Monday, 3 September 2012

Digging for a King

The history beneath our feet never fails to fascinate me. Archaeologists from Leicester University are, as I type these words, digging up Leicester’s Grey Friars Car Park. A few days ago they found what they believe to be a section of wall from Grey Friars, a Franciscan Friary where it is thought that Richard III's body may have been buried. They are continuing the dig in the hope of finding his remains.

Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field which is only a few miles from Leicester. Over the centuries there has been much speculation as to what happened to his body. Some say he was buried in Grey Friars. Others say his body was thrown into the River Soar. Now we may be about to find out the truth.

In my book, The Children’s History of Leicester, I talked about the Witch of Daneshill. They say that she was among the crowd who watched the King ride into battle on 21st August, 1485. Richard had stayed overnight in the White Boar Inn near Leicester’s River Soar. As he rode off over the river his foot knocked against the cornerstone of Bow Bridge. The Witch of Daneshill called out,

    “When next he comes over that bridge it will be his head that knocks the cornerstone!”

They say that her prediction came true. His body was carried back, thrown across a horse, and his head knocked against that very same stone. 

Bow Bridge is still there. It’s now part of a busy thoroughfare and only a few streets away from the archaeological dig. This area of ground has never before been excavated as it had been private gardens for many centuries and then a car park. I can’t wait to see what secrets it’s about to reveal.

Are there any historical mysteries beneath the ground in your area?

If you want to keep up with the news of the dig as it breaks then you can find the latest on The Leicester Mercury site.


  1. Probably not as interesting as yours. Europe's history is very interesting to me. It's one of the beginnings to solving many mysteries.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  2. I love history, even more so as I get older. Just hearing you mention The Leicester Mercury brought back some memories from my history. I was elated to discover my letter had been published there when I was a teenager!

  3. I love archaeology and the idea of digging and finding thousand of years of our past ( well it's thousands of years over here).
    Like Duncan, Leiceser itself is part of my personal history - so it's great combination - I'll be following the Leicester Merc. and your blog for further details, Ros

  4. I was in Leicester last week as a treat and visit for my birthday (I was born in the city too many years ago to mention now). I wanted to find the Greyfriars dig and we did eventually find it after visting the Guildhall. I find it all fascinating as I've been interested in the life and times of Richard III since reading 'Daughter of Time' by Josephine Tey as a teenager. At present in our local city museum we have a wonderful exhibition interpreting the finds of the Staffordshire Hoard:)

  5. I live in Wiltshire, and it's not uncommon to find iron age flints in the garden.

    And then I found a fossilised shark's tooth in the rose bed - 50,000,000 years old! How fab is that!

  6. Amazing! Imagine parking there on top of Richard III. Who knows what's under our feet, it might be best not to know sometimes.

  7. Thanks, Shelly.

    Hi Duncan, yes The Leicester Mercury is still around. Have you still got a copy of the letter that they published?

    Hi Ann, yes, yes I accept that your history goes back far beyond ours but it's still exciting and I'll blog again if there's anything interesting to report.

    Hi Rosie, hope you enjoyed your visit to Leicester. There was a hoard of what I think was Anglo Saxon coins here too several years ago.

    Hi Jo, a fossilised shark's tooth! Gosh! How do you know it's that old?

    Hi Susan, oh no I long to know what's under my feet. I'm tempted to buy a metal detector and I shall wander the fields bothering farmers with my bleeping!

    1. Yes I cut it out and still have it. I wrote about a snooker match and how impressed I was with it!

  8. How fascinating, I know you will stay on top of this and let us know. Richard III is one of my favorite historical characters and I would love it if they found his remains or some clues to solve the puzzle.
    There is a rich Native American history in our canyon, the name of our town, Tehachapi, is from one of the native languages, and no other place in the world is so named. The terrain in our canyon shows geologic changes and also lots of fossils, including that of a miniature horse that roamed here a very long time ago.
    Looking forward to hearing more about the search for Richard III's remains.

  9. Sure, I reckon there's history beneath all our feet, no matter where we live, but Atlanta hasn't been very good about preserving those bits of history that survived the Civil War, so we don't have such a wealth of artifacts and historical buildings as you do there in England. Besides, compared with Europe, the U.S. is kind of a babe in arms.

  10. Wow, so interesting. I'm not a history buff - can never keep all the facts straight in my head (good thing I write fiction, I guess.) But I enjoy hearing stories like this from those who can. Thanks =)

  11. I'm not very knowledgeable about the early kings (anyone before Henry VII really) but I have a three book series that I really should read again, then I can make an intelligent comment. I do find this story fascinating, though - it's great that there are still secrets to find!

  12. Can you actually hang over the fence and watch? Or volunteer to go along with a paintbrush and clean a bit of wall?

  13. Hi Inger, Richard III has captured the imaginations of many. There are branches of the Richard III Society all over the world I believe.

    Hi Susan, would there not be artifacts from long before the Civil War if you dug down in the right places?

    Hi Ruth, i have to admit to being a bit of a history fan.

    Hi Annalisa, Richard III came right before Henry VII. It was Henry's armies who murdered him. It was a brutal world in those days... but then I suppose it still is a brutal world in some parts of it.

    Hi Lizy, no we can't hang over a fence but they'll be letting visitors in to view the progress this weekend. It's in my diary!

  14. Your book looks like a very fun way for children to learn history. I wanted to reach in and turn the page. History is everywhere - well, maybe not in Texas. They tend to tear it down and put up a parking lot. Truly sad.
    Neat post!

  15. How exciting! And the story of the witch gives me the pleasant creeps. :D

    Nothing interesting in our backyard, unfortunately. Just old sprinkler systems that must be torn out. :D

  16. I've been watching the Leicester archaeological investigations with great interest, and wondering if they will find any of Richard's remains. Of course, the other theory is that his bones were thrown into the Soar at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, so who knows?

  17. I love history. Where I live in Texas we have some dinosaur tracks, tons of fossils and plenty of evidence left behind by Native Americans.