ST MARY THE VIRGIN . STOKE-sub-HAMDON . SOM
GRADE I † C12 origins (Chancel c1100), C13 et seq, restored 1862. A pleasingly geometric church in a fine setting below Ham Hill, the Iron Age hill fort where the original stone for the Norman church was quarried. Close to Montacute House (NT) and St Catherine Montacute. 50.9526 / -2.7361 / ST483172
St Mary has 4 dials on the S. side, all of different types and all quite easily found. The different styles and levels of sophistication on a single church reflect the development of scratch dials with increasing scientific knowledge, and their continuing usefulness to the church and the community.
Dial 1 is low-down on a quoin at the W. end, unusually assertive and straightforward. However, in the middle of the 4 strong lines is a very faint one with a dot at the end. Since it adds little to the dial’s purpose, I wonder if evidences eroded remains of an earlier dial? Also, are the dots either side of the gnomon hole part of the original dial or were they added later? It’s hard to see how they might help the dial’s function. Or so I thought until I saw similar oblique marks in Dial 2, in that case lines (see below).
DEH visited St Mary in July 1914 and recorded: 216. (1) This dial is on the s.w. corner of the nave on a quoin. It is 4 feet 3 inches above the ground, the noonline is about 4 inches in length or a little less, the stylehole is 1 3/4 inches in depth by 3/4 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 30° e. Type 3.
In the first image, note the Norman window, one of 2 that survive. The other is shown below.
Dial 2 on the E. side of the recessed priest’s door, is a fine example of a later, more complex design. It certainly marks the hours with clarity and precision. Its sophistication suggests it must be a late dial, my guess being late C15 / early C16. The morning hours are all marked with carefully graduated lines down to the noon line. All terminate in pocks which themselves are graduated from large to small at noon. Two half-hours are marked with pocks. The emphatic oblique incision is hard to analyse other than in terms of marking canonical hours (Compline & Nones?) cf the pocks on Dial 1. Any help to explain it would be welcome.
DEH recorded: 219. (4) This dial is on the e. side of the priest’s door. It is 4 feet 6 inches above the ground, the noonline is 5 inches in length, the stylehole is 1 1/2 inches in depth by 3/4 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 25° e. Type 3.
A final note for Dial 2. There is some evidence that there was originally a dial on a stone above it, later replaced. There are scratch marks that suggest the end of radials; and a row of dots, including a double dot that might relate to a noon line.
DIALS 3 & 4
Dials 3 & 4 are together, one above the other, E. of the blocked doorway with its slender columns. They are quite high (about 10′) in the angle where the S. wall meets the transept.
Dial 3 is the lower of the two. The style hole would have been in the mortar line acting as the horizontal ‘6-to-6’ line, but the area has a large repair that presumably covers it. 6 lines descend from it in a conventional fan, mainly in the lower L. quadrant. Their spacing is imprecise; the noon line is extended.
Dial 4 above is less ambitious. I imagine it is the earlier of the two. There are 3 long lines emerging from a filled style hole. The noon line runs down the edge of the adjacent stone, which looks as though it was a replacement from later restoration work. If so, perhaps the dial originally had lines in the lower R. quadrant.
DEH wrote: 217. (2) This dial is on the s.w. corner of the s. transept. It is 5 feet 1 inch above the ground, the noonhole is 2 inches distant, the stylehole is 1 inch in depth by 1/4 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 20° e. Type 9.
His record for this location is puzzling because there are in fact 2 dials not one; and they are much higher than he gives. It’s quite possible I missed a dial – his single dial – nearby and at the height DEH specifies. However, since DEH records only 3 definite dials for St Mary, he must therefore have missed (for height?) this pair.
DEH recorded a possible 4th dial, but with reservations. He wrote: 218. (3) This doubtful dial is on the e. side of the closed doorway in the nave. It is 5 feet 2inches above the ground, the noonline is 3 1/2 inches in length, the stylehole, if it exists at all, is filled.
I had already photographed it thinking it might be a damaged dial. I’m an optimist and an amateur, not the best combination for a balanced judgement. If this is the dial candidate referred to by DEH, then the style hole is no longer blocked. It looks plausible as a very crude dial, and it is a conventional dial location. Is it a much earlier dial than the others, cut beside what was clearly a significant doorway and now degraded by time and weather? Any views welcome.
GSS Category: Scratch Dials (multiple)
All photos: Keith Salvesen