GRADE I † C13 origin; tower rebuilt and alterations C15 . Modern (C20) restorations. Early C13 font. Unusual appearance with pleasing matched roof-lines. BHO notes On S.E. buttress of S. transept—scratch dial*. 3m SE of Crewkerne. 50.8571 / -2.7514 / ST472066
A conundrum. BBS records (1997) show a complex dial, part-encircled and with 10 lines (one extended) and 12 distinct pocks. GLP notes that the continuation of the circumference onto the stone above indicates that the dial is in its original location. He suggests that it may be the remains of a LHS half-circle (cf HOLWELL and HERMITAGE).
GLP also points out disapprovingly an attempted ‘restoration’ with thin lines scratched along some of the original lines and part of the circumference line… and most of the holes ‘cleaned up’. These lines can be seen in the images below.
However, although a close shot shows the recently added lines, the dial did not reveal the considerable detail shown in the diagram. I am equipped with a camera and a pair of eyes, but (as an amateur) I could not read the S Perrott dial as I had hoped to.
Details of a dial can sometimes be seen more clearly in a B&W photo. It works to a limited extent here, but not enough to bring out, in 2023, the overall design as recorded in the past.
*It is slightly unusual for sources such as BHO, HE, BLB, to acknowledge scratch dials
GRADE II* † Saxon origins (vestiges still visible); C13, C15; rebuilt tower 1667 (unusually, lower than the nave roof-line); restorations (Wyatt). Split from Burcombe village (S Burcombe) by A30 and hard to find. St John is the sole remnant of N Burcombe. Declared redundant 2005. I could not gain entry. 5m W of Salisbury. 51.0798 / 1.8971 / SU073311
The Burcombe dial is a slight secret, mentioned in TWC‘s Wiltshire dial list but not elsewhere that I can see. St John is also hard to find: check the location carefully before you try. This is a pretty dial, a messy mix of lines and pocks below the horizontal. The noon line – usually an eye-catcher – is upstaged by lines with varying degrees of curve and pocking. It’s hard to interpret, but the two ‘raking light’ photos add a bit of perspective.
St John . Burcombe . Wilts – Scratch Dial
St John also has a canted vertical dial above the porch, with a pleasingly robust gnomon. It fits in with the stonework around it and looks old. However any details on the dial face have been eroded. Unfortunately I didn’t have a proper camera with me to check closely for lines etc. but I wouldn’t expect revelations.
Quaere placename – a mapping mistake
In the early 17th century, when John Speed prepared a map of Wiltshire he copied a version by Christopher Saxton, which showed but did not name North Burcombe. On his own map, Speed labelled the village Quaere (Latin for query), presumably because he intended to check the name later, but never did, and his engraver copied the annotation as if it were the village’s name. Later map printers in turn copied Speed’s map and ‘Quaere’ appeared on maps of Wiltshire for 145 years until Emanuel Bowen corrected the mistake in his 1755 map of the county. (WIKI)
GRADE I † C12 origins; gradual development C13 on, with later restorations C15 / C16. S porch (where the dials are) added C16, with earlier material reused. 8m SW of Dorchester. 50.6709 / -2.5638 / SY602858
St Peter has 4 scratch dials, 3 on the E side of the S porch, 1 on the W side. One of my nemesis churches. I have visited in rain, in cloud, and in sunshine. Of the cluster of 3 on E side, I could only make out the obvious one. Eventually I managed to identify them from an enlarged photo. The BSS recorder’s diagram below gives an idea of the dials rather more clearly than my photos can.
Dial 1 is located on the E side of S porch. Five lines are noted in the BSS records, of which 3 are clear and reasonably accurate. The gnomon hole is in the mortar line, where the lines converge.
DIALS 2 & 3
Dial 2 is very basic, and would be easy to overlook. There are 2 faint lines, with the top part including the gnomon hole cemented over a damaged area.
Dial 3 is even less conspicuous: a faint wishbone shape, 2 (3?) lines, one with a pock at the end.
I would doubtless have passed over this pair; and even had I noticed them I would have discounted them in my amateur way.
Dial 4 is on the west side of the south porch, on an inner quoin stone. At first glance it might be taken for an area of damage. In fact it is a dial with 6 lines, 4 of which end in pocks. It was described many years ago as not very accurately laid out and the passage of time has not improved the situation.
GRADE I † C12 origins (nave, chancel), gradual expansion C13, C14 and C15; restoration 1889. Norman doorway with fine Tympanum (long predating the inscription 1698). Good C15 wall paintings.Very close to the estuary, perfect for a walk or a bird-watch. 6m W of Lyme Regis. 50.7142 / -3.0546 / SY256910
Three dials are recorded for St Michael. They are all similar and, unlike most multi-dial churches, their design give little sense of developing methods of marking the passage of the day.
Dial 1 is located on the E quoin stone of the transept, with the gnomon hole in the mortar line. There are 3 distinct radials, and a 4th that is a faint trace. BSS records include the comment Rescratched and false gnomon added.
The last record is dated 1994, since when the false gnomon has been removed. I have used an image from then; the dial is less easy to see now. The diagram below has a theoretical perimeter and time marks for a complete dial. The note no noon [line] is slightly surprising. Radial 3 looks vertical and possibly bifurcated in re-scratching.
Dial 2 is cut on the Chancel chapel, E end of the wall, on a quoin stone. There are 4 lines radiating from a filled gnomon hole in the mortar line
In close-up (below) it is just possible to see that line 3 (L to R) is longer than the others. That could suggest a noon line incised slightly off true vertical. If so, on this simple dial it might be a casual approach to the medieval daylight hours. On a later, more sophisticated dial, it might represent a way to achieve accuracy on a church that was not square on to the true SWNE footprint.
Also situated on the wall of the chancel chapel, and again radiating from the mortar line. BSS notes 4 lines, but 2 cannot now be detected. However the suggestion that noon is marked by double lines is plausible. This might be for emphasis (as with a terminal pock or cross); or because the vertical was re-scratched.
GSS Category: Scratch Dial
Photos. Keith Salvesen; diagram and other material, BSS
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 shroudBLB. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
DEH169. (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.
DEH170. (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.
GRADE 1 † C12 south aisle, 2 Norman arches; C13 chancel; C14 tower; C15 nave & north transept. Restoration 1845 by T. H. Wyatt. Early (C12?) font carved from a single piece of Jurassic limestone. One of several fine Chalke Valley churches situated south of the A30 between Shaftesbury and Salisbury. It’s an attractive long cut between the two. 51.0361 / -1.8473 / SU108263
On the S-facing central buttress of the tower there are two adjacent scratch dials on the same stone that merge. It isn’t immediately clear (to me) which came first. Whichever, presumably the time came as the church developed when more accuracy in marking the day’s passage was required.
BSS references a 3rd dial on S wall. Other records mention two scratch dials and one sundial on south side. See below for an attempt to ID the sundial.
DIALS 1 (L) & 2 (R)
Dial 1 is recorded as: Irregular dial with 15° lines in both quadrants.
Dial 2 is noted as: Cannot be classified. Eroded, damaged. Mass or line deeply cut.
My visit was early evening, and the quality of the detail in my photos is unimpressive (see above). For example, there is only the hint of the part-circle of Dial 2. Fortunately, this is a church that another dial collector has visited and later he uploaded his photos to BHO / Disqus. Mark Wolstenholme’s excellent images give a much clearer and sharper view of the details of both dials and their intersection.
DIAL 3 (?)
Another dial is recorded as being on the tower, S wall, a short distance W of the ‘dial buttress’ above. The description states Early Christian ‘Tombstone’ dial. Accurately cut or made. Modern replacement. I found this baffling, and the only conceivable candidate I could find in the area may or may not fit the bill. Somehow I doubt it. Suggestions of its purpose would be welcome…
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial
Photos: Keith Salvesen; special thanks to Mark Wolstonholme who uploaded his detailed photos to the BHO site os and to Disqus os
GRADE 1 † C12 origins; mainly C14; much rebuilt C15/C16; further rebuilding late C18; restoration C19. One of only two churches with this Dedication (Fulbourne Cambs is the other). A pleasing and unpretentious church. Very close to Downside Abbey/. 51.2552 / -2.4896 / ST659507
Downside Abbey was home to Dom Ethelbert Horne, the pioneer dial collector and analyst who covered Somerset with skill and determination, using a motorcycle to get around. He began the project in 1913, and recorded the dials at St Vigor on Nov 3 – perhaps they were his first finds. His book with its careful explanations is a vade mecum for any dial enthusiast (even one with no connection with the County).
Dial 1 is located at SW corner of the nave, high up (7′) on a quoin stone. DEH noted The Mass line in this dial is sharp and distinct, and made at a different time from the other lines. He makes no comment on the design. There are 6 lines each with a terminal pock, with hints of a couple more. DEH makes no mention of a gnomon, but with his usual thoroughness measured the depth of the hole. It is certain, therefore, that the existing (copper?) rod was inserted relatively recently.
Dial 2 is on the buttress between S porch and E end of the nave. DEH commented: Encircled. No hour lines can be seen on this ancient and badly worn dial. the remains of 2 circles close apart. Were it not for the noticeable gnomon hole, it would be easy to pass this one by.
To be found on the W side of the entrance to S porch, 3′ 3″ high. Or so noted DEH very specifically. He mentions a style hole and a noon line 3½” long, but I spent some time examining this area and indeed the corresponding position on E side of the doorway (because field notes are occasionally confused), with no convincing dial identifiable. Here are photographs of the location, for what they are worth…
In C6 there was a ‘hermit preacher’ and Christian missionary who became Bishop of Bayeux. He died c537 AD and was canonized as St Vigor (Lat.) or in due course Saint Vigeur (Fr.). The Norman conquest brought his followers to England and his name first appears in an eleventh-century breviary at Worcester.
Another account is that in the early C12, manorial rights for Stratton passed to a Norman family who came from Saint-Vigor-le-Grand, Normandy.
ST VIGOR IN FRESCO
GSS Category: Scratch Dials
All photos Keith Salvesen; St Vigor as credited; source material Bath Record Office, Wiki
GRADE II* † Cll Saxon / Norman origins with simple nave – some features survive; C15 chancel; later additions / restoration 1882. A most surprising Palladian / Venetian E window. Detached timber-framed bell cote. Attractively set in a well-wilded churchyard. 6m W of Andover. 51.1944 / -1.611 / SU272439
The dial is on the W jamb of the window E of the porch, first recorded by ARG in 1925. The gnomon hole is filled. ARG’s description is below. The more recent BSS entry records 19 visible / detectable lines and 21 pocks, with possible hints of a circle. On either view, this is an eroded 24-hour dial (esp URQ), with noon marked by a quincunx (like 5 on a die), which I haven’t seen before. One puzzle is why the dial was cut in such a position that it is truncated RHS.
ARG noted two very doubtful dials on the E jamb of the same window; and in his text he refers to another doubtful on the buttress of the S Chapel. I couldn’t make out dials.
There was another mark that caught my eye, a small uneven circle of pocks. There’s no hint of a central hole. As I visit more churches, I see more of these little markings. They can’t be dials, and they seem unlikely to be purely decorative. My tentative theory is these little pock circles are a form of protection mark / apotropaic symbol). However I haven’t yet found such a design featured in the usual medieval building mark resources. Any theories welcome.
GRADE II* † C12 origins; tower & S porch C15; chancel, vestry, south aisle and chapel c1876 (G E Street). Wonderful C12 inner door with chevrons, shielded by porch; C12 font with a story to tell (below). A charming and very Dorset church. 4m SE of Bere Regis; 10m NE of Dorchester. 50.7759 / -2.2833 / SY801974
St Andrew has 3 dials. Dial 1 is a true scratch dial located in the NE corner of the nave, as is Dial 2 on the stone below (largely obscured by lichen, easy to overlook). Dial 3 is a transitional dial above the porch entrance.
Dial 1 is easily identified by its prominent filled gnomon hole from which 3 lines radiate in LLQ. There is also a perimeter curve of 5 (?6) pocks (diag).
Dial 2, on the stone immediately below Dial, 1 has no discernible lines. BSS records 5 pocks of varying size that are (given the lichen) more or less visible seen in conjunction with the BSS diagram below. They are basically shallow dents, in contrast to the ‘drilled hole’ type of pock usually encountered.
A transitional dial above the archway of the C15 S porch. Accuracy in marking the passage of time became increasingly important, not least with the advent of clocks. Dial design and construction involved taking a scientific approach to making time-telling more reliable and more legible. St Andrew is a good example. Rather than being scratched directly onto a stone intrinsic to the church structure, this dial stone is on what BHO describes as a square raised panel.
The dial has slightly angled edges with ‘extensions’ on both sides. It is not canted, so probably faces due S. It is a six-to-six dial with – originally – 12 lines (14, with the horizontal as 2). The hours 4 & 5 are cut deeper, perhaps denoting the most important Mass of the day. Some lines have weathered away in part or completely. There are a number of pocks. The recorder noted 4 trace (semi-)circles, one being close to the gnomon hole. The original gnomon was in the upper hole where there is now a square stub of iron rod. The lower arrangement indicates, I think, a later conversion / updating from a simple rod gnomon to a ‘proper’ one that required a footing; and perhaps a lamp bracket.
RARE FEATURE It’s not completely clear from my rather poor iPhone photos, but if you look carefully at the edge R side where there is the wide margin, you can see that the lines marking 4 & 5 extend onto the side of the dial face and continue down the side of the stone panel. Those short lines are visible from the side even if the rest of the dial is not. I wouldn’t have paid it much attention had I not also visited the neighbouring village of Winterbourne Whitchurch where there is an emphatic example of a ‘side-dial’ complete with a most unusual gnomon. My understanding is that this arrangement amounts to a morning dial read from E.
This is the 4th church I have come across where church events have entailed the use of a dial to tie in decorations etc with wire. In each case the wire was effective as an improvised gnomon.
During the Victorian period it was sometimes the fashion to throw out ancient fonts and Street did just that, installing in its place a new replacement. Fortunately, the old Norman font, decorated with a cable motif, was rediscovered in 1930 and put back in the north aisle, where it remains in use to this day.DHCT [This is an example of throwing the bath out with the baby water]
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial ; Transitional Dial