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.
DIALS: EAST 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.
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
GSS CATEGORY: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial
ALL PHOTOS: Keith Salvesen