Saltwood Church Mass Dial, Saltwood parish church

 

Mass Dials, or scratch dials, are medieval, dating between 1100-1600. Dials are usually found on the south walls of churches. They were usually near the main door or the priest door, which gave direct entry to the chancel of the church and they are about four to five feet above the ground. It is supposed that they were made and used by the clergy to show the time when the service would start.

 

About 8 or 9 inches across and rather roughly cut, they came in a wide variety of designs from semi-circles of dots to complete circles with associated radii. Their chronology is difficult to determine but simple versions with only four or five lines are early whilst those with numbers round the edge (rare) are late.

The gnomon, invariably missing, pointed straight out horizontally and so the dial would not record the same hours at all times of the year. The mass dial is any case usually regarded as an event marker for the church services rather than a time piece.