I quite see that fishing huts are a bit of a specialist subject. However, this may be one of the prettiest anywhere, with its little garden and benignly low-key comfort. A good place to spend a day, even for those that don’t enjoy the fishing…
The remarkable, sophisticated and possibly unique scratch dial on the face of the church porch that I recently featured HERE is not the only dial on this attractive Sussex Church. Almost unremarked are what are passingly mentioned in the only two references I have found online as ‘two further sundials on a north buttress’ (a nod here to the Eastbourne Church Recording Group). These dials do not even appear in the British Sundial Society‘s list of mass / scratch dials (though they do feature the main dial on the porch).
DIAL ONE – NORTHEAST FACE
Having been told about the three – three! – dials, I was fairly confident when I set out to search for them. The first one – on the porch – was easy, not least because it was on the most obvious, south-facing, location possible. Then the trouble started. Without the Church Warden’s aid, I’d never ever have found the other 2. Who would guess that the dials would be (a) on the north side, (b) a couple of feet off the ground and (c) set at a 90º angle to each other on the same stone block in a buttress.
Northeast Face (1)
In the absence of any other information, dating these dials is very hard. The church dates from c1150. These dials, almost identical in construction as far as one can tell, are clearly simpler and far cruder than the main dial on the porch that is dated to the c15 and is transitional in scratch dial design between showing canonical hours and the ‘modern’ 24 hour clock. Yet both dials are full circles, and have 24 ‘dots’ surrounding the central hole for the pointer – notwithstanding that only the ‘daytime’ area on each dial is functional in practice. As far as I can make out, this is not an unusual arrangement.
Northeast Face (2)
It’s hard to find any significant difference between this dial and its adjacent counterpart, other than the direction faced. I didn’t make any measurements, but this 24 dot dial seems smaller, not least because the available space on this face is less. The assumption must be that both dials were made at around the same time, presumably to catch the early morning and late afternoon sun. I’ve no idea why they were located so low on the building, since there are higher cornerstones on this buttress that would have done as well – and perhaps have been more readable at eye-level.
Sundials are an interest but very far from a speciality for me. If anyone can shed any light on dials of this sort – date, construction / design, location on the building – please comment on this post, or email me at rollingharbour.delphi [at] gmail.com. And if you know of a similar dial, please get in touch.
The majority of churches have no integral sundial. Those that do are usually content with one; some may supplement that with a standing sundial in the churchyard. Very few have three sundials that are integral to the building itself and to its history. The small church of Litlington East Sussex is one such. It also has a large benchmark on the porch, and three superb bells dating from the early c15. The main sundial is easy to spot; the other two are far less visible. I spent sometime looking for them in vain, until the church warden took pity on me. But (*spoiler alert*) whoever would expect to find sundials low down on a north wall? They deserve a post in their own right, which will form part 2. They are so far undocumented as far as I can see, except locally.
There are 3 features that immediately stand out: the deep ‘furrow’ at 12 noon; the confusing style / pointer holes; and in particular the carefully graduated hour markings.
A REMARKABLE DIAL
W. Oliver makes several points in his article, which distilled come to this:
- This is a scratch dial typical of Saxon times and the middle ages, incised on the building stones
- The design (for the period) is “most exceptional, if not unique” among the 1400 recorded church scratch dials
- Other dials have equally spaced hour-lines that cannot measure time accurately, and certainly not year-long (though pointer adjustments could be made to compensate)
- These were primarily intended to indicate the 5 Canonical hours for prayer, not time
- Extra lines were sometimes added, as time measurement became more sophisticated
- At Litlington, exceptionally, the hour-line spacing is ‘scientific’ to enable accuracy
- The lines are carefully graduated down to and up from 12 noon
- This scientific approach is very much as seen on modern vertical sundials
- The usual hole for a style / pointer is supplemented by the deeper groove at noon
- This suggests there was at some stage a slanting gnomon, as found on modern wall dials
- This could have been set to the latitude of Litlington to ensure year-round accuracy
- The Litlington scratch dial may in fact be the only one able to tell the time properly
DATING THE DIAL
W. Oliver does not give a date for the dial, other than ‘Middle Ages’ (it’s clearly not as old as Saxon). In a website called https://www.bestofengland.com the entry for this church states “Outside there is still a 13th century sundial on the porch”. This dating seems to have caught on and appears in e.g. Tripadvisor descriptions.
The local website http://www.litlington.info/st-michael-the-archangel-church-litlington says “Outside, on the porch, is a 15th century scientific sundial…” Given the sophistication of the Litlington dial, the first date seems clearly wrong and the second must be the preferred date. It also fits in with date of the installation of the earliest bell – perhaps a time of general improvements to the church. Even so, in the light of W. Oliver’s analysis, the dial shows an extraordinary understanding of the principles of recording time accurately that is apparently absent in the 1399 other instances of scratch dials in the country. The British Sundial Society has a short entry (see below) for this dial (and none for the other two at the ‘back’ of this church, mentioned earlier), including a reference to a polar gnomon. No mention of a possible date, but I take ‘transitional’ to mean between the era of marking the Canonical Hours and the gradual move to a 12 / 24 hour clock as the standard for time-telling.
The brief entry states “The dial can be seen to the right of the porch. All hour lines 6am – 6pm, but no numbers or any trace that there ever were any. Lines correctly delineated for a polar gnomon. No trace of old lines, so possibly not a re-cut mass dial. 310 diam. semicircle. Transitional dial? Ref. C Daniel, Sundials, Shire Album 176,1986, p5 Location 50°47’50″N, 0°9’34″E; National Grid: TQ 523 020″
The illustration to W. Oliver’s article
Any comments about this remarkable dial would be welcome.
Research as specified / linked. * = Sussex County Magazine. The Litlington website entry is as recorded by the Eastbourne Church Recording Group between 2007/2009. All photos Keith Salvesen / Rolling Harbour except as indicated
Mariakirken is an historic parish church in the central Bryggen area of Bergen, Norway. The church dates from the c12, and is said to be the oldest in Bergen. It is certainly the last remaining church from that early period. However, over the centuries the church has had to be repaired or reconstructed a number of times, not least due to fires – a problem arising in part from the close-built wooden houses and warehouses (as with the great fire of London). The last restoration was completed 4 years ago.
There was a service in progress when we walked up to the church from the harbour on a rather grey day. We had noticed people in Bunad (traditional costume) earlier, perhaps on their way to this church. So we headed for the splendid romanesque doorway, reminiscent of Norman architecture elsewhere in Europe.
The church is also known locally as ‘the German Church’. In the middle ages Bergen had a significant German population consisting mainly of the traders and merchants. Their wealth helped the Church to prosper. The strong connection continued until the late c19.
The details of the porch are most enjoyable, with the toothed arch, twist columns and arch, and its depth seeming to invite one inside. The carvings on the capitals are interesting, especially the creatures on either side – I have seen very similar early medieval ones in southwest France. Next time we go to Bergen, we must investigate the interior…
Toller Porcorum is an archetypal Dorset village, right down to a latinate name redolent of medieval swine-herding (cf Ryme Intrinseca, Kington Magna etc). The fine Church of St Peter and St Andrew lies at the heart of the village, and is also very ‘Dorset’.
While I was fishing on the nearby River Frome a couple of weeks ago, Mrs RH visited some churches in the area, including this one. Inside, she noticed an unusual modern ‘glass sundial’ set in a stained glass window, a marker of the hours and the millennium.
Knowing that sundials are one of the features on this blog, she took a few photographs with her phone. They have come out very well.
In the close-up above, you can just make out the shadow of the gnomon at approx 12.40 (midday being at the bottom). On the outside the gnomon, in the right-hand window (below), is elegantly simple and unobtrusive. The close-up shows it more clearly. But of course the effect is meant to be seen from the inside, if only to time the length of the sermon.
Lordy, but I am negligent of this site. Thanks you, kind people who still come to look at stuff here even though (I am ashamed to note) my last post was in November 2017. I’m going to try to get back on track with this side-project… there’s quite a backlog of material!
Milton Abbey, more properly called ‘The Abbey Church of St Mary, St Sansom and St Bradwalader*’, is a former Benedictine monastery founded in c10. The present building dates from the c14 and c15. The Abbey, with a post-reformation country house attached where the monastic buildings used to be, is now a school.
The Church building consists of the tower, transepts and choir. The nave is entirely absent, not as the result of the reformation’s destructive zeal (though that may account for the absence of statues in the empty interior niches). In fact, the nave was never built. The blank arch on the ‘front’ side (below) indictes how huge the nave – and the completed edifice – would have been.
The country house / school buildings are to the left side of the Abbey. This isn’t the place to detail the comings and goings of the various families who lived there, but it’s all on Wiki and also in an exhaustive entry in the Dorset ‘Pevsner’ – or in more technical detail HERE
We enjoyed a c15 pun high on a wall inside the Church. The date shown on the device looks at first sight to be 1618, but is in fact 1514. Medieval numbering was not formed in quite the way we are familiar with now. The W stands for Abbot William of Middleton (the original town name, shortened to Milton), with his rebus, a mill on top of a tun. Close to the Church, there is a small stone circle about which I became quite excited. Sadly, a complete lack of mention of this circle in any historical context suggests that it is a modern imposter, perhaps related to a school project. But it’s pretty convincing!
*Me neither. And online research doesn’t disclose much about St Bradwalader. Or indeed anything at all.
All photos: Keith Salvesen
The historic market town of Penistone, South Yorkshire, lies in the foothills of the Pennines, in a farming area with its own rare breed of sheep. Records of the sheep market date from the c17. The Grade 1 listed church has a mainly c14 interior, with visible older origins. In the c19, the new railway brought prosperity and expansion; then Dr Beeching’s axe fell in the 1960s. The livestock market is long gone, but a general market still continues in a space now somewhat reduced by a Tesco store and car park.
THE NEW ‘OLD’ MARKET HALL
In 2011 a new and innovative building was opened in the town as a covered market hall. I say ‘innovative’, but in fact the splendid cruck building is made using techniques as old as the town’s church. Steel frame and mirror glass it is emphatically not. Built of oak by the firm Carpenter Oak of Devon, this striking building resembles a typical tithe barn of several centuries ago. The crucks, or curved timbers, bear the weight of the frames and beams that support the roof. The joints are held using stout wooden pegs. The use of such medieval building techniques in the c21 has produced a spectacular public space. The recently published Pevsner for Yorkshire West Riding includes the market hall in the entry for Penistone – and a photograph of it, an accolade indeed.
Most of the large timbers we saw were engraved with carpenters’ marks. These are traditionally used during the construction of wooden buildings. Their primary purpose is to identify the timbers, the component parts of the frame. Modified Roman numerals are mainly used. Some marks relate to positioning for joints or peg-holes. Sometimes individual carpenters will ‘make their mark’; but this is not such a common practice as it is with masons.
Examples of location markings
An interior timber denoted by a ‘roof’
A couple of different marks from the front of the hall
Only one thing detracted slightly from the pleasure of this new old building. Most of the handsome oak pillars inside have already been disfigured by graffiti, much of it lewd or anatomical in the classic c21 manner…
Acknowledgements: Carpenter Oak, Devon; Pevsner ‘Buildings of England’ series (West Riding); and a nod to Kate Rusby, well-known & outstanding folk singer, who was born nearby