Illustrated Dictionary of British Churches - Scratch Dial Definition

History and Architecture

Scratch Dial

A very simple form of sun dial, usually in a circular shape. Scratch dials were scratched or carved into the exterior church wall and used to tell the time, especially the time of church services. In an age when clocks were unknown or exceptionally rare, such primitive sundials may have been essential as a way to determine the correct time for services. At the centre of the dial is a hole where a small peg was inserted to act as a simple sundial marker. They might have had only three or four radiating sections, rather than a full 360 degree of lines, as it was only necessary to tell the time of services, so extra lines were unnecessary.




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