St Michael’s Chapel is also known as the Warriors' Chapel because of the many soldiers buried there after the sixteenth century. The chapel is today the Regimental Chapel of the Queen's Own Buffs (East Kent) Regiment following a long association with the regiment. In 1885 the Buffs colours were first laid up in the Warriors' Chapel and the daily ‘Turning the Page’ by a regimental veteran ceremony commenced in 1926.
Lady Margaret Holland (1385-1439), John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset (1371-1410) and Thomas, Duke of Clarence (1387–1421)
Lady Margaret Holland was a wealthy noblewoman and granddaughter of Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent. She married twice and lies upon the tomb monument between her two husbands. Both Somerset and Clarence had been buried elsewhere in the cathedral only to be later exhumed and reburied in the Holland tomb, as directed by their wife. Described as one of the finest fifteenth century monuments in the country the three alabaster figures show a wealth of carved detail. The plinth and side panels of the tomb chest are of Purbeck Marble.
William Prude (d. 1632)
Prude was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the army and fought a campaign in Belgium dying at the siege of Maastricht in July, 1632. His funeral sermon at Canterbury is said to have praised his exemplary Protestant military career. He is depicted kneeling on a cushion wearing his armour within a trompe-l’oeil archway flanked by two militant figures. Much of this Jacobean monument can be seen to be made from alabaster and some of the painted stonework is also likely to be of the same material. The whole composition stands on a plinth of Caen Stone. The inscribed panel appears to be painted black and is not of marble.
Thomas Thornhurst (d.1627)
Thornhurst was a career military man who died during the Huguenot rebellion against the French Crown, when the English forces unsuccessfully attempted to lift the siege at La Rochelle. The jingoistic inscription says he “fell not without acquiring glory to himself, and victory to the English.” He lies recumbent on one elbow in military costume alongside his wife, Dame Barbara who died two years later. His three children, kneeling and holding skulls, symbolising an early death, act as weepers.
The tomb is of alabaster, some of which has been painted. An inscribed panel seemingly of a Black Marble, rather than painted black, summarises his life. The tomb stands on a plinth of Caen Stone. What is of greater interest are the eight panels of pink marble. The general appearance is of a brecciated limestone and possibly Breccia Pernice from the Veneto, near Verona; a Jurassic limestone containing fragmented marine shells.
Lady Mary Thornhurst (c.1544- 1609)
An impressive wall monument with a stiff, semi-recumbent effigy of Lady Mary. She was thrice married and shown kneeling above as chief mourner is her third husband Sir Stephen Thornhurst, who survived her by seven years.
The monument is essentially of alabaster, much of which presumably underlies the painted and gilded features. Two Corinthian columns support the ornate pediment. The columns are a pinky-brown nodular limestone with shelly debris, and numerous calcite infilled cavities and irregular calcite veins, the latter of which are beginning to weathering out.
On the outer side of each column stands an obelisk of grey marble, with darker parallel banding, possibly concentrations of graphite originating in an organic-rich limestone. The lower black panels appear to be painted in imitation of marble.
Dame Dorothy Thornhurst (c.1565-1620)
Dorothy Thornhurst married her second husband Stephen Thornhurst. The Latin inscription tells us her ashes were mixed with his within the chapel. Her will stated her wish for her niece, the executor, “to cause and procure to be made the picture [effigy] of my said Bodie of Alabaster stone, and neere or upon the Tombe of my said late husband... and place the same kneeling behind or before the picture of my late husband ... for £40...”. Dorothy and Stephen now face each other on adjacent monuments. In accordance with her wishes Dorothy’s wall monument was constructed of alabaster and presumably her painted kneeling effigy is of the same stone. Two obelisks flank the monument, also of alabaster.
The Buffs Altar
Designed by: John Leopold Denman FRIBA
Executed by Joseph Cribb, Kenneth Eager and Noel Tabbenor
This splendid altar was commissioned by the Dean and Chapter and paid for by The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment. It consists of a mensa made from a single slab of Portland Stone at a cost of £15. The stone is probably from the Base Bed, a freestone generally free of macro-fossils and suitable for carving.
The altar supports are carved from Bethersden Marble, the name for the locally sourced limestone from within the Weald Clay Formation that was dug from numerous shallow pits. The stone used for the supports was sourced locally from close to the village of Bethersden. Bethersden Marble can be cut with relative ease and readily takes a good polish. It is a freshwater limestone and is packed full of pond-snail shells called Viviparus (previously known as Paludina).
The two dragon carvings on the side panels appear to be one of the Purbeck Limestones from the Intermarine Beds of the Stair Hole Member, the lower part of the Durlston Formation that outcrops on the Isle of Purbeck, Dorset, a discontinuous sequence of lagoonal and lacustrine limestones. These beds are generally coarse, shelly limestones containing fragmented bivalves. The Dragon carvings are possibly from one of the freestone beds known as the Purbeck Whetson Bed, a sandy limestone containing grey and white shells.
The Dedication Service for the altar took place on Saturday 10th May 1952. Sadly the dragon carvings are rarely seen because of the voluminous altar cloth and the locked gates to the chapel.
Stephen Langton (c.1150-1228)
Archbishop of Canterbury (1207-1228)
Stephen Langton was a notable theologian with many writings and he played an important role in the story of the Magna Carta.
On 7th July 1228 he took part in the Feast of St Thomas à Becket in Canterbury. In poor health, he was subsequently taken to his manor at Slindon, near Chichester where he died a couple of days later. His body was taken back to Canterbury for burial in an uncomplicated stone coffin before the altar in the apse of St Michael’s Chapel. Here he laid at peace until 1440 when his coffin was displaced to allow for the eastern apse to be replaced by a flat wall during the remodelling of the chapel to accommodate the tomb of Lady Holland and her two husbands. To allow the coffin to remain in its original location it was placed beneath the altar (the medieval altar was removed shortly after the Dissolution) and a masonry gabled extension was added allowing the coffin to lie half within and half without the chapel proper. By 1952 Langton’s coffin had been further concealed beneath the altar of The Buffs. The coffin is made from blocks of Caen Stone and the lid is a large carved slab of Purbeck Marble bearing a long cross.
Sir George Rooke (1650-1709)
Rooke was a naval officer who rose to the position of Admiral of the Fleet and in later life had a seat in parliament. He fought in several sea battles against the Dutch and the French with mixed results. He died, after a long illness, ‘of the stomach’ at the family home of St Lawrence on the Old Dover Road and was buried in his parish church of St Paul; his monument on the south east corner of the chapel is strictly a cenotaph.
Rooke’s monument celebrates his martial achievements and is adorned with sailing ships and cannon with the inscription listing his more successful naval exploits. It bears a splendid bust of the man, which Hasted described as “dressed in a large full curled wig”. The stone is probably a variety of Carrara Marble from the Apuan Alps in Italy and a variety known as Calaccata which has a subtle blue-grey veining running throughout.
Francis Godfrey (1681-1712)
Godfrey’s uncle was John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough. Godfrey too became an army man and served at Blenheim following the celebrated battle. He was later described by John Dart in 1726 as a “Gentleman of the Bed-Chamber to his serene Highness George, Hereditary Prince of Denmark”. Godfrey passed away from a fever the year after he sold his regiment having risen to the rank of brigadier.
His monument on the south wall by the chapel entrance is a grand affair in the Baroque style with many classical motifs. The wall monument is constructed of several pieces of white marble with various intensities of veining. A fine-grained white marble with dusty blue-grey veining has been used for the plinth, pediment and columns and a slightly lighter-coloured veined marble used for the inscribed panel. Both stones are probably a variety of Carrara Marble called Calaccata which has a subtle blue-grey veining. However, the darker veins embrace discrete pieces of white marble confirming the stone used is largely a brecciated marble. A term used in the stone industry to describe marbles of this appearance is Arabescato from the decorative word, arabesque. The Carrara district in Italy was one such quarrying region which supplied Calaccata Arabescato marbles.
© Geoff Downer 2019
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