Much practical and theoretical research has been carried out by architectural and art historians on the influx of effigial tombs and mortuary memorials in churches during the 16th and 17th centuries in Britain. Archaeological interest is more spasmodic and often concentrates on such monuments in their idealised forms. What has become clear in my own recent research are the ways in which such tombs have subsequently been reduced, mutilated, moved around and occasionally totally removed from their original settings inside their churches. Often a narrative of neglect, deliberate iconoclasm or cultural contempt accompanies these alterations which results in the monument’s loss of inscriptions, heraldry, devices and other biographical signposts. Using a series of case studies, this paper examines the ways in which objects which were intended to memorialise individuals for all time lose their power and are diminished or reformulated as succeeding generations introduce new mortuary philosophies and change their ways of confronting and commemorating death.