FENITON . DEVON . ST ANDREW – 3 Scratch Dials & Church Marks

St Andrew . Feniton . Devon


GRADE II* Norman origins; rebuilding C15 & early C16; substantial restoration 1877. A church that repays one’s interest, with an intriguing Rood screen / reredos repositioning conundrum; and unusual chest tomb: on top lies the effigy of an emaciated cadaver partly covered by a shroud BLB. 14m E of Exeter, 5m W of Honiton. 50.7875 / -3.2659 / SY108994


St Andrew has 3 scratch dials, the most obvious being visible from the lych gate and as one approaches S porch. The other 2 dials, very close together, are remarkable and probably unique (certainly so as a pair). Dial 3 may be doubtful. An additional basic but dial-ish scratching is shown below, as are various other church marks including a good example of a Consecration cross.


St Andrew . Feniton . Devon – Scratch Dial 1

Dial 1 on the porch buttress is a straightforward design and easy to make out, but damaged and cement patched UR. There are 13 lines, some now very faint. The angles are more or less accurate at 15º. The vertical / noon line is not emphasised in any way, which is slightly unusual. The main Mass was presumably Terce, marked with a deeper cut line LHS. The gnomon hole has been filled with a rather well-chosen rounded arrow design; it is modern yet respectful of its purpose.


St Andrew . Feniton . Devon – Scratch Dial 2

Dials 2 & 3 are adjacent low down on the same porch buttress as Dial 1. It is a remarkable juxtaposition. BSS suggests they are early dials – pre-1400?

Dial 2 consists of a pattern of pocks contained within what could be termed geometrically as the major segment of a circle. The horizontal line is incised more deeply. BSS suggests that 13 pocks are identifiably associated with the dial, with a few random ones besides. The quite shallow gnomon hole in such a small design presumably contained a stud rather than a rod.

A noon line is seemingly marked by the sightly offset double pocks just R of the vertical. Theres’s also a very small pock directly above the gnomon hole, conceivably a decorative-use-only marker for midnight and symmetry.


Dial 3 The BSS entry for this little configuration of dots describes a semi-circle of 8 pocks, with other associated pocks and no obvious gnomon hole. It concludes closely related to dial no. 2, possibly never used as a dial.

Perhaps it is not a dial at all. The rather untidy part-circle curves away NE after noon – pointlessly, if part of a dial. BSS notes that there is no central style hole. There is a single pock inside the perimeter that might have held a stud – but unlikely to be much use in that position. Some might suspect unserious pattern-copying efforts along the lines of Dial 2.

St Andrew . Feniton . Devon – Scratch Dial 3

My amateur reading of this buttress as a whole is firstly, that the low stone on which Dials 2 & 3 are located is not its original location. At some stage during all the rebuilding and restoration over the centuries it was re-sited. The little dial that ‘worked’ was then too low and would anyway have been an obsolete design. It was therefore superseded by a far larger, more modern (? mid C16) and very visible dial, accurately cut and ideal for marking the passage of the day for a larger, better educated community in a more modern era. Comparatively.


Both lines seem deliberately scratched. One is approximately vertical, the other could mark the Mass time Terce (cf Dial 1). The lines diverge from the mortar line, as do many simple dials – it means not having to drill a dial gnomon into stone. I have seen less convincing 2-line versions that have been recorded as dials. I am slightly in favour of it being a dial.


This is a good example of a rural consecration cross, incised on a buttress between 2 windows. From a distance the design might mislead and be seen as four petals, rather than a compass drawn cross. There are hints of an outer circle. This is a fairly common type of cross, but good see one that is relatively unworn. The four distinct quarters rule out ID as a protective hexfoil, although there is a similarity.


Graffiti on two adjacent stones, one example dated ?1675


This is very likely a ritual protection mark / apotropaic symbol designed both to prevent evil from entering the church, and to repel it. For that reason they are most often found inside or near porches. I haven’t encountered the pattern below before, but a group of dots with some joined by deep cut lines is a commonly found design – see an example from Dorset below.

Ritual Protection Mark . Stouton Caundle . Dorset

GSS Categories: Scratch Dial, Mass Dial, Consecration Cross, Ritual Protection Mark, Medieval Graffiti

All photos: Keith Salvesen