GRADE II* † C13 chancel; C14 nave and lower tower with porch (top stage added later); extensive mid-C19 restoration and rebuilding by J Hicks (Thomas Hardy is said to have drawn the plans while apprenticed.) Portland Stone. 5m SE of Dorchester. 50.6788 / -2.3857 / SY728866
There are 3 dials. 2 are adjacent on E side of the porch which is (unusually) set in the tower. Dial 1 is eroded but visible. Dial 2 is vestigial and easily overlooked (eg by BHO / RCHM). Dial 3 is relocated well out of sight on the NE quoin of the church, a place it could never have been originally. It is much the clearest cut of the 3.
Dial 1 is visible as one walks up the path from the gate, but the details remain unclear even close to. The BSS record shows 12 lines within a partial circle, the lower part cut off at the edge of the dial stone, suggesting it may have been relocated during rebuilding. I’ve visited St Martin twice, in sunlight and in early evening, and frustratingly I haven’t been able to make out the complete dial shown below. The colour of the stone is a factor. RHS is quite eroded; or perhaps LHS was more deeply incised because it marked the most signifiant time of day for observance.
As indicated above, dial 2 is unrewarding. Records suggest 4 lines and 2 circles, though I couldn’t see the latter. The images below have been recoloured to bring out the details, such as they are…
Dial 3 is a small and simple one, with 4 lines. The noon line is emphasised; and the Mass line (Tierce) has a cross.
The fact that the hole in this buttress stone is centered made me look at it more closely. In 3D rather than in the photo, it is a plausible dial with 2 quite long lines, being the noon line and ‘1.00pm’. With a stick in the hole, it would have been perfectly serviceable for marking the sun’s progress from morning to afternoon. There is a similar dial at MUDFORD Somerset, where the 2 lines are at 11 and 1, cut so that the noon line is centered between them.
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial
All photos Keith Salvesen; Diagrams BSS