Buffs Altar (in Warriors’ chapel, via memorial stones)

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.

Overview of altar, side panels and Archbishop Langton’s coffin