Todber Church, Dorset


GRADE II † C15 origins, substantially rebuilt 1879. Surprisingly for a church in a village recorded in DB (Todeberie) 1086, no Dedication. Midway between Shaftsbury & Sturminster Newton. 50.9795 / -2.2865 / ST799200


Todber Church – Scratch Dial

The dial of this unusual-looking small church is on the S wall of the chancel, R of the window. The dial is very eroded. There are 6 visible / detectable lines, the noon line longer than the rest. The gnomon hole is filled, and there is a patch of cement on the noon line that BSS / GLP suggest may be a filled pock.

Todber Church – Scratch Dial

The large block of stone was obviously relocated to the side of the window during (or before?) C19 rebuilding: it stands out from the smaller brick-like stones that form the wall. GLP comments it looks as if the dial was recognised as something interesting, and preserved accordingly.

Todber – Scratch Dial (BSS)

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen; diagram, BSS


Mappowder . Dorset . St Peter & St Paul


GRADE 1 † C14 origins, mainly C15 expansion; customary C19 work. A surprisingly large church for a small community hidden away in deepest (though not darkest) Dorset. Approached by lanes. The unusual name may derive from OE word ‘mapluldor’ (maple tree); shown as ‘Mapledre’ in DB*. 50.8528 /  -2.3773 / ST735059


Mappowder . Dorset . St Peter & St Paul – Scratch Dial

Located on the S wall near E window, a small single dial with 10 lines radiating from a fairly large style hole. C15. Of particular interest is that, most unusually, 2 of the lines meet at their outer ends (GLP) or even cross (BSS). The angled shot shows it best – and see diagram below. GLP suggests this arrangement roughly coincides with the Mass time Terce (9h) and may emphasise it, as a pock or a deeper cut radial might.

Mappowder . Dorset . St Peter & St Paul – Scratch Dial

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

*OPC entry

All photos: Keith Salvesen; Diagrams BSS


Queen Camel . Somerset . St Barnabas

GRADE I . C14 (first record 1291); C15 expansion; late C19 work. See HE for details of this interesting church, with its fine portico. A few miles N. of Sherborne or Yeovil. 51.0225 / -2.5754 / ST597249



The medieval dial is easily found on S wall of the chancel, on the buttress E of the priest’s door. The approximate semicircle embraces an almost compete set of 6-to-6 lines. There are several pocks, large and small. BSS notes include: 1. Worn. Repositioned. Octaval, Tides. 2. Dial (Norman?) with tides, with duodecimal, sometimes both. 3. Mason-cut or roughly scratched. 4. Tide dial, roman numerals, extra line at 7. I have to say (as an amateur) that I can’t match all these features to this dial or either of them if both are being described together (see below).

Queen Camel . Somerset . St Barnabas – scratch dial 1

The dial is large, almost the full width of the buttress. Unusually, it is cut over 4 stones. Note the low pock some way directly below the noon line. Most of the dial is cut on the Hamstone E quoin, the lower rim extending onto the 2 stones below. These stones match those around them. However the L side of the dial is cut on grey stone not matched elsewhere nearby.

I was puzzled by the suggested repositioning of the (entire) dial. An alternative theory might be that the dial was positioned where it is now. Over time, the L side became eroded or damaged and was replaced with a different kind of stone (perhaps being used for repairs elsewhere on the church). The new stone was then cut to match the design of the original. Looked at closely, the ‘new’ L side design does not in fact match the rest accurately. Not all lines follow exactly; there are no pocks; the incisions are clearer. Does this support a later replacement (and possibly harder) stone?

DEH visited in May 1914 and recorded 182. (2) This dial is on the first buttress to the e. of the priest’s door. It is 5 feet 9 inches above the ground, the noonline is 5 1/2 inches in length, the stylehole is 1 1/8 inches in depth by 3/4 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 10° e. Type 5c. May 18th, 1915.


Dial 2 also creates some confusion, not least its location. BSS does not record this dial as a separate entry from Dial 1 but may be referring to it especially in the note 4. Tide dial, roman numerals. Dial 1 does not have visible roman numerals but Dial 2 does.

Queen Camel . Somerset . St Barnabas – dial 2

This dial is located high up above the portico, below the parapet of the nave seen as clerestory with parapet BLB. It is quite damaged, with a modern gnomon and a flaking layer of blue paint that makes it stand out (see header image). It’s hard to date the dial. Similar dated dials in the region are quite often early C18 or even C17. The dial is conventional of its kind, carefully graduated. The numerals are set in a frame, and italicised each side of the noon line.

DEH’s description of his second St Barnabas dial is another puzzle:

181. (1) This dial is on the s.e. buttress of the s. aisle. It is 6 feet 7 1/2 inches above the ground, the noonline is 5 inches in length, the stylehole is invisible, and the aspect is s. by 10° e. The dial is curious, as it has the lines arranged much as they are in an ordinary sundial, with Roman numerals cut at the ends. There may have been a slit for a gnomon, now carefully cemented up. Probably this should not rank as a Scratch dial.

There is a significant problem. The location DEH gives for it, six feet up on a buttress, is totally different from this now blue dial, yet his description broadly matches it and his comment that it probably should not rank as a Scratch dial is clearly apposite. I may have missed a second buttress scratch dial, even though I have been back to check. Or else perhaps DEH made a simple error in compiling his notes of several churches visited at one time in one area (I have come across a couple of similar instances). So this dial, now blue, is the one he meant but mis-located.

Queen Camel . Somerset . St Barnabas – dial 2

GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Old Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen

EAST CHINNOCK . SOM . ST MARY – 2 Scratch Dials (1 unrecorded)

East Chinnock . Somerset . St Mary. Scratch Dials
East Chinnock . Somerset . St Mary


GRADE II † C14 origins on earlier site; mostly C15 and later C19 work. South porch very simple, possibly C14 BLB. Cinnuc in Saxon times. 4 miles W of Yeovil, attractively set on the steep hillside at the E end of the village though right beside the A30. 50.9164 /  -2.7145 / ST498132


St Mary has 2 dials. Both are on the S porch, one of the earliest parts of the church. One was recorded by DEH on his visit in June 1915. The other is a new find I believe.


The dial is halfway up the L side of the porch immediately above a gravestone. It comprises pocks with a large style hole. The pattern is haphazard and the dial might actually make more sense if rotated 90º L, producing a double pock noon line.

East Chinnock . Somerset . St Mary. Scratch Dials
East Chinnock . Somerset . St Mary – Scratch Dial 1

DEH 196. This dial is on the w. side of the s. porch, at a height of 4 feet 8 inches above the ground. The noonline is 2 1/4 inches in length, the stylehole is 7/8 of an inch by 1/2 an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 30° e. Type 10. June 15th, 1915.


East Chinnock . Somerset . St Mary. Scratch Dials
East Chinnock . Somerset . St Mary – Scratch Dial 2

Dial 2 is located quite high on the E face of the S porch, a simple 4-line fan dial. The position makes no sense for a sundial, and it was plainly relocated at some stage. In the process, as is often the way, it was inverted. This re-siting with a rotation of the stone retains the decorative feature even though no longer a reliable time indicator. This is the sort of find that reminds me always to search beyond the normal dial locations of porch, buttress and priest’s door.

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen


St Peter . Podimore . Somerset


GRADE I. Early C14 on the site of an earlier ?C12 church. Unusual three octagonal stages on the square base of the tower. Porch of significance, with dial by inner door. Church situated close to the N. perimeter of RNAS Yeovilton. Historically spelled Podymore, sometimes adding Milton. 51.0219 / -2.6492 /  ST545249


St Peter has a fine dial on a quoin stone at E. end of the nave, an unusually complete and very satisfying symmetrical design. DEH records this dial (as does BSS), and also a second dial inside the porch (a feature of churches in the area) that is rather a puzzle.


St Peter . Podimore . Somerset – Scratch Dial 1

There is a full complement of 24 lines, each passing through a pock on its way to the perimeter. The line spacing is regular, each angle at 15º. The style hole is large relative to the careful proportions of the design. Overall the condition is good, the lower half more so than the upper. Some lines pass into (and perhaps beyond) the mortar joints, suggesting that a very strong and weather-resistant mix was used in medieval times (or extreme care taken with mortar repairs).

St Peter . Podimore . Somerset Scratch Dial 1

DEH visited in Oct 1914 and noted that the dial is elaborate and has lines and dots, and is also of unusual pattern. This dial is one of very few photographs included in his book. Note the spelling of the village in the caption. I wonder what kind of camera he took with him on his travels round Somerset?

211. (2) This dial is on a quoin at the s.e. corner of the nave. It is 4 feet 9 inches above the ground, the noonline is 4 1/2 inches in length, the stylehole is 3/4 of an inch deep by 3/4 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 15° e. Type 11.


The dial inside the porch of St Peter is RHS of the door. BLB notes S porch, gabled, with outer 2-centre arch of 2 orders, the outer segmental, and inner plain pointed arch door and a possibly C16 door with old ironwork. The date of the original porch – restored 1871 – that covered the dial is unclear.

St Peter . Podimore . Somerset – Scratch Dial 2

The dial, at latch level, is rustic and in poor condition. There are 2 clear lines, with the noon line cut deep at the top then scratched roughly a long way downwards before petering out. There’s no sign of a style hole where the lines meet, so the gnomon was presumably fixed in the mortar line just above. A partial / eroded line at the edge of the lower R quadrant could be consistent with Nones in the canonical Mass.


A mystery arises from DEH‘s record for this ‘within-porch’ dial: He noted 210. (1) This dial is on the w. side of the inner door of the s. porch. It is 4 feet 6 inches above the floor, the noonline is 1 inch in length, the stylehole is in a joint and filled, and the aspect is s. by 20° e. Type 2. I found no dial in that position nor with that description. My tentative theory is that, very rarely, DEH’s notes of a day’s dialling are unclear; features of one church / dial appear to be ascribed to another nearby. Probably I should return to the area and check the churches for a dial as he describes.

St Peter . Podimore . Somerset – Scratch Dial 2 within porch

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen


St Peter . Stockbridge . Hants


GRADE II † Built 1860s in the centre of a pleasant, prosperous small town on the River Test. Fishing tackle emporia, smart gift shops, good restaurants and pubs, predominate. The flinty New Church replaced the crumbling C12 STOCKBRIDGE OLD CHURCH that had fallen into decay and disuse. Its fascinating remnants merit a visit. 51.1145 / -1.4934 /  SU355351


The excellent resource BRITAIN EXPRESS by David Ross gives a graphic account (below) of the move from the near-defunct medieval church on the edge of the town to the new-build glory in the High Street. Included in the upheaval was a scratch dial on a stone window jamb; and as I recently discovered while locating it, an unobtrusive second dial now on the side of a buttress.

Most of the 12th-century building was pulled down, leaving only the chancel, and a new church in Victorian Gothic style was built on Stockbridge High Street. Reports show that the townsfolk played an active part in transferring monuments, paintings, window frames, corbels, and other pieces of carved stonework from the old church to the new site. People brought their wheelbarrows and trundled down the High street carrying pieces of medieval masonry.


St Peter . Stockbridge . Hants – scratch dial 1

Dial 1 is on RHS of the double lancet window at the W end of the church. It is inverted, as is often the case with a relocated dial. The window is high enough to be awkward to photograph with only a phone to hand. There are 12 (13?) visible lines, each ending in a pock. Traces of others might be found with closer inspection or a decent photo. The style hole is relatively large, and the lines radiating from it are more or less evenly spaced rather than graduated.

ARG visited Stockbridge in May 1922. He recorded there is a style hole with a line above, and on each side of this four radiating lines. He added it is too high for a photo or for measurement. Which may explain his lower count of radials.


By complete chance, in walking away from Dial 1, I noticed a small but familiar design in the inside W face of a buttress L of the porch.

St Peter . Stockbridge . Hants – scratch dial 2

This simple dial is unusual in being a quadrant with a quarter-circle border, like a small fan. In relocation, it looks as if it was rotated 90º. It makes most sense that the close-cut double lines originally formed the noon-line and the others mark 3 and 6: an afternoon dial.

St Peter . Stockbridge . Hants – scratch dial 2 rotated 90º

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen


Compton Pauncefoot . Somerset . St Mary

GRADE II* † C15 (C13 origins). Restored and N. aisle added C19. A handsome spired church, unusual in a region where most churches have towers, in the lovely setting of a small hamlet reached by a network of lanes. 51.0337 / -2.509 /  ST644261


St Mary is a most rewarding church to visit, both the exterior and interior. You will find brief points of note at Camelot Parishes. DEH on his visit in April 2014 recorded 2 medieval dials (2 & 3 below) but there are others, including a more elaborate later one with Roman numerals (C17?) above the porch.


Compton Pauncefoot . Somerset . St Mary – scratch dial on the porch

Dial 1 A very visible 3-line dial on a large stone RHS of the porch. It consists simply of a small style hole with a long noon line and a single line the same length cut on each side. Despite its prominent location, the dial seems largely unremarked though perhaps it is mentioned in the church archives. The actual stone differs from the ones around it – perhaps it was relocated during restoration to a more prominent position on the porch. It is strange that DEH didn’t include this dial in his records for the church.


Compton Pauncefoot . Somerset . St Mary – scratch dial on the E buttress of the nave

Dial 2 is located on the buttress at E end of the nave. It is close to being an ideal dial for study. The style hole is (nearly) centred on the stone. The noon line is not only emphasised, it extends upwards to ‘midnight’. There’s a distinct optical impression of a circle. The horizontal (6-to-6) line extends almost the full width of the stone. Other lines are unusually long, reaching beyond the notional circle. They are carefully graduated to optimise the accuracy of the dial. One mystery is the absence of the 4-line. I couldn’t find a trace of one. It seems unlikely that a single line has eroded completely; but a reason for omitting one line on an otherwise complete and indeed symmetrical dial is hard to think of.

DEH chose the dial to illustrate Type 7

DEH 177. (2) This dial is on the buttress at the s.e. corner of the nave. It is 4 feet 6 inches above the ground, the noon- line is 4 1/2 inches in length, the stylehole is 1 inch in depth by 3/4 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 20°e. Type 7. April 24th, 1914.


Compton Pauncefoot . Somerset . St Mary – scratch dial beside the E buttress of the nave

Dial 3 is close to the same buttress, smaller, more rustic (earlier) and lower down. There are 9 certain lines and a couple of traces (one possibly above the 6 am horizontal). Their spacing is somewhat random. 4 lines end in pocks.

DEH 176. (1) This dial is on the wall w. of the buttress at s.e. corner of the nave. It is 2 feet 8 inches above the ground, the noonline is 4 1/2 inches in length, the stylehole is open, and the aspect is s. by 20° e. Type 3.

DIALS 4 a – d

Compton Pauncefoot . Somerset . St Mary – scratch dial(s)

Dial 4 This is in fact a dial / dial-related group on a single quoin stone, but treated as a dial unit for convenience. The overall design has 4 elements. There are 3 eroded (part) circles – two overlapping – with a small rough dial within the top circle. In this group of interlinked components, each is of a type often identified either as dials or as remnants of eroded dials. See eg CHURCH STRETTON Such a collection on a single stone perhaps suggests experimentation with dial-making. Or the (part-)circles may simply be decoration or (not unknown) doodles. Anyway, I decided to lump them together as one dial rather than to try to sort out the tangle. Any interpretations would be welcome.

Compton Pauncefoot . Somerset . St Mary – scratch dial(s)


Compton Pauncefoot . Somerset . St Mary – scratch dial / C17 sundial

Dial 5 is a C17 later accurately incised dial on the fine porch above a cusped ogee-arched statue recess with foliated base BLB with its C19 statue of Virgin and Child. This dial is similar to several others in S. Somerset & W. Dorset (some are included under the heading OLD DIALS). The radials are contained within a rectangle, carefully incised and graduated. The noon line is more deeply cut, and leads down from the damaged area at the top of which is a filled style hole. Possibly the area of damage immediately below it indicates that a metal gnomon plate was later fixed there. The frame round the dial shows Roman numerals (IV as IIII) except for noon, which is marked by a cross (a conventional style).

GSS Category: Scratch Dial ; Old Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen


St George . Preshute . Wilts


High up on the third stage of the C15 tower is a magnificent C18 sundial. A border of Roman serif numerals from 6am to 4pm frame a complex design of carefully graduated radials that mark the hours and the half hours. The large but slender gnomon casts a long shadow.

St George . Preshute . Wilts – the sundial on the tower

The imbalance in the hour marks – 6 to the left of the noon line, 4 to the right – presumably arises from the orientation of the church and its relation to the angle of the sun (though that’s probably not the correct technical way to express it).

NOTE there is a plausible medieval scratch dial on one buttress (not as yet recorded). It’s status is under consideration by others… If it is deemed a dial I will write it up separately.

GSS Category: Old Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen

URCHFONT . WILTS . ST MICHAEL – Scratch Dials 5 – 8

Urchfont . Wilts – St Michael & All Angels


GRADE 1. Late C13 / early C14 Decorated, C15 tower, restored 1864 & 1900. Set elegantly in a spacious and pleasant churchyard on the W. side of the Vale of Pewsey. Besides an excellent collection of dials, much else of interest – see BLB entry. 4m SE. of Devizes. 51.3148 / -1.9429 / SU040573

This is the second post about the 8 scratch dials of Urchfont. The first post for dials 1 – 4 can be found HERE. There is some duplication of general details so that this post can be read without cross-reference.


DIALS 5 – 8

A fine ‘multi-dial’ church. There are 8 (possibly 9) dials in all. 6 of these dials are recorded in the BSS register. Dials 5 & 6 are close together on the edge of E. side of the transept. Dials 7 & 8 are low down on adjacent buttresses on the Chancel wall. They are somewhat concealed by chest tombs and easy to miss.

DIALS 5 & 6

Urchfont . Wilts – St Michael & All Angels – Scratch Dials 4 & 5

DIAL 5 has 10 distinct lines in additional to the horizontal in the mortar line, and a couple of ?line traces. The gnomon hole is within a larger filled area of (presumably) damage. An emphasised ?Mass line leads down to a crowed noon line area with a possible 1/2 hour radial. The dial seems truncated LHS and along the bottom edge, suggesting a relocation. However, RHS has 2 lines that sweep across into the adjacent stone, suggesting repair / restoration beside and below it.

DIAL 6 is a simple complete circle with a small style hole in the centre. Given that medieval dials marked the passage of the day and not ‘clock time’, this very basic type of dial may have been almost as helpful as later, more elaborate ones.


Urchfont . Wilts – St Michael & All Angels – Scratch Dial 7

Dial 7 is located low on the middle S. facing Chancel buttress. A semicircle with a complete complement of lines around from the horizontal. Almost all end in pocks (2 in L. quadrant may be lost in the join with the adjacent stone). RHS is partly eroded from the faint noon line upwards. The symbol to the left may be a ritual protection / witch mark – too large for a mason’s mark.


Urchfont . Wilts – St Michael & All Angels – Scratch Dials

Dial 8 is on the Chancel buttress E. of Dial 7, at the same low level. It is more rustic. Unusually, the dial, though quite small, was cut across 6 stones. Originally the circle was presumably complete, but damage top L and a relocated stone top R have removed the upper segment. The gnomon hole is notably off-centre. Perhaps odd that the dial wasn’t cut using the mortar line for the style hole and as the horizontal 6-to-6 line? Like Dial 7, a full complement of lines with pocks. There is a some graduation, but irregular.

Urchfont . Wilts – St Michael & All Angels – Scratch Dials 7 & 8 and a plausible dial…


The first is a deliberate pattern of pocks by a doorway – an obvious dial location – with a possible style hole in the mortar. There are similar short curved dot patterns elsewhere, eg Maiden Newton (Dorset). A plausible dial. The second dial is higher on the same buttress as Dial 8, a small hole with 2 apparently intentional lines just before and at noon. Doubtful, but I have seen rather less convincing patterns credited with dial status…

GSS Category: Scratch Dials

All photos: Keith Salvesen




This article was written a while back, in the pre-Covid era. Now I have a sundial site up and running, this dial and some others from Florence have a new space.

Florence in January.  -8°C at night, zero during the day – but sunny enough in the middle of the day to be able to have coffee or even lunch outside. Apart from the Uffizi, no queues for anywhere. Most significant places on the tourist trail almost to oneself. Despite the cold, there is no frost: the air is so dry that the pavements, piazzas and even the cars are quite clear of frozen white crystals. By the river I caught the electric flash of a male kingfisher flying up from the water to an overhanging bush, his hunting perch. I watched him as he scanned the water below, occasionally diving down and returning to the same branch. Twice, I could see the glint of a tiny fish in his beak. 


Over the years I don’t know how often I have crossed the Ponte Vecchio – or even simply walked to the mid-point to admire the views up and down river from the open areas between the pricey shops. This time I was walking the length of the Vasari corridor that connects the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti on the other side of the Arno. A section runs straight over the bridge and then passes across the facade of Santa Felicita, into which the Medici family could sneak from the corridor to a large private balcony for spiritual refreshment. Passing the middle of the west side of the bridge, in the ‘tourist photo op’ gap where Cellini’s bust adds to the photogenic view, I have never before looked upwards.


Here, on the roof of a shop, is an ancient sundial, supported by a white marble pillar. An eroded and almost illegible engraving below the pillar records that in 1333, floods caused the bridge to collapse and that “twelve years later, as pleased the Commune, it was rebuilt with this ornamentation”. The sundial itself, with its columnar divisions reminiscent of a rose window, marks the CANONICAL HOURS. The gnomon’s shadow indicates the hour of the day. If the sundial is the ‘ornamentation’ to which the inscription refers, then it is around 650 years old.

If you look closely, you’ll see, halfway up the south face of the hexagonal column, a lizardsundial-ponte-vecchio-florence-1

Seeing the sundial for the first time ever, yet in such a familiar place was a reminder that Florence is a city that demands great attention as one walks through the streets. Many buildings, even unassuming ones, have fine adornments high up that will catch the eye… but only if you are looking out for them.