The Restoration Project for the Cadaver Tomb of Henry Willoughby and his four wives c. 1528

St Leonard’s Church contains many monuments and memorials to the Willoughby family - the former residents of Wollaton Hall and ancestors of our church’s patron Lord Middleton.

Two of these monuments are cadaver tombs. One of these was conserved at the end of the last century and the other, that of Henry Willoughby and his four wives c.1528 (see right), in 2009.

This tomb of Sir Henry Willoughby and his four wives is of great historical importance, beauty and value – particularly given the relative rarity of cadaver tombs in parish churches.

The stone cadaver of Sir Henry is just visible through the tracery underneath the decorative features of the monument, and above the tomb is an archway dividing the chancel from what used to be the private chapel of the Willoughby family.

The condition of this tomb has been monitored closely for the last 17 years as works have progressed on the restoration and conservation of the other monuments in the church. Over recent years, the monument has shown visible signs of an increase in surface breakdown, vertical fracturing, salt activity and wetting/drying cycles on the tomb chest panels and the cadaver. The base blocks of the arch also display signs of salt activity and surface breakdown.

The works to conserve the monument involved the dismantling of the tomb itself but not the arch. All new pointing was carried out using a suitable lime mortar compatible with the original construction technique.

Back in August 2006 we began searching for organisations that we could apply to for funding. We had positive responses from three organisations who were potentially interested in providing funding. The most significant of these was the Heritage Lottery Fund which aims at projects that make heritage available to a wide community. They suggested that we widen the scope of our project to include the development of new historical literature and schools education packs. In mid-2009 we were awarded funding of over £46,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to carry out the works. This represents 99% of the funding that we required for the project Hirst Conservation carried out the work with great skill. In addition, a new Illustrated guide and history, two guides for children and a brochure describing the conservation work were produced. Copies of these publications may be found in church or requested from the Parish Office on 0115 928 9963.

Sir Henry Willoughby's tomb