Original resting place for Richard III gains protected status

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The 2012 excavation of Leicester Greyfriars, where the remains of Richard III were discovered; the site has now been protected by DCMS. (Image: Leicester City Council)

Richard III was reburied in Leicester Cathedral in 2015 (see CA 303), but his original resting place has not been forgotten. The site of Leicester’s Greyfriars church, underneath that now-legendary car park, has been granted protection by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport on the advice of Historic England.

‘The site of Greyfriars where Richard III was hastily buried in the days following his death during the final battle of the War of the Roses is one of the most significant in our national history. The archaeological remains on the site are now well understood and fully deserve protection as a scheduled monument,’ said Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England. ‘The area of protection has been carefully considered and will be managed through both scheduling and planning controls in partnership with Leicester City Council. The aim is to ensure that this important site can be protected for future generations as a tangible and evocative reminder of this significant episode in our nation’s history.’

The Leicester Greyfriars was founded in the early 13th century; as a Franciscan institution, its friars followed a strict lifestyle of absolute poverty. When the church and surrounding precinct were destroyed following the Dissolution, the area was mostly used as a garden. Maps dating from the 18th century show the Greyfriars site as an open, formal garden surrounded by buildings on its outer edges. It was not until the mid-20th century that the site became the car park for Leicester City Council (see CA 272 and 277 for more on how the friary was rediscovered and Richard III’s remains identified).

The official protection ensures that the long-term interests of the site will be placed first, and planning consent must be obtained before any work or significant changes can be made. Most urban monastic sites in the UK have been disturbed by later development, but the Leicester Greyfriars has remained virtually untouched. The move to list the site means that any surviving remains will be protected and their research potential preserved for posterity. More details on the listing can be found at: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1442955.

This article appeared in CA 336.

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