Our Historic Churchyard

Our Historic Churchyard

..The Churchyard Tombs



There are a large number of tombs amongst the yew trees in our 2 acre church yard. A few of them are shown in the picture above - which was taken from the tower.  In the 1600's and 1700's the Painswick clothiers and merchants transformed the church yard with beautiful  stone memorials. And the mason who built most of them is placed in a large pyramid tomb  - set amongst the table tombs and "tea caddy" tombs that he created. The churchyard was closed for burials in 1875 and the new Painswick Cemetery was created up towards Painswick Beacon.  Ashes can be interred in the churchyard and there are plaques commemorating 20th Century interments.

There is more information on the Yew Trees here.

Alternatively a booklet,  "Gods Acre - A guide to St. Mary's Church Yard, Painswick", is available from the church bookstall for the price of £3


"...(Painswick) is among the loveliest in the Cotswolds and its churchyard is one of the most remarkable in England. It forms part of a sloping square surrounded by 17th- and 18th-century facades. Everything is in a soft, lustrous stone that glows in the long evening shadows produced by Painswick's steep con­tours. It is a glorious spot, with blackbirds in constant and noisy attendance.

"The churchyard is peopled by two distinct tribes, the yews and the tombs, 99 of the first, 33 of the second. The yews were mostly planted in the 1790s, and are clipped each year in August. There are 99 by tradition because whenever a hundredth was planted it died. The trees stand smart and to attention, pretending to watch over the tombs like Lewis Carroll's guardsmen. The tombs will have none of it. They are a complete contrast. Some are upright, stern and regimented, others are tilt­ing, bashed and drunken. Those on the north side are in the better order, those to the south seem ready to escape the hillside entirely. Together they form a truly surreal landscape.

"Painswick's richly carved table tombs are Gloucestershire treasures. They demonstrate the wealth of cloth living on into the 17th and 18th centuries, long after the boom years were over. Men and women no longer sought salva­tion in chantries or alabaster memorials. They were content to rest under the Cotswold sky, protected by angels and putti, their names carved in stone. These names reflect the trades on which Painswick's wealth was based: Packers, Pallings, Greenings and Smiths. The earlier tombs are of men calling themselves 'clothiers', middlemen between wool mer­chants and drapers. As the century progressed, the Pooles called themselves ‘gents'. One tomb stands out from the others. It is number 32, the pyramidical resting place of John Bryan. He was neither clothier nor gent but creator of many of these works around him.

"The church's nave and tower date from the late 15th century and are conventionally Perpendicular. The spire was not built until 1632 and has been rebuilt more than once since. Within 12 years it was besieged by Royalist troops who used cannon and firebombs to drive out the Parliamentarians quartered inside. Most of the interior date from successive restorations in the late 19th or 20th centuries, although the excellent classical reredos in the south chancel aisle is of 1743, also by Bryan. Painswick has fine kneelers, some 300 in all, today's chief contribution to church craftsmanship. The project took four years and involved some sixty people working to an overall design by Anne Yeo, a sacristan.  The kneelers depict Bible scenes, local societies and charities, views of the town, animal, birds and memorials to local people. They are more in tune with the medieval tradition of local craft than the bought-in stained glass."

(From page 224 of England’s Thousand Best Churches by Simon Jenkins( Penguin Press 1999)