ST PETER’S CHURCH, CHETNOLE, DORSET


St Peter's Church, Chetnole, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

St Peter’s, Chetnole is a pretty and very typical rural Dorset church with a long history. It is at the heart of the village, and the popular village pub is close by. The openness of the churchyard is one of its attractions, and helps the church to be seen to its best advantage.

St Peter's Church, Chetnole, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

St Peter’s dates from c13, including the nave, the south door and a lancet window. Later features date mostly from c15 including the barrel vault and the tower, which was rebuilt at least in part in the c16. The four gargoyles on the tower are of particular note. The south porch is later. In the mid-c19, the church was enlarged (controversially, apparently) with the addition of the north aisle, and the chancel was refurbished. The clock was installed in soon after (and remains reliable). I couldn’t find the trace of a medieval scratch dial, though (see Sundials) other local churches have one.

St Peter's Church, Chetnole, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

The bells are of particular interest, with the first and second of the three being among the oldest in Dorset. They were cast by a London founder, William Chamberlain, in about 1500 and inscribed respectively: wox augustinae sonet in aure dei (‘the voice of Augustine speaks in the ear of God’), and sante laurenti ora pro nobis (‘St Lawrence pray for us’). The third (tenor) bell was cast in 1865 by John Warner and Sons of London, and weighs about 8cwt. The fittings are not suitable for ringing, so the bells are chimed.

St Peter's Church, Chetnole, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

St Peter’s is worth making a detour for if you are in the area, not least because of its attractive setting, and after visiting the church the proximity of the pub with its ales, food and garden for those with a thirst after righteousness to quench.

Photos: Keith Salvesen; Info adapted from Three Parishes Benefice’s informative website

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A MEDIEVAL MASS DIAL IN PIDDLETRENTHIDE, DORSET


Medieval Mass Sundial, Piddletrenthide Church, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

The village of Piddletrenthide in Dorset lies by the upper reaches of the River Piddle, Dorset’s most amusingly named river. Like its close neighbour, the larger River Frome, the Piddle flows roughly ESE to Poole Harbour. Piddletrenthide is an interesting village for many reasons, but I am heading straight to the northern end, to All Saint’s Church which dates from C12. And I’m zeroing in on the porch.

As you can see, centrally above the porch entrance is, firstly, a badly degraded tablet (only the letter A is clearly visible). Above it is a fine, well-defined sundial. Probably, the experts would not call it a mass dial at all, since it is not actually cut into the church’s stonework, but is on its own block stapled (now anyway) to the church wall. As British History Online (a great resource) puts it, Sundial: Above entry to S. porch, rectangular stone slab with enriched border, Roman numerals, wrought-iron gnomon and date 1602

There’s no doubt about the date. ‘1602’ is completely clear, though the preceding inscription is harder to decipher. By sight, I could only clearly make out the words TO BE, as mentioned by the British Sundial Society (see below). Photographs taken on a sunny day reveal more, and I have done a bit of work on one of them – making it black and white for a start. I believe the legible part of the inscription reads OCTOBER  ? ? 23 (possibly 1523).  A ladder might make the task of completing the inscription easier! 

The design is rather more sophisticated than earlier dials. For a start, marking the canonical hours is by now a thing of the past; this dial is on the 24-hour clock that arrived with the early timepieces. The dial marks from 6am to 6 pm, but it is old enough for IV to be rendered as IIII. Also, this is a ‘scientific dial’.  With very early dials, the distance between the markers was equal, an inherently unreliable system throughout the year. Gradually, dials acquired graduated markers that narrowed towards the lowest mark, and widened after it. This provided greater accuracy. Among the earliest – if not THE earliest example – is at LITLINGTON CHURCH in East Sussex.

The above photograph shows the stubby gnomon. I assume it is not the original one. I must have taken this photograph around midday. The face is decorated with a lattice design on both sides, the right side being rather more worn. In addition there are two attractive roundels with a design I can’t make out. A Maltese cross, perhaps? The British Sundial Society describes the dial thus: Shows 6am to 6pm in half hours. Two circular motifs cut into either side of gnomon, decoration cut into dial sides. IIII for 4pm. Triangular sheet gnomon with lead fixings – possibly not original. A possible inscription at bottom “.. ..To Be.. ..” .

All Saints is a fascinating Church, both outside and inside. There are many inventive gargoyles and other carvings; and the interior is very rewarding. Another post about this church will follow in due course.  Meanwhile, as a side note, the Piddletrenthide Parish Records detail a most interesting fact that will have me revisiting the church for sure: The first known use of Arabic numerals can be seen in an inscription on the west door of the church tower ‘Est pydeltrenth villa in dorsedie comitatu Nascitur in illa quam rexit Vicariatu 1487’. The use of Roman numerals continued in Europe for at least another century so it is quite something to find Arabic numerals inscribed over a doorway in a small village in Dorset.

 

MARIAKIRKEN, BERGEN: A FINE DOORWAY


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.

Marienkirken Bergen (Nina Aldin Thune / Wiki)

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…

General Church photo, Nina Aldin Thune / Wiki (my own was hopeless, as it turned out); rest © Keith Salvesen