Sundial restoration at Butterton church turns up a mystery engraving

Brass sundial plate turned over and showing engraved writing on the back

The engraving looks like Gothic script but we didn’t know how to read it. We do hope to learn more about this extraordinary discovery on the back of a brass sundial. So far it has proved a mystery.

The Church of St Bartholomew in the lovely Staffordshire village of Butterton in the Peak District stands on high ground. Its tall spire is visible for miles around. Just near the church’s south porch there is a sundial. The sundial pedestal may once have been part of a medieval stone cross, and the dial made of brass has a pattern on the surface of a long period of weathering outdoors. For many years the gnomon had been missing. There was no gnomon shadow and so the sundial could not show the time.

Butterton’s History Society said they wanted to see the sundial restored, and we took on the job of restoration for them. The dial was attached to the stone with old square nails hammered into lead plugs that were very difficult to remove. Eventually the dial was loosened and when it came free we turned it over. There on the back was engraved writing, which completely took us by surprise. The writing looked like Gothic script but we weren’t sure how to read it. Then we alerted the South West Peak team, who are sponsors for the project, and cultural heritage officer Catherine Parker Heath has put out a call for information. This is an extraordinary find on the underside of a brass sundial.