GRADE I † Mainly early C15, some older fragments; later restorations. A huge church for a small village. Simon Jenkins awards it ** and with good reason. Wonderful bench ends, not to be missed. See BLB for more. Midway between Wincanton and Ilchester. 51.0417 / -2.5214 / ST635270
DEH visited in April 1914 and recorded 3 dials, all on S facing buttresses, one close to the priest’s door. They are very eroded. There are possible remnants of 2 further dials, mentioned below.
DEH 169. (1) This dial is on the first buttress w. of the s. porch. It is 5 feet above the ground, the noon line is 4 inches in length, the stylehole is 5/8 of an inch in depth by 1/2 an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 15° e.
Located on the buttress W of S porch. An obvious style hole with a semicircle (6 – 6) of unobtrusive small pocks. Photography has its limitations and St Michael tested them. Records mention 13 to 16 pocks. One can just make out the faintest of traces of lines at noon and 2.
BSS suggests a possible dial immediately above. Assuming a style hole in the mortar line, there are a few pocks in the immediate area, but rather disorganised. Doubtful rather than plausible.
DEH 170. (2) This dial is on the first buttress E. of the s. porch. It is 4 feet 10 inches above the ground, the noon line is 3 inches in length, the style hole is about 11/2 inches in depth by 3/4 of an inch in diameter. The aspect is s. by 15° e.
As with Dial 1, very eroded and with little visible detail even when one is quite close. There are 8 detectable lines with a perimeter of pocks, probably (BSS) 13 with extra pocks at 8.30 and 10.30 – presumably Mass indicators.
DEH 171. (3) This dial is on a buttress e. of the priest’s door. It is 5 feet 8 inches above the ground, the noon line is 4 1/4 inches in length, the style hole is 7/8 of an inch in depth and 1/2 an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 15° e.
Situated on S side of the chancel, on the buttress E of the Priests’ door. There are 13 lines and a full complement of 24 pocks. The line angles are at approx 15º intervals. BSS notes a possible ‘tiny dial’ above it.
The porch contains the original stone benches on either side. These are often troves of graffiti, in particular apotropaic symbols and other ritual protection marks designed to repel evil or to prevent its entering the church. These signs are quite common to find in other locations both outside and inside a church (see HERE). However, in many churches, stone benches were replaced in succeeding centuries. St Michael has retained the benches, on which there are excellent examples of marks that are relatively rare. There are hands here, and a medieval swastika (a Sanskrit word) from several centuries before its more recent symbolic adoption. It incorporates a repelling circle mark, where evil may be captured within its continuous circumference.
GSS Category: Scratch Dials; Mass Dials; Bench Ends; Medieval Graffiti; Apotropaic Symbols
All photos: Keith Salvesen