GRADE I † Pre-conquest origins. Significant Saxon features. Splendid Norman doorway. C12 font. Development C12 et seq, with C19 restoration. Archaeologically uncommonly interestingPEV; inc. by Simon Jenkins. BLB Listing. 51.4286 / -1.8579 / SU099699
The vertical dial is below the parapet, L of the porch. From a distance, the only distinct marking on the face is a faint square frame for the dial. Closer examination reveals at least the ‘X’ of noon. The footing of the gnomon is in a badly damaged area. Most notably, the dial is at a canted angle so that it faces south. Hard to date – there’s no clue in the usual resources. C18 perhaps, esp. as roman numerals were used?
GRADE 1 † C13 origins (possibly back to Saxon); developed C15, C17; late Victorian restoration. Use of local sarsen stone. Hammerbeam roof. Merits a long entry in PEV, especially for the monuments. 5m N of Avebury, 7m NW of Marlborough 51.4858 / -1.8497 / SU105763
St Peter has 2 dials in very different styles, and a couple of ‘not-a-dial’s. There is also a modern-ish sundial on the porch, probably from the late C19 restoration, with a rather gloomy motto that fits in with Victorian mores.
Dial 1 is a fairly large and pleasingly simple dial on L side of a window jamb. 4 lines drop down from the style hole into the lower L quadrant, bounded by a sector of a circle. It looks rather uncomfortable. The puzzle is whether this was the original location (in which case it seems too large for the available space); or whether it is a relocation.
Dial 2 is an encircled dial, the lower half eroded. There is a shallow style hole and various pocks, not all necessarily relevant to dial functions. The significant ones are on the L side, with 3 pocks in a row between the style hole and the perimeter. Below them are less organised pocks. The dial would make more sense if rotated 90º, with the horizontal line becoming the noon line and the less defined line perhaps marking a Mass time (None?). This suggests that the stone was relocated, and certainly the size and colour of the stones around it vary significantly (image 1 below).
Promising but on closer inspection unlikely dials
OUR DAYS ON THE EARTH ARE AS A SHADOW
The C17 porch was restored C19 and then (or later?) this dial was added over the door, with its discouraging message (no hint of the ‘sunny hours’ etc found elsewhere). The dial is slightly angled to face due S for greater accuracy.
St George is a wonderful church with Saxon origins, C12 foundation, C15 tower; and much T H Wyatt work / restoration mid C19. Treasures include the C12 font, a `truly amazing piece’ (Pevsner) of black Tournai marble. High up on the third stage of the C15 tower is a magnificent C18 sundial: details HERE and an image below.
While visiting St George, I decided to have a brief look at the exterior for church marks in general: graffiti, dates, masons’ marks etc. I was not expecting much, in particular because of the extensive C19 work. However on the W end buttress of the C15 tower, facing SW, there was a large incised design worth inspection.
The design is a partial / eroded circle with a central shallow style hole. A noon line extends downwards to the edge of the circle, passing through a pock on the way and ending with a shallow pock. Other pocks mark the approximate edge of the circle on both sides of the noon line. In the lower L quadrant, the pock between the style hole and the pock at the edge of the circle may have been to emphasise the 9-line as indicating the time of a morning Mass, in this case Nones.
The British Sundial Society BSS has considered the evidence and added the Preshute dial to its Mass Dial records. In many ways a lucky find, since I was not looking for nor expecting a dial at all.
High up on the third stage of the C15 tower is a magnificent C18 sundial. A border of Roman serif numerals from 6am to 4pm frame a complex design of carefully graduated radials that mark the hours and the half hours. The large but slender gnomon casts a long shadow.
The imbalance in the hour marks – 6 to the left of the noon line, 4 to the right – presumably arises from the orientation of the church and its relation to the angle of the sun (though that’s probably not the correct technical way to express it).
NOTE there is a plausible medieval scratch dial on one buttress (not as yet recorded). It’s status is under consideration by others… If it is deemed a dial I will write it up separately.