Canopied tomb in St Mary's churchyard


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Canopied tomb in St Mary's churchyard
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cheshire East (Unitary Authority)
Newbold Astbury
National Grid Reference:
SJ 84645 61568

Reasons for Designation

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.


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 included.

MAP EXTRACT 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.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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