Religious paraphernalia and superstitious finds: historical discoveries at Combermere Abbey

Since commencing the North Wing restoration project in 2014 we’ve made some fascinating discoveries, which have helped to peel back the layers of time at Combermere Abbey. With more than 900 years of history to unravel we’ve discovered a variety of items and pieces of the historical puzzle from a range of eras. From a thirteenth century papal bull to a marker stone inside the walls of the Abbey itself to deliberately concealed household items, we’ve found out some of the Abbey’s most interesting secrets.

One of the oldest and luckiest finds was a Papal bull in perfect condition made of clay which was uncovered by our local metal detecting club by chance as it was buried beneath a piece of lead. Papal bulls were used to seal documents from the Vatican. Pope Innocent IV, who became Pope in 1243 and died in 1254, attached this particular papal bull to a notification sent by Combermere Abbey. We’ve spent many an hour wondering what may have been in that letter to the Abbot…

Another fascinating discovery during the restoration of a shoe and a large horse-shoe, hidden beneath the floorboards, sheds light on the superstitions and fears of the period. It’s likely that both were concealed within the build of the Abbey after it became a private residence as good luck charms. We all know that horse-shoes are commonly associated with good luck, and we’ve since learnt that during this period shoes were believed to both bring about fertility as well as ward off evil spirits. Traditionally it was a woman’s shoe that would have been buried, however we were surprised to find out that it’s actually a man’s shoe dating from the 1780s. Nevertheless it seems it worked a treat still as Richard Cotton, who was the owner at that time, fathered thirteen children!

One of my personal favourite finds is what we call the ‘power stone’ – it’s a marker stone, which indicates the point at which two strong ley lines (hypothetical alignments of a number of places of geographical or historical interest) meet. Again it shines a light on ancient beliefs (some say superstitions!), that these meeting of ley lines created a strong spiritual force. Originally the, marker stone would have been outside the walls of the Abbey itself but the extension of the North Wing must have swallowed it up! So it’s fascinating to think that without this project it would never have been uncovered!

Whilst my main aim is to restore the North Wing to its former glory the various discoveries of artefacts and historical parts of the building have been undeniably intriguing, which has also led me to explore the history of the abbey even further by employing an archivist to delve into the depths of Combermere’s ancestry and tales.

Visit for the full story on the history of Combermere Abbey and the restoration project.