GRADE I † C13 origins: masons’ marks on the fabric date from C13 and are identical with some found at Wells cathedralBHO. Development mainly C15 (tower) and C16, with C19 work by Wyatt and later attention. Poulett family much in evidence. Good graffiti / protection marks. Fine gilded weathercock dated to 1756. 4m N of Crewkerne . 50.9107 / -2.8286 / ST418126
A single scratch dial tucked away on the W side of a buttress, and of doubtful value as a time marker, both for position and orientation. There are 4 lines with terminal pocks on the left side; and a single pock at the top (ie midnight). The gnomon hole, already quite big, has been crudely enlarged – and quite recently, by the look of it.
An explanation for the unpromising location and the unsatisfactory design is that the dial was relocated at some stage, perhaps when the tower was built (and the buttress added?). It is far from unusual for a dial reused in this way to be inverted, as if decommissioning it. An inversion of the image above makes far more sense, with the noon line marked by a single pock, and the radials to its right. An afternoon dial.
GRAFFITI & APOTROPAIC SYMBOLS / PROTECTION / MARIAN MARKS
ST MARY † Grade 1. Early C13, alterations c.1500, N transept added C19. Between Sherborne & Marston Magna, on the Som. / Dorset boundary. Scratch dials, vertical dial, porch graffiti and protection (‘witch’) marks. 50.9948 / -2.5565 / ST610218
Quite a while ago I wrote (in 2 parts) about the 4 main medieval scratch dials at the church. The links are below. I recently revisited St Mary for a further look at the dials (there are a couple of others to write up) as well as some interesting church marks including a small hexfoil within the porch. A revised single post featuring all of the above will emerge in due course.
I also photographed the Vertical Dial for BSS records. It is located on the end merlon of the parapet, easily visible. It has a simple, almost square face. The plain metal gnomon is fixed into the top of the dial stone, and into the mortar line under the stone below it.
There are other unmarked (no lines, pocks, numerals) dials in the S Somerset / W Dorset region and I though this was one. However, later examining the main photograph in the gallery below, I detected 2 faint lines in U L quadrant that seem deliberately cut. There’s a ghost of a line on the opposite side. So possibly this was once a conventionally marked dial that has slowly and very evenly eroded.
It is hard to date. The dial stone differs from the ones around it. At a guess, it was added C19, perhaps when other work was carried out (eg adding the N transept). BHO notes that in 1827 the church was ‘repaired and beautified’. Perhaps adding the dial was part of that process.
ST JOHN THE EVANGELIST & ALL SAINTS . KINGSTONE . SOMERSET
GRADE II* † Records from 1291; C14 chancel, porch; C15 tower, nave. A village with a long history, close to the Fosse Way, recorded in DB as Chingestone. 1m SE of Ilminster. 50.9188 / -2.8851 / ST378136
This is an unusual dial, not least because there is a pair of style holes L and R and they are both similarly large. The dial stone is quite badly damaged and it is difficult to analyse the dial. R seems to be the primary hole for the gnomon. The only discernible noon line is below R, marked by a single pock halfway to the mortar line below. On either side, at roughly 11 and 1, are the only 2 clear lines in the whole design. It’s hard to see the purpose of L at all, and perhaps it was a later addition that didn’t add much.
DEH visited in 1915 and included his own theory:
GSS Category: Scratch Dial
All photos: Keith Salvesen except header image as credited (a huge improvement on my own rain-affected photo).
GRADE I † Early C14, octagonal tower (cf neighbouring N Curry and nearby) completed C15. C19 restorations. BLB notes A very fine church, similar in design to Church of St Michael, North Curry CP but not so extensively restored in the C19. Admired by PEV. 12m E of Taunton. 51.04 / -2.9312 / ST348271
Two dials are recorded for St Gregory, both of which merited additional comment by DEH. He recorded the first – remarkably decorative – on his visit in 1912. He revisited in 1916 and recorded the second dial, relocated to an obscure corner inside the church. In addition there is a (probable) 3rd dial, unrecorded.
Dial 1 is on the E side of the S porch. It seems likely that there was originally a simpler dial that was embellished over the years. Although not all are now visible, it is reasonable to assume that there was a full complement of 24 lines.
DEH noted: this dial has been decorated. The noon line is lengthened outside the circle and ends in a small cross. This cross is plainly an addition. The noon line is also carried upwards above the circle and also ends in a cross. This cross may be original. The line throughout its length is true and clean cut, so that it may be part of the primitive dial.
Dial 2 is a rare example of a scratch dial repositioned within a church during restoration / rebuilding (cf Thornford Dorset). DEH must, I think, have been told about it: under no normal circumstances would a dial researcher think of the location without a tip-off. Even knowing the right area, I didn’t spot it straight away.
DEH gives the precise location: This dial is within the church, on the w. splay of the easternmost window in the s. wall. It is on the top stone of the splay, the noonline is about 5 inches in length, and the stylehole, which appears to be an inch in diameter, is filled with plaster. DEH
The dial is a semicircle that looks as though it may originally been a full circle cut across 2 stones. The visible lines are mostly before noon. The noon line is possibly marked as the narrow gap between 2 almost vertical lines.
DEH noted: This dial is the only one that has been found inside a church. It was obviously placed in its present position at the time the late XV century window was inserted, and must have been brought from some other part of the building.
Found on a buttress W of the porch. I have little doubt that this design is a dial, previously unrecorded. It is at least partly encircled, with 2 close candidates for style hole. There are several pocks that are somewhat random now but seem to have been deliberately made (and are not seen on adjacent stones). It seems convincing to me as a somewhat age-worn remnant.
As plain a dial as you could wish to find, yet casting a strong shadow. BSS view is that it dates from the 1880s restoration and it doesn’t look as if the dial has been touched since then! It’s worth pointing out that (as the photos show) the lamp bracket works as effectively as the dial itself.
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial; Vertical Dial
GRADE I † Norman origin, gradually growing from c1300 to a substantial building for a village. C19 further expansion and rebuilding. Mostly local sandstone, some blue lias (as found on the Jurassic Coast). Octagonal tower cf neighbouring Stoke St Gregory. 8m E of Taunton. 51.0255 / -2.9717 / ST319255
DEH visited in 1912 and somewhat hesitantly included this church in his pioneering survey of Somerset dials: There is a doubtful dial on the w. side of the s. porch. It consists of a much worn stone, with a stylehole (?) which is filled up, and some marks that might be lines. The stone is so soft and worn that it is impossible to say with certainty whether it was once a dial.
There is nothing extant in that location to match the description given. The reference to soft, worn stone suggests the blue lias component of the porch front (built c1502). If so, the obvious candidate for a dial is shown in the photos: but how might such a confiruration have worked? BBS does not mention it. The conclusion must be… not a dial.
GRADE II* † C13 (with earlier record), gradual development. An attractively simple and harmonious country church. A slightly canted C20 vertical dial over the doorway (see below). Not an easy church to find – it is not where the signposts suggest (you may end up in Barrow). There’s a sign to St Stephen at the Wincanton end of the racecourse. 51.0678 / -2.4008 / ST720299
There is one scratch dial recorded for the church by DEH who visited in 1914, on LHS of the inner original doorway of the later added S porch. St Stephen is yet another S Somerset church, within a small radius, to have an inner dial. There is a second previously unrecorded dial, a completely different design, on the W side of the Priest’s door. The vertical dial is also shown below.
DEH: This dial is on the e. side of the inner door of the s. porch. It is 5 feet 6 inches above the floor, the noonline is 2 inches in length, the stylehole, which is in a joint, is filled, and the aspect is due s. Type 2. April 17th, 1914.
Dial 1 is quite large and half hidden by a prayer board that I briefly relocated. It is cut on 2 stones, with the gnomon hole in the mortar line between them. It is encircled with a complete circumference, the upper half having neither radials or dots. The horizontal / mortar line / gnomon hole must have been damaged, with later extensive repair across the middle of the dial.
There are only 4 visible lines, none straight (in contrast with the accurate circle). The angles are roughly equal. The 2 a.m. lines (L of the noon line) terminate on the circumference. The single p.m. line extends some way beyond the circle; the noon line much more so, plunging downwards almost to the stone below. This feature is found even more dramatically at HOLTON 4m W
Dial 2 is on W side of the priest’s door and features a ring of pocks with no lines at all. Judging from the position of the style hole in the centre (approx) of the dial stone, and the curvature of the dots, the dial was presumably a complete circle originally. The upper L quadrant must have been damaged at some time and at some stage replaced by the smaller stone, with additional mortar to make the fit. Most of the dots are quite clear, a few are not: certainly 12, possibly a couple more.
The first pattern below is on the E side of the Priest’s door, at the same height as Dial 2. It would not be unusual to have this arrangement. It is in some ways dial-ish but I can’t take it further. I tried inverting (reverting?) the image but to no great effect. The second scratching was worth a closer look and although I’ve seen similar ones counted as dials, this one isn’t very plausible.
ST STEPHEN . CHARLTON MUSGROVE . VERTICAL DIAL
A modern dial dated 1916 set into the apex of the porch with the inscriptionVigilate et Orate (Watch and Pray). The dial shows hours, half-hours, and quarter-hours. Each hour line ends in a small arrowhead. The dial stone is slightly canted and the footing of the gnomon is on the 11 line for accuracy. The noon line is emphasised with a deeper incision.
GRADE I † C13 origins, mainly C14 / C15; C19 restoration. Set in the grounds of an historic house Brympton D’Evercy and adorned by an unusual (striking?) bell turret. The remnants of a lost medieval village. A mere 2m W of Yeovil yet hidden away in its own parkland, and best reached by map reading, satnav or luck. 50.9359 / -2.6856 / ST519153
St Andrew has 2 dials, one on each of the paired corner buttresses of the S transept (HE notes only one). There is a plausible dial fragment on the buttress on the W end of the nave.
DEH visited St Andrew in July 1915 and recorded: 189. (2) This dial is on a buttress at the s.e. corner of the s. transept, at a height of 4 feet 1 inch above the ground. The noonline is 5 inches in length, the stylehole is 1 1/4 inches deep by 3/8 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 15° e. Type 3.
There are 4 clear lines and one less so. As judged from the noon line, the dial is slightly offset. There is a faintest hint of a line to the right of the noon line, which would make design sense; or perhaps for some reason that area remained blank (and see Dial 2). The strong line mid-afternoon may indicate that the important Mass at St Andrew was none.
DEH:188. (1) This dial is on a buttress at the s.w. corner of the s. transept, at a height of 4 feet 11 inches above the ground. The noonline is 3 inches in length, the stylehole is 2 1/4 inches deep by 3/4 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 10° e. Type 5c.
The dense covering of lichen makes it hard to give an accurate description of this dial. It looks like a conventional semi-circular fan dial with an emphasised horizontal (6-to-6). There are 7 lines for certain; as with Dial 1, the lower R quadrant is less well defined – perhaps less deeply incised and gradually eroded, or because locally the afternoon was not significant for services and could be ignored.
The markings on the SW face of this buttress are strange. Are these eye-catching striations related to marking the time of day? It seems most unlikely. However, it’s worth zeroing in on the 4 short lines on the stone below. A case could be made that this is a dial fragment on a stone that was at some time relocated there. Alternatively, this is the lower section of a dial in its original position, with the stones now above it displacing the rest of the dial with its style hole.
GRADE II* † C14 onwards. A small and pretty village W. of Wincanton on a hillside, and a church with a view. Seemingly off the beaten track approached from S / E but in fact rather close to the dread A303 to N. 51.0401 / -2.4503 / ST685268
An outstandingly rewarding Priest’s door. Both sides of the doorway have dials, part dials, traces of dials, together with a variety of graffiti and other church marks. DEH visited St Nicholas in April 2014, for some reason recording only 2 dials, one each side of the doorway. There are certainly 5, with a plausible 6th.
DIALS: EAST SIDE
Dial 1 RHSThe main dial of 2 is quite roughly incised. A full circle (though not circular); 12 (or so) lines of varying lengths, widths, depths and graduation; all enclosed (at the time or later?) in an approximate rectangle. The lowest 4 lines, with large terminal pocks, are deeply cut. There is an extended part-eroded noon line. The style hole is surprisingly large: with an emerging peg or rod that size, a passer-by would have been able to check the time of day / of Mass from some distance away.
Dial 2 RHS In the context of this multi-dial doorway, this is very simple. It is almost level with another minimalist dial on the W. side. Below the small style hole are double noon lines; or perhaps 2 lines bordering a ‘midday space’ between them. They seem intentionally incised below uncut stone directly under the hole. There are pocks in the area but my feeling is that they relate to Dial 3 (with one debatably either).
Dial 3 RHS is above and to the L side of dial 2, by the door surround. There is a small shallow hole with a crescent of 5 or 6 pocks in the lower L quadrant of its (imaginary) circumference. Possibly the lowest pock, distanced from the rest, is a Mass mark (Terce?) for dial 2. A faint line can be seen directly pointing at the top pock. Others, if any, are completely eroded. I might describe this dial as merely ‘debatable’ or ‘plausible’, were it not for the neat and apparently intentional configuration.
DIALS: WEST SIDE
One of the most interesting sides of any Priest’s Door I have come across. There are 3 dials in all, from remarkably exuberant to extreme simplicity. Additionally there are barely visible traces of part circles and lines that, in medieval times, might have been part of the scheme.
Dial 4 LHS The upper of 2 main dials. Encircled, with a blocked style hole, 8 clear lines more of less in the lower quadrants. One deeper incised, probably emphasising a local time for Mass. 3 fainter / more eroded lines above the horizontal (including a ‘midnight line’), of decorative use only.
Dial 5 LHS Immediately below and touching Dial 1. Unusually adventurous. A large blocked gnomon hole, encircled, and roughly centred within a crudely cut square frame. There are 10 (11?) lines, all except one being in the lower half. The lower R quadrant is significantly eroded with just the faintest hint of ‘missing’ lines. The few pocks seem to be part of the overall design. Most remarkable are the extended lines. The prominent noon line and the faint flanking lines dive confidently downwards.
I imagine the noon line – some 4 times longer below the incised frame than between the frame edge and style hole – is close to a record. It effortlessly passes through the crumbled mortar joint onto the stone below.
Dial 6 LHS is, like its low-level counterpart RHS, extremely simple – a small style hole with just a cross below it marking the noon line. There is a trace of a line at 5 that may be part of it but I’d prefer to think of this dial as simply a hole and a cross.
St Nicholas . Holton . Som – Scratch Dials 4 – 6 (W side); dial locations
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).
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.
This dial is located high up above the portico, below the parapet of the nave seen as clerestory with parapetBLB. 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.
GRADE II † C14 origins on earlier site; mostly C15 and later C19 work. South porch very simple, possibly C14BLB. 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.
DEH196. 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.
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.