Ancient Monuments

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Canopied tomb in St Mary's churchyard

A Scheduled Monument in Newbold Astbury, Cheshire East

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Latitude: 53.151 / 53°9'3"N

Longitude: -2.231 / 2°13'51"W

OS Eastings: 384645.161087

OS Northings: 361567.708786

OS Grid: SJ846615

Mapcode National: GBR 12J.DRD

Mapcode Global: WHBC6.P2S5

Entry Name: Canopied tomb in St Mary's churchyard

Scheduled Date: 14 December 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017059

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32563

County: Cheshire East

Civil Parish: Newbold Astbury

Traditional County: Cheshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cheshire

Church of England Parish: Astbury St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Chester


The monument includes a free standing medieval canopied tomb together with two
recumbent stone tomb effigies lying beside it. The tomb is constructed of
fine-grained buff sandstone, shaped like a large rectangular coffin,
surmounted by a canopy or roof of stone slabs which is supported on two side
walls with diagonal buttresses projecting from the four corners. Inside this
structure, lying on the top of the coffin, are two recumbent figures of
sandstone, one male and the other female. The tomb measures 2.4m long and 1.4m
wide including the buttresses, and stands 3.3m high to the apex of the roof.
The whole structure is elaborately decorated, with carved foliate edges to the
roof line, crocketed finials on the wall tops and the roof apex, and supported
on a plinth carved with blind tracery. In style it dates to the late 13th
century. The tomb is remembered as the Venables Tomb and was probably erected
originally inside the church by a member of this prominent local family.
However, there is an inscription within the inner face of the west wall,
dating from the 16th century and claiming this to be the tomb of Adulphus
Brereton, Knight. When the tomb was restored in 1993 a lead coffin was
discovered beneath it together with the bones of a single adult within.
Beside the tomb and parallel with its long axis are two recumbent figures on
stone slabs 0.5m away from the base of the tomb. The figure on the northern
side appears to be that of a knight in armour with a shield on his breast and
feet resting on a lion. The figure on the south side is that of a cleric lying
on his back with hands clasped in prayer. All figures are eroded; the figures
on the tomb slab are hardly recognisable.
The canopied tomb is Listed Grade II*, while the two tombstones beside it are
each Listed Grade II.
Gravestones on the north, west and south sides where they impinge on the area
of protection are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath is

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 1 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Canopied tombs are almost always to be found inside a parish church or a
cathedral. They were designed to both contain and commemorate the dead and
were erected over the graves of prominent people during the medieval period.
They take several forms and may be free standing or attached to the side wall
of the building. Because of the status of the person or persons commemorated
in these memorials, there was an elaborate decorative element to the design,
reflecting current building styles both in Britain and Europe. The tombs may
take the form of a miniature chapel, reflecting the smaller reliquary shrines
which contained the remains of saints, and were in turn housed in elaborate
side chapels in the medieval cathedral or abbey church. They often display an
effigy of the person within or in some cases a skeletal representation of the
deceased as a reminder of human mortality. In parish churches the tombs were
built to house the remains of prominent members of the local landholding
classes as well as members of the clergy. Canopied tombs were those with a
canopy or roof in stone over the remains of the dead. At the Reformation most
of these memorials were destroyed as iconoclasts attacked the symbols of
worldly wealth in the churches and churchyards of Britain.
The canopied tomb known as the Venables Tomb in St Mary's churchyard is a rare
survival of a once common church monument, even more unusual for its present
external location in the churchyard. The quality of the carving and overall
design make this an important example of its kind. Recent restoration has
protected it from weathering and vandalism. The two flanking figures carved on
tomb covers are also of great interest.

Source: Historic England

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