SEAVINGTON ST MICHAEL . SOMERSET – 2 Scratch Dials, Medieval Graffiti

Seavington St Michael . Somerset



GRADE II* Late C12, porched c1291; C15 alterations, C19 restoration. Attractively simple with its welcoming footpath, porch, and modest bell turret. Adjacent to S St Mary and 4m E of Ilminster. 50.931 / -2.8407 /  ST410149


BLB notes that the centre bay on south side has a blocked chamfered pointed-arched doorway, with diamond-leaded window inserted with cill just below springing. The dials are one above the other on W side of the doorway. Strangely, although DEH on his visit in 1915 records one dial in precisely this location, he doesn’t mention the second.

DEH noted that the buttresses either side of the recessed doorway inevitably block out the light for much of the day, as it had on the day he visited (possibly why he only found one dial?). He concluded that the buttresses were a later addition to the church (probably XVII Century), when the doorway was filled up.


The uppermost, larger, less sophisticated, and the earliest of the 2 dials. 6, perhaps 7 lines. The ones either side of the noon line are slightly curved. Gnomon hole plugged though not with cement.


Beneath Dial 2 and far more visible. There are 6, perhaps 7 lines, of which the the afternoon lines are much the clearest. The noon line has an unusually prominent pock. The adjacent lines LRQ are even deeper cut. One is also elongated, probably indicating the most significant Mass of the day. One of the fainter lines LHS heads ineffectively above the horizontal. The gnomon hole is surprisingly deep.


The church porch has plenty of graffiti including initials, Marian marks, ritual protection (witch) marks, and pilgrim crosses

Seavington St Michael . Somerset – medieval graffiti

GSS Category: Scratch Dial; medieval graffiti

All photos: Keith Salvesen


All Saints. West Camel . Som.

DEDICATION † ALL SAINTS. Late C14 with much earlier Saxon fragments; C15 features and alterations; C19 restoration; recent internal renovation. A pretty country church and path approach. Battlement and stubby spire on the tower.

LISTING † Grade 1

LOCATION † Just W of RNAS Yeovilton and S of the A303. 51.0195 /  -2.5998 /  ST580246

DIALS † DEH visited All Saints in May 1915, and recorded 2 dials, one which he found inside the porch. An uncommon find, and shared with other churches in the area. There are 5 dials in all.

DIALS 1 – 3

All Saints. West Camel . Som – scratch dials 1 – 3

Dials 1 – 3 are on separate quoin stones of the tower E of the S porch. The eye-catcher is unmissable at the top, with a large style hole that has been considerably enlarged over the centuries. On the stones below are 2 more rustic dials that a very similar.

All Saints. West Camel . Som – scratch dial 1
All Saints. West Camel . Som – scratch dial 1 (π Erika Clarkson)

Dial 1 is a good example of a small line and pock dial. There are 13 lines with pocks (2 are eroded) and there is a double pock in the upper R quadrant on the bottom edge with (possibly) the stub of a line. There are hints of other lines and just possibly a faint shadow of near-erased circle. The deeper cut lines and pocks may indicate the most significant time of day for Mass, in this case between 9 (Terce) and noon (Sext). DEH describes it as a compact and rather curious little dial.

DEH 191. (2) This dial is on the s.w. corner of the tower. It is 5 feet 7 inches above the ground, the noonline is 2 1/2 inches in length, the stylehole is 1 1/4 inches deep, and the aspect is due s. Type 11, combining 3.

All Saints. West Camel . Som – scratch dial 2

Dial 2 is on the stone below. The style was presumably in the mortar line. There are 4 lines (Terce to Sext) ending in pocks. There are further pocks in the lower L quadrant, the top one corresponding with None. A true – if sketchy – Mass dial. The large hole beneath does not seem dial-related.

All Saints. West Camel . Som – scratch dial 3

Dial 3 has a very similar form, with 5 lines (2 very faint) emerging from the mortar line. It seems strange to have 2 dials so alike and so close. From the look of them, the upper dial would have been an improvements on the lower one.

It is hard to know what to make of the 4 pocks in a neat row on the R side. Possibly they belong with the hole above them. Conceivably the configuration could have worked as a crude or experimental dial but it can’t be rated higher than ‘doubtful’.

DIALS 4 & 5

Both dials are inside the porch on L side the original doorway. The present porch was added in 1866, replacing an earlier porch of unknown date. Such ‘inside’ dials are not unusual, but this particular area has several quite close together, eg BLACKFORD, LIMINGTON, WESTON BAMPFYLDE Note the traces of whitewash on and around both dials.

All Saints. West Camel . Som – scratch dial 4

Dial 4 has 4 distinct lines and traces in lower R quadrant. 3 of the clear radials extend to the mortar line below. It looks as though all the lines were originally roughly the same length, with 3 later crudely elongated (2 have bends).

DEH: 190. (1) This dial is on the w. side of the inner door of the s. porch. It is 4 feet 10 inches above the floor, the noonline is 4 inches in length, the stylehole is 1 1/2 inches deep by 3/4 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 10° e. Type 3.

All Saints. West Camel . Som – scratch dial 5

Dial 5 is above Dial 4, and much simpler. 4 lines descend from the mortar line, one extended. The upper R one ends in a pock. The 2 pocks on the bottom edge probably emphasise noon. The large hole doesn’t seem to be part of the design.

Dials 4 & 5 close-up

NOTE: fragment of a C9 Saxon cross-shaft with cable-roll interlaced decoration on 2 faces, discovered above nave East wall foundations in 1866. 

GSS Category: Scratch Dial, Mass Dial

CREDITS: many thanks to Erika Clarkson who sent me the excellent close-up photo of Dial 1 and prompted my visit to All Saints and several other churches churches in the neighbourhood; All other photos Keith Salvesen

HOLTON . SOM . ST NICHOLAS – Scratch Dials

St Nicholas . Holton . Som


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.

St Nicholas . Holton . Som – Priest’s Door


St Nicholas . Holton . Som – Scratch Dial 1 (E side)

Dial 1 RHS The 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.

St Nicholas . Holton . Som – Scratch Dial 2 (E side)

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).

St Nicholas . Holton . Som – Scratch Dial 3 (E side)

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.

St Nicholas . Holton . Som – Scratch Dial 3 (E side)


St Nicholas . Holton . Som – Scratch Dial 4 & 5 (W 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.

St Nicholas . Holton . Som – Scratch Dial 4 (W side)

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.

St Nicholas . Holton . Som – Scratch Dial 5 (W side)

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.

St Nicholas . Holton . Som – Scratch Dial 5 (W side)

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.

St Nicholas . Holton . Som – Scratch Dial 6 (W side)

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

GSS CATEGORY: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial

ALL PHOTOS: Keith Salvesen