CLOSWORTH CHURCH, SOMERSET: A TOMB & A SUNDIAL


Closworth, a small village on the Somerset / Dorset border, has a fine church with c13 origins. The village itself is best known for its historical importance as a bell-foundry between the c16 and c18, originating with the Purdue family. Few traces of the foundry remain, but some notable bells survive from its earliest days, for example in Wells Cathedral.

A quick visit to the church revealed two items of interest for this blog: a fine early c17 tomb; and an agreeable but gnomon-less sundial of uncertain date.

TOMB OF WILLIAM COLLINS, 1609

HERE . LYETH . THE . BODIE .
OF . WILLIAM . COLLINS . THE .
SONNE . OF . ELLIS . COLLINS . WHO
DIED . THE . XXIX . OF . IAN
ANO . DOMI . 1609

The inscription on this lichened hamstone tomb is in leaded letters set into the stone and fixed. Not all have survived the intervening centuries. I have no idea how this was achieved, but presumably the lettering was first cut into the stone; and with the stone on a horizontal surface the lead was then added to fit the incisions, and pinned in place. The result is pleasingly rustic, with some ornamentation of the As and Hs. This type of inscription-work may not be particularly unusual, but seeing this ancient tomb dappled by sunlight on a spring day made it seem special. And I always enjoy ornamental dates.

Tomb 1609. All Saints Church Closworth, Somerset Tomb 1609. All Saints Church Closworth, Somerset Tomb 1609. All Saints Church Closworth, Somerset

 

SUNDIAL: ALL SANTS CHURCH, CLOSWORTH

We didn’t notice the sundial on the way into the churchyard. Our attention had been drawn to a tall memorial to the other side of the path. On the way out, it was of course obvious – as was the lack of a gnomon. Like the tomb and the gateposts, the pillar appears to be made from the local hamstone. There isn’t much information to be gleaned from the dial itself. There’s no maker’s mark (though sometimes those are hidden on the underside of the plate). At a guess, it is c19, but any comments would be welcome.

Sundial, All Saints Church Closworth, Somerset Sundial, All Saints Church Closworth, Somerset Sundial, All Saints Church Closworth, Somerset Sundial, All Saints Church Closworth, Somerset

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PORTLAND, DORSET (2): CHESIL BEACH & THE FLEET


240px-Dorset_UK_location_map.svg

The Chesil Beach, or Chesil Bank, is a dramatic 18-mile curve of steeply banked shingle stretching north-west from Portland (the southern-most point of Dorset) to West Bay via Abbotsbury. The formation contains a long tidal lagoon known as the Fleet.* 

Portland Bill & Chesil Beach (Landsat)

Before a causeway road was constructed, the bank connected the mainland to the Isle of Portland, creating a form of TOMBOLO (strictly, it is a ‘barrier beach’). The uninterrupted shingle strip of Chesil beach is up to 50 feet high in places. The stones are large at the Portland end, gradually reducing in size until, by the western end at West Bay, they are pea-sized. It is said that in the past (and maybe still) local people were able to tell the location on the beach that a particular pebble had come from. This knowledge was supposedly helpful for the accurate landing of contraband at dead of night, smuggling being a popular occupation along the Dorset coast (and maybe still).

Chesil Beach, the Fleet and the Isle of Portland, from the north-west over AbbotsburyWiki

Chesil Beach looking north-west from a viewpoint on PortlandChesil Bank 1

A long shot of the same view, showing the Fleet  lagoonChesil Bank 2

Boats on top of the beach at PortlandChesil Bank 15

This view shows the breadth of the beach at the Portland end – solid shingle throughoutChesil Bank 4

Further along, fishermen line up all along the water’s edgeChesil Bank 5

The rake of the beach on the seaward side. It’s much steeper on the landward side.Chesil Bank 6

We sat on a tide-shelf above the waterline – the top stones bone dry, the next layer down wet.Chesil Bank 12

Everyone will be familiar with the gentle swoosh sound of small shingle as the waves come and go. On Chesil Beach, the wave interaction with the large pebbles produces a remarkable clattering and clacking sound that is mesmerising to listen to. Luckily I remembered the video button on my camera, so here’s a very short movie to demonstrate this.

Here is a collection of photos of the stones around us as we sat by the sea. The apparently uniform colouring of the beach from a distance turns out to be a blend of many soft, subtle colours and shades – not least because the stones are of different materials. The geology of the beach would make a good post for another occasion, but not by me!

Chesil Bank 13Chesil Bank 10 Close-up of the bottom left corner aboveChesil Bank 11Chesil Bank 7 Chesil Bank 8 Chesil Bank 9 Chesil Bank 14

Finally, a reminder of the area’s more turbulent past – a time of press-gangs, blackjacks and daggers swiftly drawn in candlelit taverns. A portland stone plaque in the Church of St George, Portland gives eloquent testimony to an era of lawlessness.Press Gang Memorial, Portland

Later, and perhaps in consequence, Portland became the centre of the Knuckleduster-making industry that flourished on the island until the passing of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953, which defined and prohibited “the carrying of offensive weapons without lawful authority or reasonable excuse”. The industry, already in sharp decline in the 1930s, was by then nearly defunct, with only one craftsman still active on Portland. In 2012, a large and elegant sculpture to commemorate this unusual aspect of Portland’s history was installed in a prominent position, commanding a fine view over the the Chesil Beach to Weymouth and the mainland beyond.

Chesil Bank 3The ‘Knuckleduster Memorial’ also marked Weymouth & Portland as the Olympic Sailing venue

* I’m reluctant to endorse the enthusiastic marketing of large swathes of the Dorset seaboard as ‘The Jurassic Coast’. There are fossils in many places. They are fun to look for. More fun to find. Best not to turn it into a Theme Park. I’ll leave it at that.

WALL INSCRIPTIONS, CALENZANO ALTO, ITALY


 

Wall Inscriptions, Calenzano, Italy 2Wall Inscriptions, Calenzano, Italy 4Wall Inscriptions, Calenzano, Italy 3Wall Inscriptions, Calenzano, Italy 1

DETAILS OF A SOMERSET CHURCH WALL – ST MICHAEL’S, BLACKFORD


The walls of this church, apparently of uniform colour from a distance, are richly patterned with lichen and varied hues. All these images were taken within about 12 feet of each other, ranging from weathered Ham stone wall to lichen-capped stone face 

BEACH STONE PATTERNS, WEYMOUTH


BEACH STONE PATTERNS ON WEYMOUTH BEACH, DORSET

ROLLRIGHT STONES, OXFORDSHIRE: (1) PATTERNS


The Rollright Stones in Oxfordshire is a late-neolithic stone circle about 30 meters in diameter. The stones are heavily marked by time, and many have colourful lichen growths. Some of these lichens are thought to be 400 – 800 years old. Here are some examples of the stone patterns