Greyfriars project - update, 7 September
The search for the final resting place of Richard III continues to turn up exciting discoveries. Archaeologists have now uncovered an area of paving, composed of re-used medieval tiles laid in a haphazard pattern. This is the first evidence of the lost garden of Robert Herrick – where, historically, it is recorded there was a memorial to Richard III.
Philippa Langley from the Richard III Society has described this latest find as “an astonishing discovery and a huge step forward in the search for King Richard's grave.”
In the early 1600s, Alderman Robert Herrick, a mayor of Leicester, bought the land of the Grey Friars and built a large mansion house with a garden on the site. In 1612, Christopher Wren, father of the famous architect, was visiting Herrick and recorded seeing a handsome three foot stone pillar in Herrick's garden. Inscribed on the pillar was:
Here lies the body of Richard III sometime King of England.
This is the last known record of the site of King Richard's grave. Richard is historically recorded as being buried in the choir of the Church of Grey Friars.
Thereafter, in 1711, Herrick's descendants sold the mansion house and garden. After passing through various owners the mansion house was eventually pulled down sometime in the 1870s and the municipal buildings were built. However, Herrick's garden seems to have remained a garden, or wasteland, up until the 1930s/’40s when it was tarmacked over to become a car park.
(There is a painting of Robert Herrick in the collection of the Leicester City Council Museums Service.)
Statement from Richard Buckley
Co-Director of University of Leicester Archaeological Services
“The tiles were also extremely worn and of many different sizes. Although the date at which the paving was laid has yet to be confirmed, we suspect that it relates to the period of Herrick’s mansion. Interestingly, the 18th century map of Leicester shows a formal garden with a series of paths leading to a central point.
“The paving we have found may relate to this garden, but it lies outside the church to the south. Inside the church in the third trench, further investigation has revealed some large fragments of window tracery which could well relate to the east window, behind the high altar. If so, this may show that we are in the extreme east end of the building – near the choir where Richard III is said to have been buried.
“Having overcome the major hurdle of finding the church, I am now confident that we are within touching distance of finding the choir – a real turning point in the project and a stage which, at the outset, I never really thought we might reach.”
The Greyfriars dig will be open to the public tomorrow (Saturday 8 September 2012) between 11.00am and 2.00pm.