DEWLISH . DORSET . ALL SAINTS – Vertical Dial 1671

GRADE II* † C12 origin; alterations / enlargement in C14, C15, C16; restored 1872 (Wyatt). Walls mainly rubble stone and flint. A lovely setting, with a fine manor house. Much older-seeming even than the ubiquitous ‘Hardyesque’ description in these parts. Subtly hidden away 8m NE of Dorchester. 50.7827 /  -2.3198 / SY775981

From the ground, this is a difficult dial to admire. It is high up, eroded, damaged, and gnomon-less. It would be easy to dismiss it as a disappointment after you have negotiated the narrow lanes that lead circuitously to the church. Luckily I brought a real camera with me (for scratch dials I just use my phone) to catch the details of 3 vertical dials on churches in the area.

The dial, on a rectangular stone slab, is dated 1671, and marks the hours from VIII am to VII pm. The motto across the top reads UT UMBRA SIC VITA As a shadow so is life, one of several similar motto variants commonly found. The motto is enclosed within the initials A and R. (BHO elides the initials and the motto to form AUT UMBRA SIC VITAR).

GSS Category: Vertical Dial; Dial Date; Dial Motto

All photos: Keith Salvesen



Wolfeton House (sometimes Wolveton) is a fine Grade 1 Elizabethan manor house with medieval origins. It stands amidst the the water meadows of the River Frome near Charminster, just N of Dorchester. Admired by Hardy. For more about the house, its history, and how to stay in the Gatehouse (dated 1534) see:



Some time ago we went to Wolfeton in connection with the the Pevsner Buildings of England series. I was able to photograph this most interesting sundial, though with a rather rustic camera and in low light. The dial is not in the optimum place for its primary purpose, but with its pleasing symmetrical design it suits where it stands.


The inscription is an intriguing mystery. At the time I was less engaged with dials, or I might have made more effort to record the details and to take a decent photo. As it is, I cannot make much sense of it. The initial letter U… could perhaps be the start of Umbra? But that assumes the words are in Latin. I have checked the main motto resources including Gatty (original, and revised & expanded); and various less comprehensive sources. I will add the translation if I can make any more sense of the text. Meanwhile, any ideas would be welcome. Actual knowledge, the more so.


A shadow marks the shadow.
Live to day.

As it turns out, Gatty did record this dial, attributing it to a neighbouring village Bradford Peverell rather than Charminster. She noted the inscription is somewhat defaced. The dial was possibly erected by George Purling about 1815-20, when the garden was laid out). The same motto is on the tower of Broughton-Gifford Church, near Melksham,


This is a polar dial, with the end edges of the cross pieces acting as gnomons (cf the polar dial at Tintinhull).  The dial should be oriented so these point north, ie with the inscription on the south face. However, it is clearly not orientated like that, so it now acts as an interesting garden ornament. John Foad (BSS) has kindly marked up a photo to show how the dial would work if correctly positioned.


The inscription might give a clue to the dial’s date. My amateur guess is that it is somewhere between mid-C18 and early C19.

GSS Category: Multiple Dial; Old Dial; Garden Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen; *John Foad BSS for additional material / expertise (see Addendum)


St Nicholas . Abbotsbury . Dorset


GRADE I † C14 with older origins; gradual development, rebuilding and restorations. This church represents a far wider history of the area ecclesiastically, architecturally and socially. There are a great many good online sources of information, both general and specific, accessible with a single Gxxgle search. One of the most authoritative resources for deeper delving is British History Online BHO. 50.665 / -2.5989 / SY577852


The vertical dial is set in the parapet of the south wall of the south aisle. It is weathered, like the stone around it. A survey some time ago found no visible markings; the high position, extent of weathering and prevailing light probably explains that. A long lens picks out more detail. It is hard to date the dial – ± 1800?

St Nicholas . Abbotsbury . Dorset – Vertical Sundial

The dial is cemented onto the parapet, supported by a ledge and with 2 iron supports at above it. A frame surrounds the dial. In the upper section is a semicircular dial, with the footing of the rather hefty gnomon centred within it. 2 clear lines descend either side of the noon line / gnomon blade.

St Nicholas . Abbotsbury . Dorset – Vertical Sundial

The hint of 2 converging lines above the bolts suggest they radiate down from the horizontal line of the dial. At the base of the semicircle there are traces of an outer semicircle and, significantly, of a few short lines between the two. These seem to be half hour markers. If so, there was once a more complex dial that has all but vanished.

St Nicholas . Abbotsbury . Dorset – Vertical Sundial

Beneath the lower gnomon footing, the number XII is very clear. Possibly it was recut (maybe more than once) to continue to emphasise the noon marker. Apart from that, all other numbers are completely erased except for a ghost of XI.


Is the rather clunky gnomon original? Initially I thought not, but some features suggest it might be. The precision of the tip of the top being exactly on the edge of the frame; the extent of the staining; and the degree to which it has protected the centre line of the dial and in particular XII. Against that, the angled view of the dial makes it seem rather incongruous.

St Nicholas . Abbotsbury . Dorset – Vertical Sundial / S. face with parapet dial above centre windows – stevekeirtsu cc

GSS Category: Vertical Dial; Church Sundial; Gnomon

All photos Keith Salvesen except the last, stevekeiretsu Geo cc



A sundial on the terrace of this fine house, with its C17 origins and unbroken line of Digbys. The renowned gardens are especially worth visiting in Spring. It features a collapsible gnomon, an unusual feature not conducive to enhancing its primary purpose.

FORDE ABBEY. DORSET – 2 Unusual Sundials


GRADE I † Cistercian Abbey dating from C12, becoming a fine stately home C17 with beautiful gardens and landscaping. Near Chard. 50.8434° N, 2.9113° W


Dial 1 is prominently in the centre of the parapet, crowned with a broken pediment and ball. It has been dated late c17 or early c18. The spindly gnomon has been considerably bent to make the dial as accurate as possible (and see dial 2), given the orientation of the building. At some time, the top end has had to be re-fixed into the stone.

BSS records as Located in roof line castellations. An apparently blank dial plate with painted numbers on the stonework outside – possibly a later innovation. Upright white sans-serif hour numerals VII – IIII. Noon is marked with a square box and 4pm as IIII. Long thin rod gnomon with unusual support formed by a second rod to the tip, itself with a short stay near its foot. Declination is E.


Dial 2 is located high on a tower, in effect at right-angles to dial 1. It is basically all gnomon and no actual dial face. I haven’t seen a large spindly design like this before. Although it has a rather home-made look to it, the design and positioning must have been carefully calculated, As with dial 1, the orientation of the building necessitated a corrective angle in relation to the sun’s movement. The shadow cast by this rather intriguing ‘gnomon sundial’ seems completely adequate for marking the passage of the day even without additional markings.

GSS Category: Old Dial; Gnomon Dial; C17 dial; C18 dial; Vertical Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen

WHITCHURCH CANONICORUM . DORSET . St Candida & Holy Cross . Scratch Dial

St Candida & Holy Cross . Whitchurch Canonicorum . Dorset


GRADE I † C12 onwards on a Saxon site, with tower not until C15; C19 restoration. Also known as St Wite (hence Candida?), whose relics are in a shrine inside the church.* A building of outstanding interest in a secluded valley, the Cathedral of the Vale. Too much else to be said for inclusion here. For more details, see BLB BE & ST CANDIDA WIKI 5m NW of Bridport. 50.7554 / -2.8565 / SY396954



St Candida & Holy Cross . Whitchurch Canonicorum – Scratch Dial 1

Dial 1 can be found in a corner of the W buttress of the S transept. It has 12 lines, and the stone has been cut to give a rectangular outline to the dial, the gnomon hole being R of centre. Sited uncomfortably in a corner, the dial seems unlikely to have been effective and certainly not year-round. Nor would it have been very visible to passers-by. So it seems likely – given the way the lower lines are truncated – that the dial was re-sited during later renovation.

St Candida & Holy Cross . Whitchurch Canonicorum BSS Diagram


This dial (if it is one) is as simple as could be – 2 holes, large and small, on the vertical. It is located on the W jamb of the C13 blocked door of the chancel. BSS describes it as a ‘Noon Mark’, a style in the upper dial indicating the passage of the day either side of noon. GLP suggests this might originally have been a painted (as opposed to incised) dial. I wondered if the 2 slightly inward-curving faint lines descending from each side of the lower hole were there to emphasise noon (as was done using pocks).

St Candida Whitchurch Canonicorum – Dial 2
St Candida Whitchurch Canonicorum Dial 2

* In 1900 the tomb was opened and was found to hold a lead casket containing the bones of a small woman.[8] On the casket was the Latin inscription “HIC-REQESCT-RELIQE-SCE-WITE” (“Here lie the remains of St Wite”) ST CANDIDA WIKI

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen



GRADE I † Early C12 traces, rebuilt and extended C15. S. tower added in 1638. Restored and added vestry C19. 2 bells cast on site in 1275, the oldest in Dorset. Notable C12 font. 50.8467 /  -2.6524 / ST541054


Once you have located the church at the very end of the hamlet – a dead end – of a very long lane, it immediately looks distinctive. In the present context, the dial on the tower – inscribed on S. parapet William Lardar Esq. Thomas Horsford Warden 1638 – is most unusual, not least because it faces due E.

 DEH, in a rare excursion into Dorset while researching the scratch dials of Somerset in 1914, recorded this dial as a C17 scientific dial of 1638: E declining down to midday only. No trace of another dial for later in day.

GLP has written the definitive interpretation of the dial, and I include his complete record which explains the dial far better than I ever could.

It would be good to know if this blade of a gnomon is / may be original and has been (re)painted over the years. Also, to know why special dials were almost always sited next to a drainpipe…

GSS Category: Scientific Dial; Scratch Dial; Old Dial

All photos – Keith Salvesen; record extract – Gordon Le Pard


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