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.

 

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A COMPLEX SUNDIAL AT LLUC MONASTERY, MALLORCA


Multiple Vertical Sundial, Lluc Monastery, Mallorca (Keith Salvesen)

The secluded Monastery of Lluc is situated near Escorca in the Tramuntana mountains of Mallorca. It dates from the c13, and is famous for its Black Madonna, the discovery of which is said to have led to the monastery’s foundation . It is a place of pilgrimage. The location is remote and peaceful, though inevitably the monastery has become an essential stop on the tourist and coach party trail. We returned there recently, not having visited Mallorca for more than 20 years. The buildings were much as we remembered, but the parking and visitor arrangements were more regimented and complex. Before, one just drove down the narrow road from the main mountain road and parked in the forecourt area close to the buildings. Now, everything is (unsurprisingly) geared to a daily mass influx of people and their needs for sustenance and souvenirs. We were pleased to see that it is still possible to stay at Lluc in one of small rooms under a long covered walk where the monks once slept. You can reach the Monastery’s website – and even book a room – HERE.

Multiple Vertical Sundial, Lluc Monastery, Mallorca (Keith Salvesen)A short walk from the monastery, one can climb a path to a calvary and some great views. Along the way is a an amazing multiple vertical sundial. It was designed by Rafael Soler, and carved in 1991 and displays with some style the evolution of sundials. There are two historical dials, one central solar dial, and two modern dials.

CANONICAL HOURS – LATINATE

This dial simply records the 3-hourly canonical divisions of the liturgical day (as with the early medieval mass / scratch dials), starting with midnight (top) and working counterclockwise round a central gnomon. Multiple Vertical Sundial, Lluc Monastery, Mallorca (Keith Salvesen)

CANONICAL HOURS – BABYLONIAN / MALLORQUIN

A more complex dial, starting at noon (XXIV) through to 21.00, and including the months and the signs of the Zodiac.

Multiple Vertical Sundial, Lluc Monastery, Mallorca (Keith Salvesen)

TEMPS VERTADER – TRUE SOLAR TIME

The centre sundial shows true solar time. The polar gnomon (triangular) shows the hours, the pointer shows the date with the declination lines. The inscription MULIER AMICTER SOLE (Woman Clothed by the Sun) references an account in the Book of Revelations.

 Multiple Vertical Sundial, Lluc Monastery, Mallorca (Keith Salvesen)

MEAN TIME DIAL (SUMMER /AUTUMN)

The two right-hand sundials are complementary and each covers two seasons.  I think this must mean that for a particular month, one will be reliable as to time and the ‘off-season’ one will not.

Multiple Vertical Sundial, Lluc Monastery, Mallorca (Keith Salvesen)

MEAN TIME DIAL (SUMMER /AUTUMN)

Multiple Vertical Sundial, Lluc Monastery, Mallorca (Keith Salvesen)

The creation of these dials was obviously a labour of love and skill combined. There’s doubtless plenty more to be said about these sundials and the splendid ensemble but I have decided not to get too technical – indeed, I don’t understand enough to do so anyway. Apologies for the rather washed out appearance of the images. This was operator error – I had the camera on the wrong settings and didn’t realise until later…

Credits: Props to arby101ca and lumbricus, members of a geocaching & waymarking website called Groundspeak. They hiked to Lluc (respect!) and wrote informatively about these dials. I found relatively little elsewhere.

THE SUNDIALS AT LITLINGTON CHURCH, EAST SUSSEX (2)


Litlington Church, East Sussex: the sundials (Keith Salvesen)

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 Societys 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. 

Litlington Church, East Sussex: the sundials (Keith Salvesen)

Northeast Face (1)Litlington Church, East Sussex: the sundials (Keith Salvesen)

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)Litlington Church, East Sussex: the sundials (Keith Salvesen)

Litlington Church, East Sussex: the sundials (Keith Salvesen)

DIAL TWO – NORTHWEST FACE

Litlington Church, East Sussex: the sundials (Keith Salvesen)

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.

Litlington Church, East Sussex: the sundials (Keith Salvesen)

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.

Litlington Church, East Sussex: the sundials (Keith Salvesen)

RELATED POST

LITLINGTON SUNDIAL 1

All photos Keith Salvesen / Rolling Harbour

THE SUNDIALS AT LITLINGTON CHURCH, EAST SUSSEX (1)


St Michael's Church, Litlington East Sussex (Keith Salvesen)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.

St Michael's Church - the porch. Litlington East Sussex (Keith Salvesen)The church dates from c1150, and was restored in the mid-c19. The porch is where the quest for the main sundial ends – the benchmark, too. 

St Michael's Church - sundial & benchmark. Litlington East Sussex (Keith Salvesen)
A close inspection shows just how unusual this scratch dial is – quite possibly unique. The only full account of it that I have found appears in an article by W. Oliver published in SCM* Volume 12 1938  Page 529The link is given below.
St Michael's Church, Litlington East Sussex (Keith Salvesen)

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. 

An improvised biro ‘style’ indicates the correct timeSt Michael's Church, Litlington East Sussex (Keith Salvesen)

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

Church Sundial at Litlington By W. Oliver  http://www.massdials.org.uk/texts/scm12.htm

Do the 3 holes support the theory of an added gnomon fixed below the original style hole?St Michael's Church, Litlington East Sussex (Keith Salvesen)

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.

BRITISH SUNDIAL SOCIETY

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

ARMILLARY SPHERE SUNDIAL: KINGSTON LACY, DORSET


ARMILLARY SPHERE SUNDIAL: KINGSTON LACY, DORSET (Keith Salvesen)

This enjoyable armillary sphere at Kingston Lacy stands proudly on a tall stone baluster in the middle of a rose garden. I wanted to get close to it to look for markings, few of which were visible at a distance. However the lush spring growth deterred closer investigation, and I preferred to leave it inspected. It is not included in Historic England’s detailed descriptions of the house and garden. A photograph found online suggests that the sundial was at one time located elsewhere in the garden, near a wall. I need to try a bit harder to find a date for it.

ARMILLARY SPHERE SUNDIAL: KINGSTON LACY, DORSET (Keith Salvesen) ARMILLARY SPHERE SUNDIAL: KINGSTON LACY, DORSET (Keith Salvesen) ARMILLARY SPHERE SUNDIAL: KINGSTON LACY, DORSET (Keith Salvesen) ARMILLARY SPHERE SUNDIAL: KINGSTON LACY, DORSET (Keith Salvesen) ARMILLARY SPHERE SUNDIAL: KINGSTON LACY, DORSET (Keith Salvesen)

All photos: Keith Salvesen Photography

A STAINED GLASS SUNDIAL AT TOLLER PORCORUM, DORSET


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’. 

Toller Porcorum Church, Dorset (Nigel Walden / Geograph)

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.  

Toller Porcorum Church, Dorset - Stained Glass Sundial

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. 

Toller Porcorum Church, Dorset - Stained Glass Sundial

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.

Toller Porcorum Church, Dorset - Stained Glass Sundial

Toller Porcorum Church, Dorset - Stained Glass Sundial

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!

AN UNUSUAL MAZE AT PAUL, CORNWALL & A VIEW TO DIE FOR


St Michael's Mount from Paul Churchyard, Cornwall (Keith Salvesen)

Paul is a small village west of Penzance, Cornwall. It sits high on the hill above its more famous neighbour, Mousehole. Paul’s historic parish church, St Pol de Léon, has origins reputedly dating from late fifth century. The medieval building was (to my ignorant surprise) badly damaged in a raid by the Spanish in 1595, several years after the Armada. Mousehole also suffered great damage in the same raid. Until visiting Paul this summer, I had no idea that the Spanish had ever managed to breach England’s defences. So I checked online and was quickly led to the BATTLE OF CORNWALL, of which I had never heard. So now I know… I hope Hispano-Kernowek relations have improved.

Paul, Cornwall: the extended churchyard (Keith Salvesen)

The Church merits its own post in due course. For the moment, the maze-collector in me found a different interest in a nearby extension to the churchyard. An engraved stone set into a wall, and a small diagram nearby, led me to a path and a large area of hillside with extensive views out to sea, and east towards St Michael’s Mount.  

Near the more recent gravestones was a sundial; and closer inspection revealed that it was at the centre of a small, overgrown maze outlined on the grass in granite. How I longed, interferingly, to have a strimmer handy. But apart from tracing some of the pattern with my foot, I restrained my quite unreasonable urge to disclose the maze…

Paul Churchyard Cornwall: sundial & maze (Keith Salvesen)Paul Churchyard Cornwall: sundial & maze (Keith Salvesen)Paul Churchyard Cornwall: sundial & maze (Keith Salvesen)