LILLINGTON . DORSET . ST MARTIN – 3 scratch dials & a theory

St Martin . Lillington . Dorset


GRADE I † C13 origin, chancel & tower C15, porch C17, south chapel C18. Restored 1848. A small hamlet, a fine church, a tithe barn, a manor house. Sir Walter Raleigh prayed here. Perfect rural Dorset – secluded in a valley, reached only by narrow lanes, and very much a longcut for traffic. 2m over the fields from our house, 15+ minutes drive. 50.9127 /  -2.5283 / ST629127


St Martin has 3 scratch dials, all very different. There is a further contender that I put forward as a plausible but very rare type of dial (with a small degree of approval from BSS).


St Martin . Lillington . Dorset – Scratch Dial 1

Dial 1 is located on the SW. face of the buttress at the W. end of the tower. It consists of a style hole encircled by a somewhat elliptical ring. There are traces of an inner circle or partial circle, clearest seen at the bottom of the dial. GLP describes it as very eroded, and dates it as C15 (ie when the tower was built). He refers to 2 lines but I did not notice them and I can’t pick them out in the photos.


St Martin . Lillington . Dorset – Scratch Dial 2

Dial 2 is at 90º to Dial 1, on the SE. face of the same buttress and indeed on the same stone. There are 5 clear lines radiating from a filled style hole, forming what might be called an ‘afternoon dial’. It’s hard to tell which is the noon line: possibly the lowest lines are angled to allow for the dial not facing due S.

GLP also dates this dial as C15. He notes that it may not be in its original position, or may have been (partly) rotated ‘then it might… have been reasonably accurate’. BSS records ‘possibly re-positioned and rotated’. But because this dial and Dial 1 are on the same stone, rotation may be less likely.


St Martin . Lillington . Dorset – Scratch Dial 3

Dial 3, between of the nave window and the side-chapel, is possibly C13. The chapel, added in C18, shades the dial for half the day. GLP counts 4 lines, at least one ending in a pock, and notes shallow marks between lines possibly marking 1/2 hours. BSS also records 4 lines. I presume the uppermost mark or scar is viewed as subsequent damage. The style hole looks as if it has, or has had, metal in it.


On the same buttress as dials 1 & 2 and on the stone immediately below them, is a fairly deep hole drilled precisely and straight into the corner of the stone. Because of the proximity to the other dials at right-angles to each other, I wondered if this strangely-placed hole was also a dial (and if so, whether unique). So I experimented with a stick, with the result shown below. My conclusion is that a prominent gnomon in the vertex would give a clear indication of the passage of time throughout daylight hours. In a way, it might be rather more effective than a normal dial. I could clearly see the shadow from the E. end of the church.

I put the theory out there. As always, any observations would be welcome.