street, and the decision must have been made not to add a modern gnomon.

DIAL 4 (unrecorded, plausible)

As mentioned above, there is a possible dial quite high on the SW. face of a buttress at the W end. If it is a dial, it must have been repositioned and inverted in the process (shown reverted below)

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen

MELBURY BUBB . DORSET . ST MARY – Scratch Dial (unrecorded)

Melbury Bubb . Dorset . St Mary


GRADE 1. Church origins obscure; existing building dates from C15 with substantial C19 rebuilding. Renowned font carved from the column of a C10 Saxon cross and inverted. Excellent chest tombs. Next to a fine C17 Manor. The hamlet – Hardy’s ‘Little Hintock’ – is a few miles SW. of Sherborne, nestled into a peaceful hillside with outstanding views over the Blackmore Vale, shielded from the roar of the lethal A37 Yeovil – Dorchester road. 50.8571°N / 2.5753°W / ST596065


BSS register and GLP describe a ‘doubtful’ dial: On W. buttress of tower, late C15. A doubtful dial consisting of a single horizontal line leading to a shallow hole. This could be the remains of a painted dial, or a piece of graffiti.

BSS Diagram of the doubtful dial

This church is local to us. We can see it clearly from our house 2 miles away. Since I started this blog, I have checked the buttress two or three times and failed to find a mark similar to the diagram. There are some horizontal faults in the stone, but I haven’t seen anything as precise.

Recently I decided to try again, choosing early evening on a sunny day when the light would be shining directly onto the face of the buttress. Which it did. This is what was revealed, faintly visible in direct sunlight.

Melbury Bubb . Dorset . St Mary – Scratch Dial

There’s an element of wish fulfilment with amateur dial sleuthing – each hole a potential gnomon location; two or more proximate lines as radials; adjacent erosion faults and dots as dial pocks. However, close inspection here revealed a clear design conforming to dial norms.

Melbury Bubb . Dorset . St Mary – Scratch Dial

The central hole has horizontal and vertical lines leading from it that divide the enclosed area into quadrants. There is the trace of a circle, slightly off-centre from the style hole. The upper vertical extends close to the circumference; the lower vertical (noon-line) stops slightly short of it; the left horizontal extends beyond almost to the lichen; and the right horizontal extends into the lichen. There’s a trace of what could be a 1-line to the right of the noon-line.

Melbury Bubb . Dorset . St Mary – Scratch Dial annotated

Having examined the dial in situ, made some measurements, and checked my photos I am convinced that this is a simple scratch dial probably from C15 soon after the tower was built rather than later. In any event I have convinced myself.

The remarkable font deserves inclusion. HE describes it as a cylindrical tapering stone bowl, reversed, formerly base of a shaft, carved with continuous design of beasts: stag, horse, wolf, and ?lion, and lesser beasts, and interlacement, C10. There is a helpful description and annotated diagram in the church.

I have seen St Mary described as a ‘one-treasure church’, but the whole interior, the churchyard with its early chest tombs, the lovely setting of the church and hamlet – and possibly a C15 mass dial – make it rather more than that.

Melbury Bubb . Dorset . St Mary – the C10 Saxon-origin font

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen


St Thomas à Becket . Pulham . Dorset


GRADE II*. Fragments indicate C12 origin, otherwise mainly C15 with later additions and rebuilding. The dial survived the C19 work. C16 gargoyles of note. Situated some way down a long lane on the NE. edge of the village, next to the sizeable rectory. 9m SE. of Sherborne. 50.8754 / -2.4111 / ST71108

St Thomas à Becket . Pulham . Dorset – Scratch Dial


The dial is set low down on the E. side of the S. porch. Dated by GLP as early C16. Faint, rather randomly cut, and much eroded. 6 definite lines, as GLP recorded. As dials go, it is somewhat underwhelming. In fact I had missed it on an earlier visit, so I am glad I returned to check again.

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen


Up Cerne Church . Dorset . Scratch Dial


GRADE II*. Former parish church, now a private chapel in the grounds of the Manor House*. Largely rebuilt in 1870. A few C15 fragments remain. A secluded hamlet with only 2 or 3 cottages besides the Manor and its extensive lake. Excellent walking country. Hidden in a valley midway between Sherborne and Dorchester. 50.8232 / -2.4865 / ST658027

Up Cerne Church . Dorset . ‘Dorset Churches’


The dial is quite high on a square quoin stone on the S. Nave. It is inverted and was perhaps saved as an interesting feature – and moved – during the major C19 rebuild. The stone itself is not matched by others nearby and is clearly older, with significant damage.

Up Cerne Church . Dorset . Scratch Dial

The dial is roughly formed, with an endearingly wonky eroded semicircle containing a curve of rather haphazard pocks. The horizontal line is clear. If there was a noon line, damage to the stone has erased it, together with (presumably) other features of the dial. It’s hard to tell if the striations in the damaged quadrant evidence radials.

Up Cerne Church . Dorset . Scratch Dial

*The Manor House and its grounds are private. There is no public access to the church, which is barely visible from the road. I was fortunate (being local) to be able to gain permission to visit. This is not a dial worth visiting on the off-chance

Up Cerne Church . Dorset . Scratch Dial

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

All photos Keith Salvesen except the church – Dorset Churches online


St Mary . Piddlehinton . Dorset


GRADE 1. C15 tower, S. aisle; C16 chancel, nave, S. porch; C19 restoration, additions. Mainly perp style. 6 miles N.E. of Dorchester. 50.7733 / -2.4045 / SY715971


Two adjacent but very different scratch dials on the S.E. buttress of the tower. The image above shows how they are composed on the buttress. There are also two vertical dials, one Old (1794) the other Modern. There is a plausible third scratch dial – see below.


St Mary . Piddlehinton . Dorset . Scratch Dial 1

More than twenty pocks in a varied configuration, with a concentration in the UL quadrant. 3 rings are evident there, and the pattern of the pocks suggests that 3 circles were once complete. A number of faint and indistinct radials, with emphasised vertical (noon) and horizontal lines. GLP points out significant variation in the hours in the divisions marking the hours.


This is a busy dial for the amateur to interpret. GLP concludes for several reasons that it is later than Dial 1. He suggests that the 2 ‘iron stubs’ may evidence an attempt to update (add sophistication to?) the dial by adding a gnomon. The large photo in the gallery shows the debatable ‘style and single noon line’ dial – see notes


A plausible third scratch dial is incorporated in the lower dial (noted as ‘doubtful’ elsewhere). I have come across these before, and most certainly appear to be dials of the simplest kind. A clear and deliberate vertical line leading downwards from an apparent style hole suggests a noon line cut below a style. At the most basic level, this would function as a marker of the passage of the day. The overall configuration on the buttress suggests a progression in sophistication from that early marker. So I prefer ‘plausible’ to ‘doubtful’.

St Mary . Piddlehinton . Dorset . Scratch Dial 3?

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen


Batcombe . Dorset . St Mary Magdalene

DEDICATION † St Mary Magdalene. C15 (on the site of a ?C11 church). Mid C18 rebuilding / restoration (after collapsed chancel). A few early fittings. Screen, font, bells, wall tablets of note. Fragment of stone in middle S. buttress of chancel with pre-conquest interlacement BHO

LISTING † Grade I (Pevsner Dorset 106; BHO)

LOCATION † Remote extended hamlet deep in farming country a few miles SW. of Sherborne and NE. of Dorchester. Nestled under the north flank of a long ridge. Reached by lanes to N. and a very steep narrow lane down from the ridge. The church is immediately below, set into the hillside. 50.8331, -2.543, ST618038

Batcombe . Dorset . St Mary Magdalene . Scratch Dial

DIAL † Previously unrecorded. On the SW. face of the NE. buttress of the tower, about 4′ high. An encircled rustic dial with 2 clear radials, 3 less defined and at least one trace line (see annotated image below). Others lines may have eroded. The style hole is mortared (as so often) so tracing the centre point is not possible. In any case, while the circle is accurately incised, the rest of the dial is randomly cut.

Batcombe . Dorset . St Mary Magdalene . Scratch Dial

The noon-line (if intended as such) is a diameter rather than radius, cut straight to the style hole and bent below it. There are some pocks on the dial stone, 3 of which may relate to the dial itself. The dots at each end of (non-)vertical diameter line suggest an approximate noon-line rather than 2 separate radials.

Batcombe . Dorset . St Mary Magdalene . Scratch Dial (annotated)

NOTES † A small ritual protection mark – a tiny shield-shaped face – to the right of the entrance door. Such apotropaic symbols were carved or scratched usually by a door or window or in the porch to prevent evil from entering the church and to repel it from the vicinity

Ritual Protection Mark / Apotropaic Symbol / ‘Witch Mark’, Batcombe . Dorset . St Mary Magdalene

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

All photos Keith Salvesen


Glanvilles Wootton . Dorset . St Mary the Virgin

DEDICATION † ST MARY THE VIRGIN – dated from mid C14, gradual expansion in C15, C18 work (Crickmay)


LOCATION † S. of Sherborne, E. of main road to Cerne Abbas. A straggling small village with records dating from C12, approached by lanes rather than roads. The church is set slightly apart from the centre. In 1985 the Parish name was changed from Wootton Glanville (I haven’t explored the reason). A peaceful feel to the community. 50.872 / -2.4558 / 2°27’20″W / ST68008

Glanvilles Wootton . Dorset . St Mary the Virgin – Scratch Dial

DIAL † On W. buttress of S. wall of S. Chapel, 2m high, with (later) iron gnomon* in square style-hole. Last visited in January drizzle, when marks were hard to make out and photo ‘work’ was needed. On a sunny April day, the marks are clear. Pocks (12+) of varied sizes. 8 radials, with a notably emphasised noon-line in depth, width, and with additional pock(s). GLP notes that it is 4º from vertical. *Gnomon is iron, 130mm long, rectangular cross section. Modern. BSS

From the time of day indicated by the gnomon’s shadow, I estimated the ‘actual time’ time. By my watch, the shadow was just 17 minutes fast…

Glanvilles Wootton . Dorset . St Mary the Virgin . Scratch Dial
BSS record of markings – GLP
Glanvilles Wootton . Dorset . St Mary the Virgin . Emphasised noon-line with added pock(s)

NOTES † noted in RCHM / BHO but not BLB / HE / TWC. The village has a fine Manor House. Round Chimneys Farm – once owned by John Churchill Duke of Marlborough – has significant entries in Hutchins, RCHM III Dorset; and good details in BHO LINK.

GSS Category – Scratch Dial


St Mary . Stratton . Dorset
St Mary . Stratton . Dorset

DEDICATION † ST MARY THE VIRGIN C12 origins, re-fenestration & expansion in C15.
West Tower C15. Chancel rebuilt in 1891, north porch added: ‘date of drastic restoration’ BLB


LOCATION † 3 miles NW. of Dorchester in the Frome valley, and thankfully set back from the race track of the A37. A charming church, a village green, and an agreeable pub The Saxon are happily contiguous. 50.7425 / -2.4958 / SY651937

St Mary . Stratton . Dorset . Scratch Dial
St Mary . Stratton . Dorset . Scratch Dial

DIAL † W. jamb of the blocked S. door, inverted, and with 4 discernible lines. The muddle of stones in and around the doorway helps to explain repositioning. GLP suggests that the crossing line ‘may be an attempt to mark Tierce’.

Stratton Dial Diagram GLP


Close to the featured scratch dial recessed inside the blocked doorway, there is a larger stone on the outer jamb with a possible second dial. There are 2 clear radials converging on the mortar line, one long and one shorter. If a second dial, it is also inverted. It seems later than its companion. The amount of obvious reworking of the doorway area over time might explain the move of the dial stone.

The 12th-century S. doorway, now blocked, has chamfered jambs of two orders, a round head to the outer and a rebuilt segmental head to the inner order; the label is chamfered BHO

St Mary . Stratton . Dorset . Scratch Dial
St Mary . Stratton . Dorset . Scratch Dial – possibly….
St Mary . Stratton . Dorset . Scratch Dial (possible, unrecorded)
St Mary . Stratton . Dorset . Scratch Dial – possibly…

NOTES † BHO highlights the bells: five; 1st recast at the Closworth foundry, 1753; 2nd by Thomas Purdue, 1695; 3rd by Thomas Purdue, 1658; 4th by Roger Purdue, 1627; 5th by George Purdue, 1619. C13 font.

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen


St Martin . Cheselbourne . Dorset

DEDICATION † ST MARTIN . Late C13 / early C14; tower C15. S. porch (dial location) C1500 HE, BLB



St Martin . Cheselbourne . Dorset . Scratch Dial

LOCATION † Seven miles NE. of Dorchester. Hidden in a dip in the remote folds of Dorset’s undulating downs, Cheselbourne (Ceseburne DB) is accessible only by narrow lanes. It is well worthwhile if you can understand the signposts well enough to reach the village. 50.7954 / -2.3388 / SY762995

St Martin . Cheselbourne . Dorset . Scratch Dial

DIAL † A remarkable dial, ‘the most carefully cut and complete specimen of a medieval dial in Dorset’ EEC.

On S. wall, scratchdial.’ BLB – a scant note and considerable understatement. The 1631 sundial on the porch (see below) is better served

GLP dates this complex dial as late C15 / early C16, with 25 lines & 26 holes. ‘Each line ends in a hole, the vertical line being marked by 2 holes. The lines alternate in length, a long line running to the gnomon hole with a short line fitting in the angle between 2 of the long lines. The long lines accurately measure the hours; the short lines the half hours’.

Chancellor (ECC) noted crosses halfway along 2 lines, shown in his drawing of 1939. GLP could not trace these in 1996.

St Martin . Cheselbourne . Dial Drawing . Chancellor
St Martin . Cheselbourne . Dorset . Scratch Dial – S. Porch and obligatory drainpipe

NOTES † Above south porch arch, rectangular stone slab with Roman numerals, inscribed HC 1631 WM, with wrought iron gnomon (HE, BHO) LINK ; also a fine C15 churchyard cross with limestone 3-step plinth and Ham stone treads RCHM

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

All photos – Keith Salvesen


St Mary the Virgin . Hermitage . Dorset



St Mary . Bradford Abbas . Dorset