Hidden away in the base of the Church Tower are a unique history of the Venables family (Barons of Kinderton) told on two oak screens dated 1632 and 1633. They are a fascinating collection of local heraldry. The screens were commissioned by Peter Venables (1604-1679).
The 1632 screen commemorates the two marriages of Peters’ father, Thomas (1543-1606). The heraldic panels (from left to right) are as follows:-
1. The first panel is a small circular tablet showing the impaled coat of arms of the Venables and Brereton families. Thomas married Elizabeth Brereton, the families were influential within Cheshire.
2. The second tablet is a shield showing the full achievement of arms of the two allied families, each family showing seven ‘quarters’. The shield is housed in a frame which contains the inscription ‘ANO:DNI 1632’. Mounted on the top of the frame is the Venables crest – a wyvern, with wings endorsed, argent, devouring a child’. The crest arises from the legend that a Venables killed the dragon of Moston.
3. The third panel is again a small circular tablet showing this time the impaled coat of arms of the Venables and Gargreave families.
4. The last tablet is again a shield showing the full achievement of arms of the two allied families, the Venables family showing seven ‘quarters’ and the Gargreave family showing six ‘quarters’. Again the shield is housed in a frame mounted with the wyvern. The inscription reads ‘PEETER VENABLES’.
The 1632 screen is located on the south wall of the tower.
The 1633 screen commemorated the two marriages of Peter Venables (1604-1679) and records twenty-three marriages in the Venables family, spanning almost four hundred years. The heraldic panels (from left to right) are as follows:-
1. The first panel shows the impaled achievements of arms of the Venables and Cholmondeley families. The Venables family showing twelve ‘quarters’ and the Cholmondeley family, showing seventeen ‘quarters’.
2. The second panel is a small circular tablet showing the impaled coat of arms of the Venables and Cholmondeley families.
3. The large, central panel is the main feature of the screen. It records twenty-three marriages, showing the Venables coat impaled with that of the allied family. Starting with the mid-thirteenth century marriage to the Peninton family, continuing through to the marriage of Thomas Venables and Grace Fenwick (Thomas died pre 1669).
4. The fourth panel is a small circular tablet showing the impaled coat of arms of the Venables and Wilbraham families (lying behind main panel).
5. The fifth panel would have shown the impaled achievements of arms of the Venables and Wilbraham families. The original panel was replaced after 1762 with the panel in place today. The panel shows the arms of George Venables-Vernon, of Sudbury, who, by Letters Patent dated 12th May 1762 was created Lord Vernon, Baron of Kinderton.
The screens were ‘modified’ to fit into the tower and hidden behind the 1633 screen there are ‘bits and pieces’ that have been removed from the original screen assemblies.
In the north aisle (east end) lie the tombstones of Peter and Katherine Venables. Peter was the last Baron of Kinderton and he died in 1679, Katherine his wife died in 1717.
Although the tombstones are beyond the Venables chapel, it appears that the graves are actually within the chapel.
B.L. Vawdrey wrote in 1875 “In the chapel, during the progress of the works, the coffins (lead) of Peter Venables, the last of the Venables Barons of Kinderton, and of his widow Katherine Venables, were laid bare. They lay side by side near the centre of the chapel. On the lids, in raised letters, 3 inches long, were the initials and dates-
The coffins remained intact, and were ultimately covered with concrete”.(2)
1. All screen information is from an article by Tony Bostock – ‘The Heraldic Screens of Middlewich’ to be found in ‘Cheshire History – Autumn 1994 No 34’
2. Some Notes on the Parish Church of Middlewich, Cheshire – B.L. Vawdrey