Work begins to protect medieval tomb from the Deathwatch Beetle

Conservation work has begun at St Andrew’s Church, Wingfield, to protect the 600-year-old tomb of Michael and Katherine de la Pole. The medieval tomb is being attacked by the Deathwatch Beetle.

The tomb was constructed around 1410 for Michael de la Pole, 2nd Earl of Suffolk, and his wife Katherine de Stafford. While this couple were relatively minor nobles, their son and grandson would go on to become leading figures in English politics.


While Michael and Katherine’s tomb may look like stone, it was actually made out of wood and plastered to look like stone. This has made it susceptible to the Deathwatch Beetle. The Churches Conservation Trust explains that their larvae, which can live for seven to thirteen years, are a real problem: “These beetles burrow their way into and infest old oak and elm timbers. The usual areas we see that can see infestations are the end of roof joists, rafters, pews – any damp oak or elm in a church basically.”

The moment that the effigy of Katherine was slid off the tomb for treatment. Photo courtesy St Andrew’s Church, Wingfield

St Andrew’s Church received a grant of £10,000 from the Church Buildings Council, which they have used to hire the Skilllingtons to dissemble the tomb, then treat the infestation and preserve its wood. The work began last month and will shortly be completed. Skilllingtons are leading experts in restoration and conservation work.


St Andrew’s Church, built in 1362, is home to three impressive medieval tombs – along with the tomb for Michaela and Katherine, there is also a tomb for their grandson, John de la Pole, and his wife Elizabeth Plantagenet, and another for John de Wingfield, who helped to build to church.

To learn more about St Andrew’s Church in Wingfield, please visit their website.

Michael’s effigy on its own. Photo courtesy St Andrew’s Church, Wingfield

To learn more about this family, see the new book De la Pole, Father and Son: The Duke, The Earl and The Struggle for Power, by Michele Schindler.

Top Image: When the effigy of Katherine was turned upside down for inspection and treatment. Photo courtesy St Andrew’s Church in Wingfield