GRADE I † C13 origin; tower rebuilt and alterations C15 . Modern (C20) restorations. Early C13 font. Unusual appearance with pleasing matched roof-lines. BHO notes On S.E. buttress of S. transept—scratch dial*. 3m SE of Crewkerne. 50.8571 / -2.7514 / ST472066
A conundrum. BBS records (1997) show a complex dial, part-encircled and with 10 lines (one extended) and 12 distinct pocks. GLP notes that the continuation of the circumference onto the stone above indicates that the dial is in its original location. He suggests that it may be the remains of a LHS half-circle (cf HOLWELL and HERMITAGE).
GLP also points out disapprovingly an attempted ‘restoration’ with thin lines scratched along some of the original lines and part of the circumference line… and most of the holes ‘cleaned up’. These lines can be seen in the images below.
However, although a close shot shows the recently added lines, the dial did not reveal the considerable detail shown in the diagram. I am equipped with a camera and a pair of eyes, but (as an amateur) I could not read the S Perrott dial as I had hoped to.
Details of a dial can sometimes be seen more clearly in a B&W photo. It works to a limited extent here, but not enough to bring out, in 2023, the overall design as recorded in the past.
*It is slightly unusual for sources such as BHO, HE, BLB, to acknowledge scratch dials
GRADE I † C12 origins; gradual development C13 on, with later restorations C15 / C16. S porch (where the dials are) added C16, with earlier material reused. 8m SW of Dorchester. 50.6709 / -2.5638 / SY602858
St Peter has 4 scratch dials, 3 on the E side of the S porch, 1 on the W side. One of my nemesis churches. I have visited in rain, in cloud, and in sunshine. Of the cluster of 3 on E side, I could only make out the obvious one. Eventually I managed to identify them from an enlarged photo. The BSS recorder’s diagram below gives an idea of the dials rather more clearly than my photos can.
Dial 1 is located on the E side of S porch. Five lines are noted in the BSS records, of which 3 are clear and reasonably accurate. The gnomon hole is in the mortar line, where the lines converge.
DIALS 2 & 3
Dial 2 is very basic, and would be easy to overlook. There are 2 faint lines, with the top part including the gnomon hole cemented over a damaged area.
Dial 3 is even less conspicuous: a faint wishbone shape, 2 (3?) lines, one with a pock at the end.
I would doubtless have passed over this pair; and even had I noticed them I would have discounted them in my amateur way.
Dial 4 is on the west side of the south porch, on an inner quoin stone. At first glance it might be taken for an area of damage. In fact it is a dial with 6 lines, 4 of which end in pocks. It was described many years ago as not very accurately laid out and the passage of time has not improved the situation.
GRADE II* † C12 origins; tower & S porch C15; chancel, vestry, south aisle and chapel c1876 (G E Street). Wonderful C12 inner door with chevrons, shielded by porch; C12 font with a story to tell (below). A charming and very Dorset church. 4m SE of Bere Regis; 10m NE of Dorchester. 50.7759 / -2.2833 / SY801974
St Andrew has 3 dials. Dial 1 is a true scratch dial located in the NE corner of the nave, as is Dial 2 on the stone below (largely obscured by lichen, easy to overlook). Dial 3 is a transitional dial above the porch entrance.
Dial 1 is easily identified by its prominent filled gnomon hole from which 3 lines radiate in LLQ. There is also a perimeter curve of 5 (?6) pocks (diag).
Dial 2, on the stone immediately below Dial, 1 has no discernible lines. BSS records 5 pocks of varying size that are (given the lichen) more or less visible seen in conjunction with the BSS diagram below. They are basically shallow dents, in contrast to the ‘drilled hole’ type of pock usually encountered.
A transitional dial above the archway of the C15 S porch. Accuracy in marking the passage of time became increasingly important, not least with the advent of clocks. Dial design and construction involved taking a scientific approach to making time-telling more reliable and more legible. St Andrew is a good example. Rather than being scratched directly onto a stone intrinsic to the church structure, this dial stone is on what BHO describes as a square raised panel.
The dial has slightly angled edges with ‘extensions’ on both sides. It is not canted, so probably faces due S. It is a six-to-six dial with – originally – 12 lines (14, with the horizontal as 2). The hours 4 & 5 are cut deeper, perhaps denoting the most important Mass of the day. Some lines have weathered away in part or completely. There are a number of pocks. The recorder noted 4 trace (semi-)circles, one being close to the gnomon hole. The original gnomon was in the upper hole where there is now a square stub of iron rod. The lower arrangement indicates, I think, a later conversion / updating from a simple rod gnomon to a ‘proper’ one that required a footing; and perhaps a lamp bracket.
RARE FEATURE It’s not completely clear from my rather poor iPhone photos, but if you look carefully at the edge R side where there is the wide margin, you can see that the lines marking 4 & 5 extend onto the side of the dial face and continue down the side of the stone panel. Those short lines are visible from the side even if the rest of the dial is not. I wouldn’t have paid it much attention had I not also visited the neighbouring village of Winterbourne Whitchurch where there is an emphatic example of a ‘side-dial’ complete with a most unusual gnomon. My understanding is that this arrangement amounts to a morning dial read from E.
This is the 4th church I have come across where church events have entailed the use of a dial to tie in decorations etc with wire. In each case the wire was effective as an improvised gnomon.
During the Victorian period it was sometimes the fashion to throw out ancient fonts and Street did just that, installing in its place a new replacement. Fortunately, the old Norman font, decorated with a cable motif, was rediscovered in 1930 and put back in the north aisle, where it remains in use to this day.DHCT [This is an example of throwing the bath out with the baby water]
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial ; Transitional Dial
GRADE I † A fine early church in a lovely setting. C11 quoins to nave; C12 nave rebuilt; C14 3-stage W tower, porch; C15 chancel. Later alterations, restorations. Just W of Dorchester, yet seeming miles away in its peaceful valley. Visit Winterbourne Monkton while you are there (2 perhaps 3 dials). 50.7067 / -2.5266 / SY629898
Two dials are recorded. The first is simple to find and simple in style. The second is so simple that I could not with certainty claim to have found it. It was registered quite a while ago, and possibly lichen spread has made what was already faint, no longer identifiable.
Dial 1 is located on a SW quoin stone of the nave. When examined in the 1990’s it was noted to be ‘behind a drainpipe’, which is no longer the case. By strange coincidence, when I visited the rest of the drainpipes were being repaired and repainted.
This is a straightforward little 4-line morning dial with a pleasingly casual approach to straight lines. The deeper incised line suggests that terce was the most significant Mass of the day. Do see the Saxon statue mentioned in the notice (there is a similar one in Bradford on Avon), and indeed spend some time inside this interesting small church.
This dial was recorded as being on the S buttress of the tower, with 1 line 45mm long and a pock. It was noted then as ‘very faint’. While Dial 1 is mentioned elsewhere eg BHO, I have found no other reference. However, a drawing was made and is all I can offer for present purposes.
GRADE I † Late C14, C15; C17 alterations inc. porch with date 1650 on keystone. Restorations mid-C19. Very recent skilled restoration 2020. Millennial dial with date-casting gnomon (cf BUCKLAND NEWTON). C18 box pews, candlelit services, Purdue bell c1580. Graffiti and witch marks. 14 formy consecration crosses both outside and inside (see locations below). A perfect small Dorset church standing alone, remnant of a plague village. There has been a recent very skilful restoration that has not impacted on the original charm of St Mary. 6m S of Sherborne. 50.8868 / -2.4902 / ST656098
A remarkable and very rare C15 dial, possibly unique (cf nearby THORNFORD). It is located on a window sill of the S aisle, incised at an angle of 35º. It is quite difficult to examine – even close to – because of erosion and lichen. The style hole is centred on the stone divide between 2 windows. To be effective it must have been angled forwards: C15 dial deliberately positioned centrally. Gnomon must have been bent over, perhaps horizontally. Lines are quite accurately cut GLP.
There were originally 12 lines – the full complement for a semicircular dial. However, many are so weathered that they are barely visible – some not at all. The church is across the fields from us and I have spent some time with the dial, examining it and photographing it at different angles and in different light. I’ve managed to identify 8 lines including the horizontals, much as shown on the second BSS diagram below. The most visible lines are these:
The porch has a date of 1650 and a new [millennium] sundial commemorates the Great Crested Newt that meant that a field nearby could not be developed for housing. Friends of Holnest Church.
A particularly good example of a meaningful local dial designed specifically for its location and time. The Battle of the Newt being won as the new Millennium approached, a fine dial to record both events was fully merited.
WITCH MARKS & GRAFFITI
The S porch has a rich variety of medieval church marks. The example stones shown above have witch / ritual protection / apotropaic marks to ward off evil, in particular a number of Marian marks VV (Virgo Virginum / Virgin of Virgins). There are also initials and C17 dates.
There are 14 in all, 12 being the usual maximum. 5 are inside the church on the tower walls
Consecration Crosses: On chancel— flanking E. window externally, four crosses; flanking S. doorway, two crosses. On nave—W. of heads of N. windows, two crosses. On S. aisle—over E. window and W. of S. window, two crosses. On W. tower, on N. and S. walls, one cross and below W. window, two crosses; formy crosses fourteen in all, mediæval. BHO
GSS Category: Scratch Dial, Mass Dial; Church Marks, Witch Marks, Protection Marks; Consecration Crosses
GRADE 1 † C12 origins (nave), enlarged C16 & C17. Mid-C19 restorations; chancel rebuilt. Despite the village name, C16 tower. Fascinating history, with strong links to George Washington: The Lawrence family, Lords of the Manor since the C16, married into the Washington family in 1381 and their Coat of Arms incorporates the Stars and StripesBLB. Much of interest inside inc an impressive barrel organ, and good stained glass E window. Fine chest tombs in the churchyard. 6m S of Wareham, inland from the jurassic coastline at Kimmeridge. 50.6275 / -2.1265 / SY911808
In his 1997 survey GLP noted a single dial relocated to the N wall of the Chancel, E of blocked N doorway. He described it as doubtful – superficially a poorly preserved dial… with 2 lines on a reshaped stone… no gnomon hole, probably relocated during C19 work on the chancel. He found other stones in the vicinity with similar markings – perhaps through weathering – and concluded that the ‘dial’ might not actually be a genuine one at all.
As with a couple of other Dorset churches recently, I couldn’t pinpoint a design such as GLP describes. There are obvious lines or striations on some stones eg top R of the doorway (see below), but little to report on the wall E of the door. The lack of a gnomon hole is one reason for missing eroded dials. This lack may also reinforce doubts about identifying dial-ish marks as being part of a dial. Anyway, if there is one, I missed it.
The dilemma has been whether to post, rather pointlessly, a failed dial search. However this small secluded church has other merits. It earned its Grade I listing for special architectural or historic interest. I have included a few photos below to illustrate this. The Washington link is only one of the significant features.
IMAGES OF ST MICHAEL AS COMPENSATION
Chest Coffins in the churchyard; crude apotropaic (part-)hexfoil of uncertain age; Marian VV ‘witch’ mark inside the porch; 2 examples of the E window stained glass (image 2 shows dice used for the division of Christ’s robe); the barrel organ
GRADE II* † C13 chancel; C14 nave and lower tower with porch (top stage added later); extensive mid-C19 restoration and rebuilding by J Hicks (Thomas Hardy is said to have drawn the plans while apprenticed.) Portland Stone. 5m SE of Dorchester. 50.6788 / -2.3857 / SY728866
There are 3 dials. 2 are adjacent on E side of the porch which is (unusually) set in the tower. Dial 1 is eroded but visible. Dial 2 is vestigial and easily overlooked (eg by BHO / RCHM). Dial 3 is relocated well out of sight on the NE quoin of the church, a place it could never have been originally. It is much the clearest cut of the 3.
Dial 1 is visible as one walks up the path from the gate, but the details remain unclear even close to. The BSS record shows 12 lines within a partial circle, the lower part cut off at the edge of the dial stone, suggesting it may have been relocated during rebuilding. I’ve visited St Martin twice, in sunlight and in early evening, and frustratingly I haven’t been able to make out the complete dial shown below. The colour of the stone is a factor. RHS is quite eroded; or perhaps LHS was more deeply incised because it marked the most signifiant time of day for observance.
As indicated above, dial 2 is unrewarding. Records suggest 4 lines and 2 circles, though I couldn’t see the latter. The images below have been recoloured to bring out the details, such as they are…
Dial 3 is a small and simple one, with 4 lines. The noon line is emphasised; and the Mass line (Tierce) has a cross.
The fact that the hole in this buttress stone is centered made me look at it more closely. In 3D rather than in the photo, it is a plausible dial with 2 quite long lines, being the noon line and ‘1.00pm’. With a stick in the hole, it would have been perfectly serviceable for marking the sun’s progress from morning to afternoon. There is a similar dial at MUDFORD Somerset, where the 2 lines are at 11 and 1, cut so that the noon line is centered between them.
GRADE I † Early C13 chancel with trace transepts (BHO); C14 crossing tower; C15 south chapel and nave; restoration mid-C19 (Ferrey). A most unusual late C17 octagonal dial; 6m SW of Blandford Forum, just off the main road to Dorchester (12m). 50.8004 / -2.234 / ST836001
VERTICAL DIAL C17
The remarkable vertical dial is located at the apex of the S Chapel gable. It dates to late C17 (BHO). The lines radiating from the top end of the gnomon are reminiscent of a scratch dial. The dial is canted for accuracy, and deeply enough to accommodate a rare E dial. Both gnomons are unusual, not least by being more toothed than merely serrated.
THE EAST DIAL
It is very unusual (and possibly unique) to bother to delineate the east or west edge of a canted dial; and really quite strange to use such a tall gnomon, which will only cast a shadow for an hour or two at most.JF / BSS
John Foad (BSS) kindly marked up a close-up of the E. dial to show how it would have worked. He writes: It should have diagonal hour lines on it, though there is probably only room for a couple, as it will only see the sun briefly around 6 each morning. There is a suggestion in the records that there were at one time 2 raised lines, but a magnified image reveals no surviving evidence.
GRADE II* † C14, with (unusually) few changes until C19 additions and restorations (Street). An attractively uncomplicated church and churchyard. The tower houses 7 bells, of which 4 are dated 1600. 14m E of Dorchester 50.7778 / -2.1967 / SY862976
As I read it, the dial has a clear ‘midnight to noon’ line, extended at both ends; and a fainter 6-to-6 horizontal that ends more or less on the circumference. There are 3 other clear lines in LL quadrant, and perhaps other faint traces. I can’t make out more than that, even in a close-up. GLP recorded 13 lines, 7 of which extend beyond the circumference and notes that the dial is partially divided into decimal hours (LL quadrant), with ‘morning hours’ divided into 5 sections and the ‘afternoon hours’ into 6 (I’m not seeing the afternoon hours). He compares it to PIDDLEHINTON.
GRADE I † C13 origin (nave, chancel); C14 S porch; C15 enlargement, tower; C19 restorations inc Wyatt. Good C13 south door: cusped arch, carved heads as dripstones BHO. 2 Purdue bells. Early C16 oak pulpit, bench ends. 10m NE Dorchester. A most attractive and well-kept church. 50.7427 / -2.2772 / SY805937
THES SEATYS WERE MADE YN THE YERE OF OWRE LORD GOD MCCCCCXLV
IN THE THYME OF THOMAS LYLLYNGTON VICAR O THYS CHERCH.
St Laurence has 2 dials, one either side of the nave window. Unusually, both are entirely designed with holes (cf TRENT) apart from a token noon indicator on Dial 1, barely discernible (see diagram).
W jamb of the nave window, in poor condition. Besides the single vertical line, there are 8 small holes in a curve below the style hole. 2 further holes emphasise Nones, the Mass time equating in clock terms to 3pm. GLP notes that the dial is accurately cut.
Dial 2 is on the E jamb, a longer and clearer semicircle of 12 holes. There are a couple of small holes that might be for emphasis / to mark a half hour (see eg between 9 and 10). GLP notes that the style hole is very small / shallow for a gnomon. Again he found the dial very accurate, most holes being within 4º of true, with 5 exactly correct.
CHURCH MARKS OF ST LAURENCE
Some of those interested in medieval church dials (and you have after all reached here) are likely to check a church for other medieval marks. St Laurence is worth visiting for these alone. Here are just 3 examples, of which one is especially intriguing and needs be researched further (not by me).
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial; Church Marks; Medieval Graffitti