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The original Church was Norman circa 1080 - 1100

Built 100 years before Salisbury Cathedral. During the time that the Royal Castle and small Cathedral were under construction at Old Sarum; Winchester Cathedral was formally opened; William Rufus was killed in the New Forest in a hunting accident and King Henry 1 was crowned.

Dedicated to All Saints - the most popular dedication in Wiltshire after the Virgin Mary - the church preserves many of its original features, despite extensive restoration in the 19th century.

William the Conqueror, an ardent Christian, introduced to England not only his religion but new superior technical skills, teaching the Saxons how to build in the Norman style. Following the initial warfare period, an extensive building programme of parish churches, cathedrals, abbeys and monasteries was instituted.

The Tudor period, 1485-1603, saw the final break between the Crown and the Church of Rome, resulting in the destruction of many monasteries and with them much of the wealth of the Church. From around 975, the village of Martin was part of the estates of Glastonbury Abbey and the church benefited by being under the patronage of the successive Abbots until 1539 when the last Abbot, Richard Whiting, was unceremoniously put to death. At the beginning of the Renaissance, the omnipotence of Rome was questioned and finally renounced in favour of new religious beliefs.

All Saints Church Social conditions have played an important part in the development of churches. During the late Medieval period, up to 1500, men were influenced by a tremendous religious preoccupation and fervour, lavishing great skill and care on buildings of a religious nature. During the Renaissance, 1500-1625, intellect was considered all-important. Religion had undergone changes of emphasis implied by the Reformation and a degree of security was ensured. Following the Industrial Revolution, religion played an even smaller part in men's lives. England enjoyed a century of peace and a greater measure of security for the individual. These periods merged into and greatly influenced each other although country districts were slow to catch up with evolving trends.

Basic building ideas were governed by the lives and thoughts of the people of the time. By their needs and aspirations. Early English builders made their churches austere to symbolise renunciation of the flesh and of worldly riches. Towards the end of the 12th century, glass for windows became available, life was more settled and the Church less likely to be used as a place of refuge. Windows could therefore be made larger. By the 14th century, people wanted more light and cheerfulness in their religion, as in their lives. Gloomy little churches with their narrow windows no longer sufficed in praise of God.

The Original Church

This represents a complete Norman church of the period, measuring some 24 feet x 17 feet. It most probably had a thatched roof and straw strewn earth floor. The roof elevation can still be seen clearly above the arch to the tower.

As was usual there were two opposing doors. The North door is now blocked and the South door is today the main entrance. The porch was added at the end of the 14th century and the present door hung during the 19th century restoration.

The Chancel was probably no more than a recess for the altar in the then East wall, possibly apsidal (semicircular) in form.

The windows are all of a later date, typically Early English of the 13th century. Outside, the blocked North door is of typical Norman design with square jambs and a tympanum above, which would indicate a date around 1080. About a foot West of the North Transept is a quoin (corner stone) showing the extent of the original church. Between the quoin and the North door is a small recess, possibly a stoup for holy water for use of those entering by the North door.

The Tower

The first stage of the tower was constructed in the early part of the 13th century. The second stage was added probably in the 15th century when the tower was raised and surmounted by a low steeple, as shown in an estate document dated 1569. This was replaced by the present taller octagonal steeple in 1787 - the date is clearly incised in the South wall at the base of the parapet.

The tower arch to the nave, with its Early English columns, is intact and follows the lines of the original Norman nave roof.

The lower stage had two square-headed windows in the West wall, one of which was replaced by a 2-light window in the 16th century and which includes a fragment of early Tudor blue glass. The upper stage had two Norman lancet windows in the West and South walls, the latter now being blocked.

Originally the church had three bells, none of which survived. Presently there are six bells: Tenor, inscribed "Thanke God" -1606; 5th - 1662; 4th - 1657; 3rd and 2nd - 1934; plus the later addition of the Treble in 1939.

Nave and Chancel

During the 13th century the original chancel recess was extended Eastwards as far as the present Chancel arch and enlarged to the width of the nave. The windows are Early English, typical of the period.

Outside on the East wall, partially obscured by the North wall of the South Transept, are the half-round jambs of the original priest's door. At the base is the remains of a recumbent figure, now unrecognisable, which once may have stood erect over the door.


All Saints Church Early in the 14th century the chancel was further extended to its present length and has remained unaltered. The archway to the chancel is Early English with orders of chamfers round the arch and jambs, the inner one having a curious small moulded impost or cap. The base is probably below the floor, which was raised in the 1857 restoration, although there is evidence that the level of the nave floor was originally carried through to the East end of the chancel with maybe a step on which the altar stood. The priest's door is between the two windows in the South wall.

The windows are Early English although the 3-light East window has 3 circles in the tracery but no cusping. The stained glass is modern, dated 1877 and 1879, a gift of Thomas and Mary Waters.

The roof is ceiled underneath, but the 14th century moulded plated is visible which could mean the original trussed rafter roof of that period still exists.

The reredos behind the altar is in memory of the Rev. G.B. Daniell, the first vicar of Martin, 1854-1870, who worked on the restoration.

In the South-East corner of the chancel is a moulded 16th century piscina (a stone basin for carrying away water used by the priest to wash the chalice etc.). In the North wall is a squint inserted in the 16th century to allow a view of the altar from the Horsey manorial pew in the East end of the North aisle.

South Transept

Built in the first half of the 14th century, the chapel remains unaltered with its original roof of tie-beam and central king-post with braces.

Between the jambs of the East window, barely discernable today although portions can still be seen, was a mural of a kneeling figure and scroll with the words 'O beata Dei Mat. Miserere mei' indicating the use of the transept as a Lady Chapel.

In the South wall is a piscina with ogee cusped arch, square bowl, partially cut away, and inner wood shelf, suggesting the chapel's dedication as a chantry.

The Early English 3-light South window with its flowing tracery contains stained glass dated 1887 in memory of church benefactors Thomas and Mary Waters.

William Talk, High Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1769 and Mayor of Salisbury in 1762, succeeded to copyholds in Martin from ancestors. He had erected a railed gallery over the South transept arch so as to be directly above the pulpit and font, then in the angle of the nave and transept. It was dismantled during the 19th century restoration, but the remains of the parapet can still be seen from the nave. Towards the end of the 18th century the chapel was converted into the Talk family vault. He was the last of the family to be interred there in 1797.

North Transept

Built towards the end of the 14th century, the North transept was in symmetry with the South transept and connected to the nave by a corresponding arch. The addition of this transept made the church traditionally cruciform in shape. The low West window was under the original eaves.

Late in the 15th century, the North chapel was extended in length to overlap part of the chancel, thus making it more resemble an aisle with the roof running East and West instead of transept-wise as before. The timber transome on which the original roof rested can still be seen in the West wall. A second arch was inserted in the wall of the nave Eastward of the original one with a corresponding one in the North wall of the Horsey chapel. A third arch was inserted in the North wall of the chancel.

During these alterations, the 14th century walls appear to have been rebuilt, or refaced. The North and West windows were re-inserted in their former positions. Although the West wall then became a gable, the same 2-light window was retained at its low level and a new 2-light square-headed window of the type prevailing at the time placed over, but not central with it, making a curious two-story arrangement. The 3-light window in the North wall was repositioned opposite the arch, as it would have been originally when in the centre of the transept and the two new bays inserted.

The rest of the work is typically early 16th century English Perpendicular. There is a 3-light window under the East gable and a 5-light window in the recess, more commonly associated with domestic rather than ecclesiastical architecture. The space in front of the large window may have been intended for a tomb but does not seem to have ever been used.

The effect of the enlargement was to create a chapel and there is every reason to suppose that it was erected with this in mind by Sir John Horsey, who occupied the manor house which he designed and largely built. The door in the North wall was inserted, presumably for use by the Horsey family.

The squint, referred to previously, was inserted to provide a view to the altar from the manorial pew beneath the window. On the left and right abaci of the capitals of the arch, either side of the recess, two small crosses have been carved, supposedly to ward off the influences of the devil. The organ was installed in 1884 and situated over what may be a vault containing the tombs of Sir John Horsey and Sir Bartholomew Horsey, known to have been buried in the church in 1597.

At about this time, the walls of the nave were raised to their present level with the wagon-headed roof replacing what was probably an earlier truss and rafter construction.

General Information

Scratch Dials

The Scratch Dials or Mass Clocks on the outside of the Church are specially noteworthy in that Martin Church has eight, thought to be more than any other church in Hampshire. All are very weathered and defaced by lichen. The types vary but, although the noon line is invariably marked, the purpose of these 'clocks' was not to denote time but to indicate the hours of services. Owing to the orientation of the church to the extreme limit of the sun's declination at the summer solstice, 22 degrees East of North, the noon line on all the dials is to the right of the perpendicular. Where they are in pairs it is assumed that one denotes the time in winter and the other in summer. Ordinary parochial usage in the Middle Ages provided for three services on Sundays; Matins early morning, Mass following Tierce after 9.00 am and Vespers at about 1.30 pm. Consequently on all dials the mass and vespers lines are more clearly incised. Four 'clocks' with style holes and incised marks can be found on the tower buttresses, intended for the congregation from West Martin. The four on the buttresses of the South Transept were for worshippers from East Martin.

The sundial cut in the South-West buttress, to the right of the porch entrance, is still clearly visible.

The Inventory

In 1553, Edward VI commissioned an inventory to be taken of church plate and bells in all churches and chapels. Churchwardens were summoned to Old Sarum " bring with them such parcel of plate, jewels, metal and other ornaments (whatsoever they may be) belonging to your church, chapel guild, brotherhood, fraternities or companies as do remain in your custody or any other person or persons to your knowledge the uses aforesaid as you will answer upon oath. The great bells and saunce (sanctus) bells in the steeples only excepte."

The inventory showed Martin Church had three bells, none of which survived. Martin's loss of plate was considered punitive being 17 out of 28 ounces whilst the parent Church at Damerham lost only 4 out of 20 ounces.

The original chalice, which the church was allowed to keep, disappeared. The present chalice is ascribed to the late Elizabethan period, about 1600. Two patens, dated 1728 and 1744, were presented by Mrs. Martha Reade on 28th January 1744, one of which has since been replaced by a modern type.

The 19th century and the Restoration Programme

In 1831 the seating was recorded for 400 persons out of a total population of 599. In 1857 Rev G.B. Daniell estimated a population of 640 souls, 50 more than the official census.

In 1851 the Rev. R. Allnutt, Vicar of Damerham, in a letter wrote "...the church was in a state of dilapidation almost indescribable: the tail boards of wagons used for the backs of pews...".

In 1857 major restoration of the church began. The Talk gallery above the South transept was taken down. The chancel floor was raised to its present three steps. A new South door was hung. The Jacobean pulpit was spared and moved back to its present position. The simple stone font under the pulpit went into a private ornamental garden, since recovered, it is now found against the column in the Horsey chapel. The old lectern was discarded and a new one donated by Thomas Waters in 1883. Varnished deal seating was installed, replacing the carved oak woodwork of the old pews which went to private houses.

William Lawes' gravestone On the North-West rear wall of the nave is a painted board indicating that in exchange for £70 towards re-seating from the Incorporated Society for Buildings and Churches, 233 designated seats were to be reserved free of charge for the use of the poorer inhabitants of the parish. All other pews were allocated to copyholders and had to be paid for. It was not until 1888 that this system was abolished and all pews made free of charge. The organ was installed in 1884. To improve the comforts of the congregation, in 1871 windows were repainted and reglazed, curtains hung over doors and matting laid on the floors. But it was not until 1886 that a coke boiler was installed and a stove placed to the right of the door as you enter. This stove was unfortunately responsible for setting fire to the roof of the nave on the night of November 28th 1950. The tower was underpinned and the roof stripped of its lead and replaced with tiles.

The church was formally re-opened by the Bishop of Salisbury, Dr. Charles Wordsworth in May 1896. Despite this extensive restoration, the structure has been little interfered with and the church still preserves so many of its original features.

The Church clock was presented in 1966 in honour of Sir Winston Churchill.

Standing by itself to the left of the path leading to the entrance to the Church is the gravestone of William Lawes whose son James was the original 'Isaac Bawcombe' in W.H. Hudson's book 'A Shepherd's Life', where Martin was portrayed under the guise of 'Winterbourne Bishop'.