At St Gregory’s Minster in Kirkdale, North Yorkshire, in the south porch you can still see the 11th century sundial made by Hawarth when Brand was the priest.
The full inscription can still be made out.
On the left hand side:
+ORM GAMAL SVNA BOHTE SCS GREGORIVS MINSTER ÐONNE HIT ǷES ÆL TOBROCAN & TOFALAN & HE HIT LET MACAN NEWAN FROM GRVNDE XPE & SCS GREGORIVS IN EADWARD DAGVM CNG &N TOSTI DAGVM EORL+
Orm, son of Gamal, bought St Gregory’s Minster when it was all broken and fallen down and he made it anew from the ground for Christ and the Saints in King Edward’s day and in the days of Earl Tostig
In the centre:
+THIS IS DÆGES SOLMERCA + ÆT ILCVM TIDE+
This is the sun marker of the day and at each time
On the right hand side:
+& HAWARÐ ME ǷROHTE & BRAND PRS
Hawarth made me and Brand the priest
Little of Orm’s rebuilding programme has survived beyond the sundial. There was probably a church there in the 8th century but there are no remains for that. The south and west walls incorporate Orm’s work: an archway, some shafts and capitals. The church also has sculptures on display including some cross heads, a tomb slab associated with Bishop Cedd (died 664 AD), a tomb slab associated with King Æþelwald of Northumbria (died 765 AD) and a stone quern (hand mill) which may in fact be the oldest item there.
The sundial is located above the porch as you enter the church. If you feel agile and non-litigious you can scramble up onto a stone ledge to get a closer look. This may not have been its original location but the porch at least protects it from weathering now. It is nevertheless likely to have been placed on the south side of the church to catch the sun.
The format of the dedication is similar to the one at Jarrow on the 7th century St Paul’s Church. Most of the characters inscribed on the sundial are from the Latin alphabet and the language is Old English. Beyond the conventional Latin alphabet the Old English characters of “ash”, Æ, (“a” as in “ash”), “thorn”, Þ, (the “th” sound), eth, Ð, (also “th”) and wynn, Ƿ, (W) are also used. There is also the & symbol, the Tironian note used in Old English for “&”.The abbreviations used are indicated with a short line above them, as in manuscript writing.
Four of the personal names (Orm, Gamal, Hawarð and Brand) are all Scandinavian in origin, as the area was heavily affected by Danish and Norse settlers. King Eadward is of course Edward the Confessor and Earl Tostig is Tostig Godwinson, Earl of Northumbria from 1055-1065. This provides a timeframe for the date of the sundial. It is generally assumed Hawarð was the sculptor and Brand the priest who understood the “computus” or science of calculating times and dates, especially for Easter. Orm himself can be identified in the Domesday Book as Orm at Chircheby (probably Kirkdale).
Sundials were old technology. There are Roman examples in the same half-dial format as this one, and also early (7th century) Anglo-Saxon ones at Bewcastle on the Cross, and at the church Escomb above the south doorway used by the laity.
Most people would have used landscape shadows as a means of telling the time, so the sundial probably had a more symbolic meaning given its position at the church entrance, possibly relating to the need to keep watch for the Second Coming, and the concept of the day, and all of life, as a pilgrimage. For example, Ælfric in one of his sermons compared sun to Christ, and the waxing and waning of the moon to cycle of birth and death. Likewise the Old English poem, the Menologium, links the passage of the seasons with the church calendar, starting with midwinter and the birth of Jesus.