St James’  church is believed to have been built in the 12th century; surviving  Norman fabric includes the south doorway, the carved font, and two ornate capitals built into the east wall of the aisle. The rebuilding of the chancel and the construction of the tower and porch may date to the 15th century, with the north aisle being much later. The church was restored in the 19th century.

There is interesting graffiti on the porch, including the date 1606, a large merchants mark, an article resembling  a downward pointing dagger, and many probable initials – some of them deeply cut. High on the east side of the porch doorway moulding there is a mass dial, consisting of 5 feint lines radiating downwards from a large gnomon hole.  The quoins lower down to either side of the doorway also have fairly large holes/indentations, but seem to have no signs of radiating lines suggestive of another dial.

Within the west side of the porch is a curious deeply carved circular device, which appears to be in its original position (so not a former dial, despite the central hole), as it is cut into the doorway moulding. Later lines, forming something of a triangle, have been carefully scored across it. It seems possible that it had some apotropaic meaning, or at least the ‘reworking’ of it by the addition of lines. Circular features with central holes/indentations are not uncommon finds in church fabric, and were clearly not all former mass dials.

Graffiti on the priests’ doorway includes a pattern of holes (possibly apotropaic), score marks and initials. 

Inside the church, on the benches, there are a number of hexafoils, circles and initials. There are apotropaic marks (multiple letter M’s, often referred to as Marian marks) on the piscina and probable letters on the Easter sepulchre.

The lead of the tower roof was partly obscured by algae at the time of the site visit, but at least two shoe outlines (one feint, not shown here) and many initials were evident. There may be further graffiti beneath the algae.

Bondleigh, St James the Apostle
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