From north to south


King Henry IV (1367-1413) and Joan of Navarre (c.1370-1437

click here for further details on the life of Henry IV and here for further details on his tomb


Henry Bolinbroke’s tomb lies opposite that of his uncle, the Black Prince situated on the south side of the Trinity Chapel. The tomb contains the bodies of both the King and his second wife. Henry died in Westminster after a long illness and his body moved to Canterbury. The tomb was completed after his death and is thought to have been commissioned and paid for by Joan.


The tomb was opened in 1832 and a written record made by Dr Spry, one of the canons present at the time. Beneath the pavement lay the lead coffin of the King below the coffin of his wife. A small piece of the lead was removed from the head of the larger coffin. The King’s body was found to have been embalmed and lay bound with wrappers, when “ the astonishment of all present, the face of the deceased King was seen in complete preservation”. The account, not for the squeamish, continues, “... the surveyor stated that when he introduced his fingers under the wrappers to remove them, he distinctly felt the orbits of the eyes prominent in their sockets”. The wrappers were replaced and the coffin reinterred. It was felt by the witnesses that the physical appearance of the corpse bore a strong resemblance to the tomb effigy.


The tomb is thought to have been constructed after Henry’s death and paid for by his wife; it is well described in the complementary CHAS entry. The tomb and effigies are expertly carved from alabaster. Christopher Wilson has drawn attention to stylistic similarities between this tomb and others to attribute the workmanship to the Chellaston alabasters, based in Derbyshire. The tester is of wood.



Nicholas Wotton (c. 1497-1567)


Dean of Canterbury Cathedral (1541-1567)

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Following the dissolution of the cathedral priory Nicholas Wotton was appointed to become the first Dean of the new foundation. He was a much respected diplomat and held office under four monarchs during turbulent times. Upon his death his body was brought from London to Canterbury and the memorial erected in the prominent location of the Trinity Chapel by his nephew Thomas Wotton.


The tomb depicts Wotton kneeling before a desk in academic attire surrounded by copious renaissance architectural motifs including an obelisk, Corinthian columns and carved fruit. The monument is of the highest quality and carved from alabaster. It has been much speculated where the monument was constructed and by whom, with various theories supporting English and continental workshops, but with no agreed conclusion.  Several black panels adorn the sarcophagus and obelisk; seemingly these have been painted to emulate the use of a black marble.


The tomb appears to have had a new stone plinth installed at some time, the north-eastern corner of which has broken off and a piece of Bethersden Marble  inserted.



Randall Davidson (1848-1930)

click here for more details on Archbishop Davidson

Archbishop of Canterbury (1903-1928)

Designed and sculpted by Cecil Thomas


Archbishop Davidson resigned his post in 1928 and died two years later. He is buried in the Great Cloister garth together with his wife. His monument is located on the north wall of the ambulatory of the Trinity Chapel. His recumbent effigy is of bronze, the cope being that worn at the Coronation of George V. The sarcophagus, on which the effigy lies, is of Hopton Wood Stone. This is the variety often referred to as Light Hopton Wood (as opposed to the dark variety). It is a beige coloured limestone of Carboniferous age containing much fossil debris.


At the eastern extremity of the cathedral is the Corona. It was built in the late twelfth century by William the Englishman. Its function was to house the holy relic of the crown of Thomas Becket’s skull.  Its designation is now: The Chapel of Saints and Martyrs of our Time.


The tomb of Archbishop Pole (1500-1558) in the north west corner of the circular chapel is often mistaken for a stone construction. Pole was the last archbishop to have a commemorative monument in the cathedral until Victorian times. He had chosen the Corona as his place of rest and his modest tomb was inscribed Depositum cardinalis Poli or ‘Here lies Cardinal Pole’. It was described in the Gentleman’s Magazine of March 1866 as a “lonely and neglected tomb ... [in which Pole] was buried in rudeness and haste”. His body lies in a lead coffin within a brick chest that was stuccoed, or rendered. The render has since been renewed and on more than one occasion.  For more details on Cardinal Pole click here



Frederick Temple (1821-1902)

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Archbishop of Canterbury (1896-1902)

Monument designed by William Douglas Caröe, Effigy by Frederick William Pomeroy RA


Frederick Temple presided over the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1902. His second son William Temple became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1942. Frederick Temple collapsed while delivering a speech in the House of Lords. Following a short illness he died three weeks later at Lambeth Palace.


The monument on the south wall of the Corona has been shaped to fit unobtrusively in the space between two sets of Purbeck Marble columns, the tomb location having been preferred by Caröe. The late archbishop’s effigy is in bronze (an alloy of mostly copper and tin) and he is depicted kneeling in prayer.


The monument provides a rare glimpse of an unusual geological material known most commonly as Polyphant Stone. Polyphant Stone (a.k.a. Polyfant Stone or Hick’s Mill Stone) is named after the Cornish village of Polyphant located a few miles from Launceston. Polyphant Stone is an intrusive igneous rock known as a picrite (an olivine-rich basalt) that has been altered by hot fluids (metamorphosed) to form new minerals including talc and chlorite. The consequent softness of the minerals in the rock makes it a very popular material for sculpting and once polished it possesses a dark grey-green reflective surface. Frederick Temple’s mother’s side was of Cornish descent and as the last Bishop of Exeter whose diocese included Cornwall he was very much in favour of dividing the diocese. These links with Cornwall may have been influential in the choice of material for his monument. Unfortunately its location beyond the roped-off entranceway to the Corona does not allow for a good appreciation of the stone, or of the memorial.  


The monument and canopy have been gilded and various design elements have been picked out in bold colours. The canopy is of oak.


Odet de Coligny (1517-1571)


Cardinal de Chatillon, Bishop of Beauvais, Archbishop of Toulouse - click here for further details.

Odet de Coligny died in Canterbury en route for the continent. His tomb is described in John Dart’s 1726 work, The History and Antiquities of the Cathedral Church of Canterbury, and the Once-adjoining Monastery: "at the Feet of Bishop Courtnay, between two of the Pillars bending Circularly is a plain Tomb of Bricks, made like a round lidded Chest, or not unlike a Turf Grave, but Higher, and compos’d of Bricks plaster’d over, and Painted with a lead Colour."


The memorial tablet on the Trinity Chapel column to the east of the tomb is by Cecil Thomas FRBS and was completed in 1952. In the following year Thomas won the competition to design two British coins, the florin and the sixpence. The wall memorial is carved from Caen Stone with an inset tablet of polished Purbeck Marble. It is said to be designed in a style consistent with the sixteenth century and bears the coat of arms of the Coligny family carved in relief.



William Courtnay (c. 1342–1396)

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Archbishop of Canterbury (1381–1396)


The will of Archbishop Courtnay gave directions for his funeral and for his body to be buried in Exeter Cathedral where he had once been a Prebendary and where his mother and father had been buried. While lying on his deathbed at the Archbishop’s Palace in Maidstone, Courtnay had a change of mind and declared he wanted to be buried in the graveyard of the nearby collegiate church. Upon his death his body was instead conveyed to Canterbury Cathedral, where he was interred 5 days later, possibly at the direction of Richard II. His tomb was given an honorary position to the south of Becket’s shrine and at the feet of the Black Prince, Richard’s father.


Courtnay’s tomb and effigy are constructed from alabaster.  The tomb provides for figurework in the ogee arched canopied recesses, the figures now sadly missing. The effigy depicts Courtnay dressed in his robes, with mitre and crosier. His face is composed and hands (now missing) together in prayer. The alabaster carving is of the highest quality. Christopher Wilson considers the tomb to have been constructed by a London workshop rather than the alabasters of Chellaston in Derbyshire. The late Archbishop’s pillow is supported by angels and at his feet is a splendid alabaster dog.


The effigy lies upon a single grey slab of several centimetres thickness of what is referred to in various texts as Purbeck Marble. However, there are insufficient freshwater snail shells of the genus Viviparus to identify it as Purbeck Marble. The stone is a fossiliferous limestone and takes a good polish. It may therefore be a slab of stone from one of the adjacent Purbeck beds loosely grouped together as Purbeck Limestone.



Hubert Walter (c. 1160 - 1205)

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Archbishop of Canterbury (1193–1205)


Hubert Walter was an important royal adviser in his positions of Chief Justiciar of England and Lord Chancellor. He died at his manor in Teynham, after a long illness, and his body was taken to Canterbury to be buried in the cathedral the following day. Elias of Dereham was one of the named executors in Walter’s will and as such he may have been in charge of the construction of Walter’s tomb. Matthew Reeve has suggested that the work may have been carried out under the guidance of William the Englishman who may have still been working in Kent until the second decade of the thirteenth century, should the extant records refer to the same William. Walter’s tomb is the earliest surviving tomb in the cathedral and is located in a window opening on the south side of the south ambulatory of the Trinity Chapel. The tomb, much damaged, has the appearance of a shrine or of an ancient sarcophagus and Walter’s extensive travelling in Europe on behalf of the crown may have brought him into contact with tombs of similar design.


The tomb is made of Purbeck Marble and is an early medieval use of this polished stone for a tomb.   The gabled cover has six heads, bearing various head gear. From east to west they have been identified as a young man (east end), a layman, a bishop, a second bishop, a monk and a wimpled lady (west end). From the list of Walter’s benefactions given by Gervase, Pamela Tudor-Craig has pointed out that Walter may have been “a connoisseur of fine metal work”. She makes an astute observation that, “the lobes of the quatrefoils along the gable of the tomb jut out at the ends like ears, a feature most wasteful and laborious to cut in Purbeck marble, but quite natural in applied metal.”


By 1890 the identity of the tomb’s incumbent was uncertain and to determine who the occupant was the tomb was opened up. The coffin inside was found to be made of Caen Stone and, once opened, the contents drawn and recorded. The items recovered included a chalice (cup) and paten (small plate) The paten had the inscription: “The altar represents the cross, and the chalice the tomb, and the paten the stone...”. Christopher Daniel has suggested that the chalice and paten, as well as being symbols of ecclesiastical office, may also represent Christ’s tomb and the stone before it.



Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales (1330 - 1376)

Known as The Black Prince


Design and construction attributed to Henry Yevele.


Edward was the eldest son of King Edward III and Philippa of Hainault. His last days were spent at Westminster Palace following a long illness (said to be six years). Upon his death his body was taken to Canterbury. The prince died the year before his father passed away. Edward’s will specified the burial arrangements to be carried out by Richard II, his son, then aged 9. Although Edward had specified the crypt at Canterbury Cathedral as his place of burial his tomb was constructed in the much more prestigious location of the Trinity Chapel, close to Becket’s shrine. The tomb and epitaph were completed as detailed by Edward and took nine years to manufacture.


The chest tomb is of Purbeck Marble evidence that this polished stone was much prized and fit for royalty. The monument is further described here










Memorial and Fittings stones, east end ambulatory




©  Geoff Downer  2019

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