A Sundial Slide Show
(A click on the photo below advances the slide show.)

The Aldbrough Sundial

The sundial is located on an interior wall (over a pillar on the exterior side of the south nave aisle) of St. Bartholomew's church in Aldbrough, a small town in East Yorkshire located 10 miles northeast of Hull, about a mile from the North Sea coast. The church dates from the second half of the 14th century. The sundial must have originated somewhere else and been moved to the church, and by the state of its preservation we can conclude that the sundial has been sheltered from the elements for most of its existence. The circle of the dial divides the day into 8 parts, indicating that the dial was carved before the Norman Conquest. Here is a description and analysis of the inscription on the dial by R. I. Page, a prominent British scholar of ancient Anglo-Saxon and Viking monuments:

The text is quite well preserved and reads: +VLF LET (?HET) AROERAN CYRICE FOR HANVM 7 FOR GVWARA SAVLA, usually translated as, "+Ulf had this church built for his own sake and for Gunnvor's soul." There is some trace of late Anglo-Saxon work in Aldbrough church, and certainly the inscription contains corresponding late linguistic forms, seen in the collapse of the classsical Old English inflexional system. So, 'cyrice' for accusative singular 'cirican' shows loss of final '-n' and has confusion of the unstressed vowel as does 'savla' for 'saule'. 'Gvnwara' is presumably genitive. The Old Norse form should be 'Gunnwarar' but the Aldbrough name may be Anglicized, its second element a borrowing of OE '-waru' which should have the genitive '-ware'. Loss of definition in the vowel ending is common in late Anglian texts and shows a breakdown of the Old English inflexional system which is not necessarily a result of Old Norse admixture [but not necessarily not the result of such admixture - A.K.]. Aldbrough has also the difficult form 'hanvm', which is usually taken as the dative singular of the 3rd person pronoun, since attempts to derive it from OE 'hean', "poor, desolate", seem semantically misguided. 'hanum' is certainly the Old Norse dative singular of such a pronoun, but of course Old Norse would use the reflexive 'ser' in this context. The Old English equivalent is 'him', and Old English has no reflexive. It looks as though the Aldbrough dialect has a pronominal system influenced but not superseded by the Old Norse one. Both 'Vlf' and 'Gvnwara' represent Scandinavian names, one with loss of inflexional '-r' (which suggests English affection), the other with a second element probably Anglicized.

R. I. Page. 1971. "How long did the Scandinavian language survive in England? The epigraphical evidence." In Peter Clemoes and Kathleen Hughes, eds. England before the Conquest: Studies in primary sources presented to Dorothy Whitelock. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. pp. 165-181.


[ Tony Kroch's home page | Penn Linguistics home page ]

Photos this page © A. Kroch 1998.