New excavation at site of King Richard III remains

Archaeologists hope to shed new light on Richard III's final resting place with a new dig at the site of the Grey Friars church in Leicester. Picture: PA
Archaeologists hope to shed new light on Richard III's final resting place with a new dig at the site of the Grey Friars church in Leicester. Picture: PA
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A NEW excavation has started at the site where the remains of King Richard III were found under a city centre car park.

Archaeologists discovered the final resting place of the monarch in Leicester last September and in February teams revealed that the remains were’’beyond reasonable doubt’’ those of the last Plantagenet king.

Now a team has begun a new dig at Grey Friars Church and will spend a month excavating the choir area with the hope of revealing more about the medieval friary than was previously possible.

Details

The team from University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS), based within the School of Archaeology and Ancient History, hope the new dig may help to uncover more details about Richard III’s burial and its place within the Grey Friars church, as well as a much clearer picture of the church’s layout, dimensions and architecture.

It also hoped the excavation will reveal details of other burials in the church, including a stone coffin found during the initial dig.

The team has speculated that this could contain one of the founders of the friary - Peter Swynsfeld, who died in 1272, or William of Nottingham, who died in 1330, or a medieval knight called Sir William Moton, who may have been mayor of Leicester.

Friars

Experts also hope to find out more about the remains of a group of friars who were beheaded by Henry IV in the early 15th century.

The story suggests they met their end after they subscribed to the rumour that the deposed King Richard II was still alive and were providing money for rebels who aimed to topple his successor, Henry IV.

Archaeologists will make a large trench measuring 25m by 17m around the area where Richard’s skeleton was found.

They hope this will uncover the whole north-east end of the church, including the choir area and the walking place around the main tower of the building.

The trench will run between Leicester City Council’s Grey Friars car park and the neighbouring car park of the former Alderman Newton School.

The team has secured permission to remove part of the Victorian wall separating the two areas.

The site of Richard III’s burial place has been temporarily secured to protect it from the digging work during the excavation.

‘Context’

Richard Buckley, lead archaeologist, said: “We hope this dig will expand the context of Richard III’s grave. We also want to preserve the grave’s relationship with the rest of the site. We want to leave some evidence of later activities on the site - including how close it was to the Victorian outhouse.

“What drives us with the project is learning more about medieval Leicester and one of its great religious houses.

“We hope this dig is going to give us a definitive plan of the dimensions and architecture of the church. We may be able to recover more fragments. We might learn more about the dissolution of the church, and we might learn more about what was there before the friary.”

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