* Bethersden Marble

The historic Village of Bethersden is dominated by St Margaret’s Church with its stunning 15th Century Tower but is well known for formerly producing Bethersden Marble and the village was also once the centre of the Kentish Wool Trade.

The oldest rocks in Kent are the Hastings Beds, sandstones which outcrop at places like Harrison's Rocks near Tunbridge Wells. Above, the Weald Clay is made up of soft shale and mudstone with bands of freshwater limestone known as Bethersden Marble (the term ‘marble’ being used as the stone is capable of taking a polish) which is also known as Paludina limestone, Sussex Marble, winklestone, Charlwood Stone, Laughton Marble, and Petworth Marble.

Whatever it is called, its defining characteristic is the particular type of fossil snail whose sectioned shell gives the stone its unique character: the freshwater gastropod Paludina (now known as Viviparus). In the past, other shelly limestones, especially those containing the bivalve Cyrena, were probably passed off as Sussex Marble. It fact, it is a product of a geological curiosity. At some period, it seems, this area was some kind of crustacean Sargasso Sea, to which a particular species of water snail resorted for what no doubt seemed good reasons at the time. The creatures died there in their millions and their shells were compressed into a rock strata during a million years or so, to be quarried as Bethersden marble in a very few short centuries.

The limestone occurs in beds up to 30 cm thick with the ‘Bethersden Marble’ used extensively in Kent for decorative work, paving and building stone and a more practical use for lining clay routes (footpaths) with slabs of the mock marble across the sticky Wealden clay fields. These made causeways, across which, pack horses loaded with raw wool and finished woollen goods could pick their way to the markets that made the local industry one of the richest in England for four hundred years.

The two Kent cathedrals, Canterbury and Rochester, as well as many humbler churches and large houses throughout the county, are embellished with Bethersden marble. The Village's own church of St Margaret has none, apart from that which paves the south porch. The Dering Arms at Pluckley Station provides an example of the use of ‘Bethersden Marble’ (which crops out to the south of the village), with Ragstone blocks. Biddenden lined pavements along its high street is also another good example.

The stone is no longer quarried and Bethersden has lost its textile industry. Not much more than a hamlet now, it is still an attractive place, with a short street lined with typically Wealden weather boarded houses and several old hall houses.

At Potters Farm, the approach steps and patio around the Farm House and the B&B accomodation comprise Bethersden Marble (see below):