Possibly the most elaborate monument anywhere in England it occupies almost the entire east wall of the nave (or the west flank of the tower). It’s full of mysterious figures, painted shields and emblems. It mixes Gothic imagery with modern artifacts. The figures and detail like the decorations are probably cast in plaster and there are areas of coloured mosaic on the work which provide a complete contrast in material and style to the rest of it. The large central cross is partially gilded.
The Buller Memorial
The memorial was planned by W.D. Caroe, an internationally known architect and designer, who had devised the elaborate structure of our elaborate wooden font cover three years earlier (in 1908). The memorial was executed by Dart and Francis of Crediton and was unveiled by Earl Fortescue on the third anniversary of Buller’s death, 2nd June, 1911.
Some of us might have had a good general look at this exuberant piece of Edwardian sculpture in trying to answer the perennial question posed by locals ‘who is Count Rymen?,’, but I doubt whether many have really scrutinised every part of it, although copies of Caroe’s original plans exist which give a complete key to the iconography of the work and I have used these in assembling what follows.
Probably the easiest way to consider the detail of the monument is to look at the figures and the images layer-by-layer:
Top section of the memorial
Our Lord as Law Giver
At the centre of the top layer is the seated figure of Our Lord as the Law Giver with His right hand held up in blessing and His left hand resting on the Bible.
The figure is flanked by numerous ‘Angels of the Glory’ –a multitude of the heavenly host –on each side of which are two archangels, on the left St Michael who is carrying his symbolic sword and St Gabriel carrying a lily and a sceptre and on the right St Raphael with a staff, a fish and a flask and St Oriel [or Uriel] who has an open left hand in which he holds the flame of love to ignite the heart in the service of God.
To the left and right of the archangels are four empty niches which are flanked by angels carrying the four emblems of the Passion of Christ, on the left a scourge and a chalice and on the right a crown of thorns and a sword.
On the outside of the top layer of the memorial are models of two of the honours awarded to Sir Redvers: on the left is the Order of St Michael and St George the KCMG which was awarded to him in 1883 and on the right the Order of the Bath [Military Division] the KCB, awarded in 1885. Both honours have been coloured with metallic paint.
Middle section of the memorial
The middle section of the memorial is rather more complicated than the top.
The centrepiece of the whole monument is a sculpted, gilded, altar cross on a large pedestal.
The ends of the cross arms bear the gilded emblems of the four evangelists:
The Lion of St Mark
The Ox of St Luke
The Lion of St Mark
The Ox of St Luke
Sacred monogram from the central cross
At the centre of the cross is the sacred monogram IHS –IHS, which is encircled by a golden crown. Above the arms of the cross, on each side, are angels with censors
Below the angels are: to the left a vine with black grapes and to the right, wheat. Together they symbolise the Eucharist (wine and bread)
To the left of the cross is an effigy of the prophet Joshua whose symbols are a sword and a trumpet and to the right of the cross is a statue of Godfrey (or Geoffrey) de Bouillon, leader of the First Crusade –both Joshua and Godfrey being surmounted by angels.
Godfrey was elected ruler of Jerusalem when it was taken by the Crusaders in 1099. He died a year later and is buried in the Temple of the Holy Sepulchre. He has a torch in his right hand and his left hand rests upon his shield which is decorated with the de Bouillon emblem, the Jerusalem Cross.
It seems likely that Joshua and Godfrey de Bouillon feature on the memorial because of they were both great military leaders who were, like Sir Redvers, involved in sieges, Joshua that of Jericho and Godfrey that of Jerusalem. Sir Redvers, of course, commanded British forces in the ending of the Boer siege of Ladysmith.
To the left of Joshua is a continuation of the mosaic vine which flanks the cross and to the left of this another effigy of St Michael the Archangel and to the right of Godfrey de Bouillon, one of the wheat.
The Buller Arms
Beneath Joshua and amongst more mosaic vine leaves and grapes are Sir Redvers Buller’s coat-of-arms and under Sir Geoffrey, amongst mosaic wheat, the joint coat-of-arms (per pale in heraldic terms) of Sir Redvers and Lady Audrey Buller.
St Michael the Archangel & St. George
To the left of the central block of the middle section is another statue of St Michael the Archangel standing on a pedestal with his sword in his right hand and his symbolic
To the right of the block is a statue of St George, also on a pedestal, whose right hand rests on a massive sword, and who has a small shield over his left arm. His helmet is on the ground between his legs (he is probably there both as a national and military symbol).
Coats of Arms
Arms of Exeter (top)
Arms of Plymouth (bottom)
Arms of Penzance (top)
Arms of Southampton (bottom)
On St George’s right is another row of coloured coats-of-arms one of which belongs to a Cornish town and three to Trades Guilds with which General Buller had connections At the height of his fame, in the early years of the C20th, Sir Redvers was given the Honorary Freedom of a number the trades guilds (in fact he declined the Skinner’s invitation because –when it was offered in 1900 –he anticipated that he might be made a scapegoat for the failure to take Ladysmith quickly).
Above – these are the arms of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters and those of the Worshipful Company of Skinners .
The arms on the right-hand side of the monument are those of Redruth – another town which gave him its freedom and those of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths.
Below these are the arms of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters and those of the Worshipful Company of Skinners .
At the top of left side of the lower section of the monument, is the Victoria Cross –awarded to Buller in 1879 for his bravery in the Zulu War. Opposite which is the badge of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, also known as the Greenjackets or the 60th –Buller’s first regiment –which he joined in 1858.
The Lower Sections of the Memorial
Beneath the Victoria Cross, on each side of the arch, is the dedication of the memorial picked out in red letters on a background of gold mosaic. It reads:
A wide strip of gold mosaic was placed under the tower arch when the memorial was built
Thanks to Mike Elliott of the Crediton Camera Club for taking and allowing us to use all the photographs on this page.