Time Teller, Barnwood (2)

Recent Photograph of Time Teller (2) (Barnwood)

This is one of 2 ‘time tellers’ set into an exterior wall of St Lawrence's Church.

It is believed to be a medieval “mass dial”. The hole in the centre would have been filled with a wooden peg (known as a “gnomon”), which cast a shadow when the sun was shining, the “spokes” on its path indicating significant times of the day, usually the hours of liturgical service. The earliest examples of this type of sundial are believed to date from Saxon times, the design being later refined, and possibly superseded, to become the more easily recognisable type of sundial, marked in hours. Certainly, by the 16th Century Reformation, “mass dials” would no longer be appropriate, and of course by that time, mechanical clocks, first introduced in the 14th century, had made their appearance.

This photograph is of what appears to be in the later circular style, possibly an attempt to convey a 24-hour day, or at least a longer period than the 12 hours possible in a semi-circular design.

(Information provided by John Williams/Rosemary Lockie)

Article “Medieval Mass Dials Decoded” on the Building Conservation (Cathedral Communications Ltd) website.

Image contributed by John Williams on 13th February 2011.
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