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


DEDICATION † ST PETER – C15, later works & additions


LOCATION † S. of A30 between Henstridge & Milborne Port; or reached from S. by a complex network of lanes (map suggested). A notable E-shape C15 Manor House. St Peter is a most attractive example of a typical Dorset church. 50.9569 / -2.4342 / ST696175

St Peter . Purse Caundle . Dorset – Scratch Dial

DIAL † NW. corner of Nave, conveniently by a drainpipe (as so often) for size comparison. Repositioned during building BSS. 5 distinct radials, encircled, 13 pocks including 2 doubles and a triple indicating significant hours. Location and lichen complicate inspection.

St Peter . Purse Caundle . Dorset . Dial Diagram BSS
St Peter . Purse Caundle . Dorset – Scratch Dial

NOTES † Nearby STOURTON CAUNDLE (link to come) has a C18 sundial with gnomon on the tower and (worth the visit) an excellent display of graffiti and apotropaic (‘witch’) marks in and around the porch. BISHOPS CAUNDLE has a badly eroded scratch dial, featured HERE

GSS Category -Scratch Dial

All photos -Keith Salvesen


St Mary . Charminster . Dorset

DEDICATION † ST MARY Saxon origins, C11 core, C14 – 15 enlarged, tower added 1500

LISTING † Grade 1

LOCATION † A most interesting village a couple of miles N of Dorchester. The fine church stands close to the River Cerne as it rushes to join the nearby River Frome. The mark of the Trenchards is strongly evident here. Worth spending time in both church and village – I recommend reading the Pevsner entry or BLB / HE / BHO online before you do so. 50.733 / -2.4559 / SY679926

St Mary . Charminster . Dorset . Scratch Dial 1

DIALS † Two dials. Dial 1 is on the parapet of S. porch rhs. Dial 2 is on E .quoin of S. aisle, relocated and (not unusually) inverted. BLB mentions ‘sundials’ in passing. BHO describes it as ‘much worn’, but some features are very clearly visible. I’ve added a reverted image for comparison, which improves the readability.

St Mary . Charminster . Dorset . Scratch Dial 2 (as relocated and inverted)
St Mary . Charminster . Dorset . Scratch Dial 2 (reverted for comparison)

NOTES † Besides theses two dials, St Mary’s (fittingly) has a Marian mark VV (Virgo Virginum / Virgin of Virgins) in the porch, with other graffiti. This is one form of medieval RITUAL PROTECTION MARK [link in due course] to ward off evil. The terminal dots are often found (as also with small crosses with the same function). There is also an Undial (lower right) that I momentarily thought might be a (very) crude actual dial cut in the softer Ham stone, with a style hole and 2 coarsely curved radials.

GSS Category: Scratch Dial, Marian Mark


St Nicholas . Sandford Orcas . Dorset


LISTING † Grade 1

LOCATION † Sandford Orcas, Dorset 50.9876 / -2.5394 / ST622210

A village sunk in a valley just 4 miles north of Sherborne yet seemingly isolated in place and time by long narrow lanes. The church is on higher ground, by a fine manor house.

DIAL † Well-marked scratch dial on the E. side of the attractively simple porch, angled slightly into the arch. Since the porch is a C15 addition, the dial (which seems quite early) may perhaps have been relocated – it sits slightly awkwardly.

BLB LINK † HE LINK for Church (no mention of this dial)

NOTES † Very few references to this dial. Not mentioned in standard sources eg RCHM, or (as far as I have seen) online. However, included in Cole’s list for Dorset (p.10).

GSS Category – Scratch Dial


Church of the Holy Rood . Buckland Newton . Dorset


LISTING † Grade 1

LOCATION † Buckland Newton, Dorset 50.8461 / -2.4449 /  ST687052

A peaceful village just north of the source of the River Piddle, lying discreetly in a valley amidst hills and downland. Roland Grant pronounced it “a lovely church”, adding that his first impression was unfavourable because the exterior had been rendered in cement, “giving the Perpendicular square tower the look of a Foreign Legion fort”. Notwithstanding, it has a terrific self-dating sundial (1704)

DIAL † High up at the centre of the embattled parapet above the substantial porch, an impressively angled dial. The perforated gnomon casts its date 1704 onto the face of the dial. I was lucky to visit in bright winter afternoon sunshine to catch the effect (Im.2). Incised initials IH & EC. 4 crosses around the dial edge.

Church of the Holy Rood . Buckland Newton . Dorset † Sundial
Church of the Holy Rood . Buckland Newton . Dorset † Gnomon & date
Church of the Holy Rood . Buckland Newton . Dorset † Sundial
Church of the Holy Rood . Buckland Newton . Dorset † South Porch, Sundial, Cement

GSS Category – Old Dial