St Anne . Ancroft . Northumberland – James Towill Geo cc

GRADE II* C11th-century, built by monks of Holy Island as a chapel of ease. C13 / C14 pele tower added as protection from incursions by Scots. C19 restorations. At some time (? when the tower was built) the fine Norman entrance was blocked. Extensive views from the tower’s parapet. 3m S of Berwick-upon-Tweed. 55.7001 / -1.998 / NU002451

A weathered C18 vertical dial with a short gnomon that casts a very visible shadow. The shape of the dial stone, with its pedimented square, is very pleasing. The lines are enclosed in a frame, with Arabic numerals from 6 to 6 around its edge. The use of Arabic numerals rather than Roman suggests a later dial of this period. 9 lines are detectable, some only just. Only 6 numerals are clear. I can’t make any sense of the remains of the inscription. I wondered if some of the sandstone – especially LLQ – is repair or natural deterioration. Expanding this very good photograph, I think the latter: the dial is showing the signs of its age.

St Anne . Ancroft . Northumberland – Walter Baxter Geo cc

GSS Category: Vertical Dial; Old Dial; Gnomon Design

Credits: Erika Clarkson for introducing me to this church and for her photos that begat this post, so to speak; James Towill for his photo of St Anne’s uploaded to Geograph cc; Walter Baxter for his excellent close-up of the dial uploaded to Geograph cc and for his specific use permission to reproduce it full-size


All Saints Church . Rothbury . Northumberland – David Evans for CofE Heritage


GRADE II* † On Pre-Conquest / Anglo-Saxon site. C13 / C14, rebuilding & restoration C19 (Pickering) in similar style. Located in Coquetdale with linked churches. 2 medieval scratch dials and further church details LINK. 12m SW of Alnwick, close to NT Cragside. 55.309 /  -1.9106 / NU057016


The cube (‘block’) sundial is on the ground in the churchyard, S side. Originally it was on the porch roof. Parish records show that it was once whitewashed, which cost 1s 9p in 1728. I have included 2 images of each dial face, the whole face and close-up.

BSS record: Main S face has date ‘1714’ and upright Arabic numerals 6 – 6. Hour and half-hour lines. Above is a polar dial with hours 8am to 4pm and a cross for noon. The dial, a substantial chunk of masonry, was most likely taken down from its original site aloft for safety.



There is an excellent article about the THE ROTHBURY SUNDIALS in the Nov 1991 Clock Magazine (Pendulum Publications). The relevant parts relating to the cube dial are as clear and concise as anything I can devise:

  1. A cubic dial which is said to have been situated on top of the old church porch, was lost after the demolition work of 1850 but was later found among the old grave stones and is now sited near the new porch entrance. ​It measures 18in by 18in by 19in and has four dials carved on its surfaces, one each on the east and west faces and two on the south face. The south face has the date 1714 carved into it and some remains of old writing between the numerals and crossed line at 12 noon.
  2. An entry in the vestry accounts for the church in 1728 states that “For white lead and Lamb black for ye Sun Dial – 0   0   9, For Whitning and new drawing the lines and figures – 0  1  0”.

3. If, as the historians tell us, the sundial was on top of the old porch the dials would have been difficult to read, especially the upper south dial sloping as it does at an angle of 45 degrees and has the remains of what was a ½ in thick cast iron gnomon. It would be essential for the lines and figures of the south main dial to be well marked in order to be able to read it.

4. The remains of an angled style (gnomon) 1/8in thick made of cast iron and held in two places by lead filling are easily observed. The east and west styles were set into recesses, scooped out of the faces, and set at 90 degrees to the faces. ​​


This dial – and its history – is a most unusual one and I am grateful, as ever, to Erika Clarkson for her dial-hunting and photography skills and the resulting coverage of the midlands and the north of England that is well beyond my own territory in the west country.

GSS Category: Cube Dial

All photos by Erika Clarkson except header image of church, David Evans / CofE Heritage Record