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Archaeologists to lift lid on mysterious stone coffin at Richard III site

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Archaeologists to lift lid on mysterious stone coffin at Richard III site

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Published by University of Leicester Press Office for University of Leicester in Education and also in Communities

8040 - The stone coffin within the choir of the Church. Credit: University of Leicester 8040 - The stone coffin within the choir of the Church. Credit: University of Leicester

Archaeologists are hoping to discover who was buried in a 14th century stone coffin found near the final resting place of Richard III.

The University of Leicester team will lift the lid on the lead-lined coffin at some stage this week – the final week of their second dig at the Grey Friars site. 

The dig team suspect the coffin may contain a medieval knight or one of two high-ranking Franciscans at the friary.

The archaeologists discovered the coffin during the first Grey Friars dig in September, but weren’t able to investigate it further at the time.

Now, the team are carrying out their second excavation of the Grey Friars church – and are hoping to examine the stone coffin in the final week of the dig.

The coffin is the first fully intact stone coffin found in Leicester, and is likely to contain a high-status burial – though we don’t currently know who is buried within.

The team suspect the coffin was buried in the 14th century – more than 100 years before Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth and buried at the friary.

The archaeologists suspect the grave could belong to one of three prestigious figures known to buried at the friary.

These include two leaders of the English Grey Friars order - Peter Swynsfeld, who died in 1272, and William of Nottingham, who died in 1330.

Records also suggest the friary contains the grave of ‘a knight called Mutton, sometime mayor of Leicester’.

This may be 14th century knight Sir William de Moton of Peckleton, who died between 1356 and 1362.

Grey Friars site director Mathew Morris, of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS), said: “Stone coffins are unusual in Leicester – and this is the first time we have found a fully intact stone coffin during all our excavations of medieval sites in the city. I am excited that it appears to be intact.

“We plan to get a plan of the coffin by measuring it and taking photos. Then we will lift the lid up to see what is inside.

“The coffin could be William de Moton, Peter Swynsfeld or William of Nottingham – who are all important people. Swynsfeld and Nottingham were heads of the Grey Friars order in England.”

Leading UK construction and infrastructure company Morgan Sindall is currently on site constructing a King Richard III Visitor Centre to showcase some of the finds from the site. Morgan Sindall is working with the archaeological team to enable access to the site whilst building work continues.

The University’s excavation is expected to take around four weeks.  Latest information on the progress of the dig, and more, can be found on our Richard III website: http://www.le.ac.uk/richardiii/

•       The Dig for Richard III was led by the University of Leicester, working with Leicester City Council and in association with the Richard III Society.  The originator of the Search project was Philippa Langley of the Richard III Society.

•       Keep up to date with the progress of the Grey Friars Dig Part II throughout July 2013 via regular updates on this site: http://www.le.ac.uk/richardiii/blog/page1.html

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