St. Oswald's, interior
St. Oswald's, exterior

Ashbourne Town Centre

Grid Ref: SK 176 464
8 November 2003, 21 Sept 2005, 25 July 2018

The Interior

The earliest part is the chancel with its Early English lancet windows in the north and south walls. There is a very early brass plate commemorating the dedication of the church on 24 April 1241 by Hugh de Patishul, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield. The nave and south aisle were built in the later in the 13th century but there is no north aisle. For ten years from 1270, the church was the property of Vale Royal Abbey, the gift of Henry III, but Edward I gave it back to Lincoln. The church had a short tower above the crossing but in the early 14th century a spire was added to a give a total height of 212 feet. The extra weight proved too great for the foundations and much work was needed in the 20th century to stabilise the structure. Before the Reformation there were three chantries, believed to be in the transepts. Henry Kniveton the rector of Norbury, founded one in 1391 and a second was added in 1392 for Nicholas Kniveton. The Easter Sepulchre with a tableau depicting the resurrection was given by Robert de Kniveton in 1472. In 1485 a third chantry chapel was added in the south transept by John Bradbourne. The clerestory was added in about 1520. St. Oswald's suffered from lack of maintenance in the late 18th century and repairs were undertaken between 1838 and 1840. There followed a long period of alteration and restoration. Sir George Gilbert Scott was the architect for work on the chancel and added the crennelations. In 1913, new buttresses were added to the tower to help support the weight. The church is now part of the Diocese of Derby.

Several new pictures have been added from my visit in 2018. Some of these have been produced using in-camera HDR and because of the range of exposures required I used a tripo. These include the display of pottery figures in the sanctuary, representing the famous "football" match played each year at Shrovetide.

The Chancel, Altar and East Window in 2018
Altar with pottery figures
South Aisle Ceiling
View of the South Aisle looking north, 2018 Decorated Ceiling of nave and chancel, 2018
South Aisle Font
View NW across South Aisle towards the pulpit, 2018 Early English Font at the west end of the nave, 2018
Easter Sepulchre Floor tiles
The Easter Sepulchre of 1472 in the Sanctuary Tiles in the choir
Easter Sepulchre Banner
Easter Sepulchre with pottery figures 2018 Church Banner
War Memorial Pulpit
War Memorial on the West Wall, 2018 The Pulpit, 2018
Nave Choir
View from the chancel towards the West end Choir stalls in the chancel


The Cockayne Tombs

St. Oswald's is remarkable in having a very fine set of medieval tombs that have escaped destruction at the Reformation, during the Civil War and at the hands of the Victorian moderniser, Sir George Gilbert Scott. Below I show some of those connected to single family - the Cokaynes. Of particular interest are those of individuals who took part in events of national significance, such as the Battle of Shrewsbury and Henry VIII's wars in France. The other families with impressive tombs are the Bradbournes and Boothbys.

Sir John Cockayne Sir John Cockayne
Sir John Cockayne (d. 1372) nearest & Sir Edmund (d. 1403) Effigies of Sir John Cokayne (d. 1447) and his wife, Margaret 
Tomb Shields on tomb
Shields on the side of the tomb above Shields on the end of the tomb top left
Tomb of Francis Cockayne Brass on tomb
Tomb of Francis Cokayne who died in 1539 and his wife The brass on the top of Francis Cokayne's tomb
Side of tomb
South side of Bradbourne Chapel showing Cockayne tombs Tomb of Thomas Cokayne (d. 1592) and his wife Dorothy


The picture at the top left shows the tomb of Sir John Cockayne who died in 1372. He was the representative for Derbyshire in several parliaments of Edward III and was Steward of John of Gaunt. The tomb was altered in 1412 to include (on the far side) the effigy of his eldest son, Sir Edmund who was killed at the Battle of Shrewsbury on 21 July 1403 when Harry (Hotspur) Percy and his allies rose against Henry IV and was defeated. Sir John also represented Derbyshire in parliament. There are shields around the tomb showing the families to which the Cokaynes were allied.

On the top right are the effigies of Sir John Cokayne, son of Sir Edmund who died in 1447 with his wife Margaret Longford. It is made of Derbyshire alabaster. Sir John's collar bearing the letters S.S. (for Spiritus Sanctus) shows that he was a supporter of the house of Lancaster of which he was the Steward. Not shown is the tomb of Sir John's son, also Sir John, who died 1505, and his wife Agnes Vernon.

In the centre are pictures of the tomb of Francis Cockayne who died in 1539 and his wife, which has a brass inlay on the top showing them and their children.

At the bottom left is the tomb of Sir Thomas Cokayne "The Magnificent" who died 1537 was the grandson of the John Cockayne who died in 1505. He was knighted by Henry VIII at the siege of Tournai in 1513, fought at the Battle of the Spurs and was present at the field of the Cloth of Gold. Barbara his wife was daughter of John Fitzherbert-Thomas of Etwell. His tomb is believed to be one of the earliest to have a rhyming epitaph, which is on the top and difficult to see. It reads:

Here lieth Sir Thomas Cokayne
Made knight at Turney and Turwyne
Who builded here fayre house twayne
With may profettes that remayne
And three fayre parkes impaled he
For his successors here to be
And did his house and name restore
Which others had decayed before
And was knight so worshipfull
So vertuous wyse and pitifull
His deeds deserve that his good name
Lyve here in everlasting fame
Who had issue iii sones and iii daughters

At the bottom right is the tomb against the north wall of the north transept showing effigies of Thomas Cokayne who died in 1592 and his wife Dorothy. Three sons and seven daughters are shown below. Thomas Cokayne was one of the founders of the Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School in 1592. He also acted as a guard for Mary Queen of Scots when she was sent from Wingfield Manor to Tutbury Castle.

The Bradbourne Tombs

The earliest of the Bradbourne tombs is that of John Bradbourne and his wife Ann Vernon. They founded a chantry chapel in the South Transept and were buried there from their deaths in 1483 until 1840 when the tomb was moved to the north transept. It was much damaged and only the north side of the base is original with the effigies. The rest came from the tomb of Jane Sacherverall of which another part is on the north wall.

Sir Humphrey Bradbourne died 17 April 1581. He was the great grandson of John and Ann Bradbourne. It was carved by the firm of Richard and Gabriel Royley of Burton on Trent. Elizabeth his wife was the daughter of Sir William Turville of Newhall. Around the tomb are figures showing six sons and four daughters. Some of the children carry shields and where one half is blank it shows that they had not married at the time of their father's death. Where there is no shield it shows that child died before the father. The three shown in red died in infancy.

Side panel Sir Humphrey Bradbourne
The opposite side panel of the tomb to the right Tomb of Sir Humphrey Bradbourne who died in 1581 
side panel John Bradbourne
Side panel of tomb to the right Tomb of John Bradbourne who died in 1483 



1. St. Oswald's Church, Ashbourne, A guide and short history, produced by The Friends of St. Oswald's Church and printed by J. M. Tatler and Son Ltd. Derby. This excellent booklet is available in the church at £2 in 2003.

2. Derbyshire Parish Churches from the eighth to eighteenth centuries, by John Leonard, Breedon Books, Derby, 1993, ISBN 1-873626-36-3.


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