Where we dug . . . and what we found there

The Greyfriars Project had a series of five progressive research 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.

Objective 1 was a reasonable expectation; 2 was a probability; 3 was a possibility, 4 was an outside chance; 5 was not seriously considered possible.

March 2011

Philippa Langley of the Richard III Society commissions ULAS (University of Leicester Archaeological Services) to conduct a desk-based assessment of the Greyfriars area, using old maps and documents to trace the development and use of the land. This identifies two potential areas for excavation: the Leicester City Council Social Services staff car park and the adjacent playground of the former Alderman Newton’s School. A third area, a public car park on New Street, is also potentially available.

1741 - Thomas Roberts Map Modern OS Map Car Parks

1741 - Thomas Roberts Modern Ordnance Survey Map Car Parks
Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley of University of Leicester Archaeological Services explains the background to the Greyfriars dig.

August 2011

  • Before digging begins, a ground penetrating radar survey (GPR) is carried out in the car park.
    Before digging begins, a ground penetrating radar survey (GPR) is carried out in the car park

A ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey of the three areas reveals modern utilities such as water and gas mains, plus a number of ambiguous shapes. A layer of demolition-related rubble underneath the asphalt is probably disguising archaeological features. A ‘Written Scheme of Investigation’ is produced by Richard Buckley of ULAS with details of the size and position of two trial trenches to be excavated in the Social Services car park and a third in reserve to be opened in the playground.

Friday 24 August 2012

  • A road cutter is used to cut through the asphalt of the car park.
    A road cutter is used to cut through the asphalt of the car park.

The Greyfriars Project, a collaboration between the University of Leicester, Leicester City Council and the Richard III Society, led by Richard Buckley of ULAS, is formally launched with a press conference and media opportunities including medieval re-enactors and a direct descendant of Richard’s sister who has kindly agreed to provide mitochondrial DNA. Site director Mathew Morris and archaeologist Leon Hunt lay out the first two trenches and supervise the cutting of the car park surface with a road cutter.

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