The Tombs of St Mary’s Churchyard at Astbury

Scroll down to content


While wandering around the churchyard of St Mary’s Church in Astbury, Cheshire, the church whose doors were locked, I came across this incredibly amazing canopied tomb.  It really felt odd that the tomb was outside the church and there’s not only one tomb, there are two other tombs with a total of four figures.


I must admit that I have never seen tombs like this in a churchyard before, they have always been inside churches and there was nothing to tell me who they belonged to.


After some investigation I found that these tombs are rather special, more than special they are Grade 2 listed.

The main tomb is known as the 13th century Venables Tomb, the figures are of a male and female with their hands clasped together in prayer.  The male is thought to be part of the Venables family who are mentioned in the Domesday Book.

 Gilbert de Venables known as the hunter in the Domesday Book, held lands from the Earl of Chester, so we could be looking at a relative of the ‘Hunter’  I have read that there is an inscription on one side of the tomb, but I didn’t see it, which says Sir Ralph Brereton 17th century, but it is thought to be a Venable that is interned here.

When they carried out restoration works a few years ago they found a lead lined coffin with male bones beneath the tomb.


To one side of the main tomb is a knight from the Middle Ages and the other side a tomb of a Cleric.


The strange thing is that these tombs would have been inside the church, they were quite a oommon sight in churches and were always for prominent people.  They were a common sight until the Reformation when the Iconoclasts decided that they were a show of wealth, so they destroyed a great many tombs. That makes this one a very rare survival especially as to is currant position.


I also found that the church is grade 1 listed and thought to be one of the finest in the country…….well I can’t tell tell you my view, because there was no one at home.  Although the exterior of the church and the churchyard have gone some way to make up for it not being open, but the more I read about St Mary’s the more I want to see the interior, so I will return and give you my view for what it is worth.  There are still a few more photos of the fantastic gargoyles to come, so not too bad for just a walk around the outside of a church.

24 Replies to “The Tombs of St Mary’s Churchyard at Astbury”

  1. Tantalising isn’t it, especially when the exterior promises so much – fabulous tombs, makes me wonder about the people they commemorate and the lives they led.

    1. Yes it would be lovely to know whose tombs they were, they were quite something to come across as I didn’t know which church I would be visiting, so I hadn’t checked it out before hand.

    1. Well the father-in-laws 80th is in October, so I thought I would see if they have a service that week-end and tag on the end of it. Its amazing how many wonderful things are out that left to explore, when we drove up there we went a different way and passed so many wonderful abbeys and castles that I knew nothing about, this is in Derbyshire. So guess where the next week-end holiday will be 🙂

    1. Yes I’m glad we picked that church, although not open the exterior and churchyard were well worth the visit. Although I did miss the 2000 year old yew tree, I did see it but just thought it had just fallen over and wasn’t that old, got that wrong, so I do have to go back for a good look at that 🙂

    1. Its a very fascinating place and apparently there are some more tombs equally as good inside the church, so looking forward to seeing them when I go back 🙂

    1. Thank you and I am really glad you enjoy them, hope it gives you a little insight to our historical Island and for me is getting more historical by the day with the places I keep finding 🙂

  2. Hello, Loved this post on Astbury church, with it’s fascinating and rich history ~ What particularly has piqued my curiosity though, is why the table top medieval tombs were placed outside. This is the first time I have ever seen ones with effigies placed outside the church . Of course ,have seen table tombs in churchyards but never with effigies . Do you know if these were at one time within the interior of this church or another ? I have tried doing a bit of online research but so far no explanation as to why or when they might have been moved. Wonderfully evocative photos as always. Thank you .

    1. Hello Valkrye, So glad that you have enjoyed the posts on the church. I have read that the tombs had been inside the church, but like you can not find out why they were moved. I can only think it had something to do with the Reformation, that they were taken out of the church to be destroyed and for some reason they didn’t finish destroying them…….that is only a guess 🙂

  3. Thanks so much and you are a ‘night owl” ! Did not expect a response till tomorrow ~ (I am in the U.S. and six hours behind you) Appreciate your quick reply and look forward to all your posts.

  4. Astbury is a really spectacular Perp church but it’s never left open. I think most of the parishoners and therefore the keyholders live over in Congleton. Cheshire is not good county for open churches, in fact I found it was one of the worst..

  5. Hi, thank you for following me – and nice to find a kindred spirit in taking photos of beautiful buildings..

    1. Hi, its just lovely to find some one who has the same interest in taking photos of beautiful and interesting buildings and places. I look forward to reading your posts 🙂

  6. Those are the tombs of Sir Ralph Brereton and his second wife, Ada de Huntington, daughter of David, Prince of Scotland ( the two under the canopy). They are my ancestors. I too would love to inspect the carvings on the outside through enhanced photography. He was the son and heir of Gilbert Venables.

    1. Thank you for the information, how wonderful to have the tomb in your family history, thats so interesting, do you have any idea why the tomb is out side the church. I have been back since and visited just after a service on a Sunday and spent quite a while in the church, which is truly beautiful, I still have to do a post about my visit. Next time we pass I will have another look at the sides of the tomb 🙂

  7. Lovely pics, Blosslyn, for this page and the general church one, well done! I just came across the site by chance, searching for details on what I’d seen myself in Astbury today. A few paces away from the tombs are the 18th century grave slabs of my ancestors – the Washingtons of Puddle Bank in the parish. We drove to see the village without any idea what we’d find, and were very impressed, not least with the wealth of new genealogical information on the gravestones, and the ancient yew tree and these tombs really were the icing on the cake! Thanks for publishing your pics online – our own visit was on a far colder and wetter day! 😀

  8. Geweldig om uw artikel over Astbury Church tegen te komen.
    Voor mijn broer en mij speciaal door nu iets meer te weten over de praalgraven van onze voorouders van moeders kant de Breretons van de Hamlet Brereton near Congleton Cheshire.
    Dank daarvoor!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: