Saturday 25 August 2012

The project begins with the digging of Trench 1, which is 1.6m wide and runs for 30m approximately north-south in the Social Services car park. Before digging begins, a CAT scanner is used to identify any live electrical cables under the ground so they can be avoided. At first, ground beneath the car park appears to be very disturbed. Brick and concrete wall footings for buildings dating back over the last 100 years have to be removed to reach the medieval archaeology underneath.

  • Archaeologists begin to carefully remove the remains of modern buildings to reach medieval archaeology beneath (A).
    Archaeologists begin to carefully remove the remains of modern buildings to reach medieval archaeology beneath (A).

The first noteworthy discovery is a human left leg bone at the edge of the trench – a good find but not particularly surprising when excavating around a church. This is found approximately 5m from the north end of the trench, about 1.5m below modern ground level. Careful examination reveals a parallel right leg, indicating an undisturbed burial (pleasing but again only to be expected). The remains (A) are noted and covered to protect them from the weather until more is known about where they are located in the friary.

  • Site director Mathew Morris finds human remains in Trench 1 (A).
    Site director Mathew Morris finds human remains in Trench 1 (A).

Trench 1 is incomplete at the end of the day due to a two-hour delay when the digger throws a track; however results are promising. The archaeologists have uncovered a patch of disturbed ground (B), an east-west robbed wall (C) with possibly part of a low stone wall still surviving alongside it and large quantities of medieval building rubble alongside that, all suggesting the presence of an important medieval building in the vicinity, most likely the friary. Objective 1 achieved

  • Archaeologist Tom Hoyle begins to remove rubble from inside the chapter house in Trench 1 (C-D)
    Archaeologist Tom Hoyle begins to remove rubble from inside the chapter house in Trench 1 (C-D)

Project objectives

  1. Find the remains of the Franciscan friary.
  2. Identify clues to the position/orientation of the buildings.
  3. Within the friary, locate the church.
  4. Within the church, locate the choir.
  5. Within the choir, locate the mortal remains of Richard III.

What is a robbed wall?

Medieval builders were keen on recycling, helping themselves to building materials from demolished or derelict buildings from earlier eras. Removing a wall, including its foundations, left a trench within which rubble and other material would naturally accumulate. Thus, although every part of a building may have long since gone, a ‘negative’ of the walls remains, marking out the building plan. Similarly, although very few medieval floor tiles remained, the impressions of the tiles could be identified on the floor of the buildings.

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