GRADE II* † Mid C12 – C15; early frescoes; 1860s work by G.E. Street with additions & rebuilding. Remarkably squat tower, C15. Unexpectedly up a secluded narrow lane just E of the bustle of Cowley – no one would guess that there is a C12 building there. 51.7306 / -1.2197 / SP539038
There are 2 dials, both inside the porch on either side of the entrance door. Disappointingly the porch gate was locked, so I could not get access. The photos of the pair taken late in the day are distinctly underwhelming…
Dial 1 is inside S porch LHS of the doorway, in the corner below the springing of the arch and above the moulding. 4 lines radiating from the style hole, with the noon line deeper cut.
Dial 2 is also inside S porch, RHS of the doorway and above the capital of the pillar. There are 6 lines radiating from a quite noticeable style hole. BSS suggests there are 3 pocks (possibly more), though I could not see those details.
Besides the dials, there was a certain amount of graffiti with other scratchings in the area of the porch, not all of it medieval. There are a couple of Marian marks and what may be a very crude pentagram, a symbol to repel evil.
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial
All photos (for what they are worth) Keith Salvesen except header image from St James Parish website (their excellent photo replaces my poor ones taken from a different angle); and BSS (2 images)
GRADE 1 † An exceptional Romanesque church built mid to late C12 (nave, tower, chancel) with later additions, restoration, and conservation. The Norman features dominate, especially the wonderful doorways. There’s too much history here (and in Iffley village) to distil: PEV should be the first stop, or BHO online Best of all, go there. SE. Oxford 51.7274 / -1.2382 / SP527034
St Mary has two dials, one conventional, and one of a most unusual type that I haven’t met before. In relation to Dial 1, it’s worth mentioning that in 2017 conservation architects oversaw “a programme of conservative repair to the exuberant Romanesque masonry of the church’s west front and south door. This included the application by stone conservators of a pigmented limewash, helping to preserve the stone and improve the overall legibility of the facade”.
Dial 1 is on the right side of the lovely S. doorway. It has 4 straight radials, 3 with terminal pocks. The noon line may have a second pock above the end one; there are perhaps other dots. The style hole in the join of the stones creates the horizontal line. The careful preservation methods noted above have to an extent made the dial hard to analyse in greater detail. Fortunately BSS has an archive image that predates recent work. Much more detail is evident; for example the pocks are clearer (and there are more of them). It makes for an interesting comparison.
DIAL 1 GALLERY
This highly unusual dial (if it is one at all) is on the S. side of the church, in the angle where the tower meets the nave. It consists of 4 incised parallel lines on a single stone. Just that. The passage of the day can be observed as the sun moves round, with the quoin acting as a vertical gnomon. The shadow cast moves gradually over the 4 lines from left to right, indicating the time of day. Its position suggests that it was primarily of use as a morning dial, perhaps signifying the Canonical hours for Mass. BSS records it as a ‘linear scale of markings from the wall shadow’.
The photos below give an idea of how the dial works in practice. I visited on a sunny day, but unfortunately at the wrong time of day to test the shadow theory. This dial is yet another that I need to revisit to understand it.