King laid to rest

Thursday 26th March 2015

The king is laid to rest

Trevor Locke

watched the reinterment service at Leicester Cathedral

Dramatis Personae

Benedict Cumberbatch, Actor, Born: July 19 (age 38)

Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester, wife of the Duke of Gloucester, first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II

Bishop of Leicester, The Right Reverend Tim Stevens

Dame Carol Ann Duffy. The Poet Laureate, a member of the royal household, composes poems for state occasions. Carol Ann Duffy became the first woman in the position’s 341-year history when chosen for the post in 2009

Edward Stanley, 19th Earl of Derby

Jon Snow, Journalist

Peter Snow, television presenter

Professor Gordon Campbell, Fellow in Renaissance Studies and University Public Orator, University of Leicester

John Ashdown-Hill, historian, born 1949

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

Michael Ibsen, descendant of Richard III

Philippa Langley, is the secretary of the Scottish Branch of the Richard III Society.

Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, cousin of Queen Elizabeth II

Professor Kevin Schürer, University of Leicester

Robert Lindsay, Actor born December 13, 1949 (age 65)

Sophie, Countess of Wessex, GCVO is the wife of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex

Wendy Duldig, descendent of Richard III

The live broadcast on Channel four started at 10 am and was presented by Jon Snow.

The burial

The body of the dead king was buried in the Choir of the Priory church of the Gray Friars in 1485. This was done in a hurry as the victor, king Henry, was anxious to leave Leicester and be on his way to London as quickly as possible. The king would have had a simple but brief ceremony of rights for the burial of the dead but that would have not been different from anyone else who was being laid to rest.  There was no elaborate service for the burial of a king there in Leicester in 1485. Today’s event was a way of rectifying the short-comings of the medieval interment by finally laying his remains to rest with honour and dignity.  Because Richard was a catholic, a rosary was placed in his coffin by historian John Ashdown-Hill.

The re-interment service

Many of those who attended the service at the cathedral commented that it was emotionally moving and very beautiful. Several comments were made about the dual involvement of the Anglican and Catholic traditions in the conduct of the service. There was, however, no mention of purgatory in the service, one commentor pointed out. Purgatory was, in medieval times, a central tenet of the Catholic faith and Richard paid for one hundred priests to pray for him, hoping that the time he spent in purgatory would be shortened as a result. As a Christian service, this was a moment to dwell on life and death and of belief in resurrection. As the Archbishop of Canterbury said, as he threw the last handful of earth on to the coffin “Lord raise me up at the last day.”

Today’s guests reflected the complex protocols of status and hierarchy that are used to decide who should be invited to either attend or take part in a church service of this kind. The reinterment of a monarch has not taken place in living memory and the last royal public funeral was that of the Queen Mother in 2002.  The funeral of Diana, the Princess of Wales, took place in 1997 but that was not a state funeral. It was a royal ceremonial funeral.

Faith and diversity

Leaders from many of the faiths represented in Leicester’s diverse community were present in the congregation. The service represented a confluence of the mediaeval and the modern. I noticed the new Cathedra – the throne of the Bishop of Leicester.  The multi-coloured chair – looking like something that had just been delivered from Ikea –  contrasted sharply with the more traditional wooden seats occupied by other members of the clergy.

The grave

The Archbishop of Canterbury at the grave Photo Diocese of Leicester
The Archbishop of Canterbury at the grave
Photo Diocese of Leicester

Richard’s coffin was lowered into a tomb in the choir of the cathedral, to the left of the high alter.  The king was placed in the choir of the church of the Grey Friars priory in 1485 during his hasty burial. The choir is one of the holiest and most scared parts of both Anglican and Catholic churches.  In the churches and monasteries of mediaeval times, burial in the choir would have been reserved only for those of the high rank and status. Later today, the grave will be sealed with the tombstone made from Swaledale fossil stone, quarried in North Yorkshire. It was chosen not only because it will polish to a fine finish, but also because the fossils within it are long dead creatures immortalised now in stone. It will sit on a plinth of dark Kilkenny marble on which the king’s name is carved.  King Richard III’s tomb has been designed by the architects van Heningen and Haward.

The coffin is lowered into the grave Photo Diocese of Leicester
The coffin is lowered into the grave
Photo Diocese of Leicester

The Public

Over twenty thousand people came to see the king’s coffin while it lay in repose at the Cathedral. Many of those involved in the discovery of the king’s remains and in the research carried out on them were surprised at the size of the public response. People had journeyed to Leicester from all parts of the globe to be present in the city and to witness this internationally reported event.

The royals

The Countess of Wessex with the Bishop of Leicester Photo Diocese of Leicester
The Countess of Wessex with the Bishop of Leicester
Photo Diocese of Leicester

Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, cousin of Queen Elizabeth II and his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex (who today represented our current Queen) were the principal royal family guests at the ceremony in Leicester cathedral. Also in the congregation was the Earl of Derby, who also appeared in the Channel 4 programme broadcast live as the service happened. The Queen was presented by her relative the Countess of Wessex  but protocol did not allow her to attend in person. The guest list would have been governed by traditions going back a long way in time.

The relatives

Scene at Leicester University with the descendants of Richard Photo Diocese of Leicester
Scene at Leicester University with the descendants of Richard
Photo Diocese of Leicester

Even though Richard’s death took place 500 years ago, his descendants were present at his reinterment. Michael Ibsen and Wendy Duldig were descended from Richard’s sister, Anne; their blood line was researched by the team at the University of Leicester in order to match their mitochondrial DNA with that taken from the bones of the king. They will meet, with members of the families directly related to Richard (the Somersets, Ibsens and Wendy Duldig) and many are distant cousins, separated by generations.

The Descendants

Direct descendants of Richard III attended the service.  Descendants of others who fought at the battle of Bosworth were also there, including some of those who trace their ancestry back to the key leaders of Richard’s allies and also to those from the Lancastrian camp.  Those who can trace their ancestry back to Richard and people alive in his time included TV presenters Jon Snow and Peter Snow and actor Dominic Cumberbatch. It was pointed out, during the TV broadcast that the Plantaganets married English people rather than continental royals.  For this reason, many people alive today can trace their ancestors back to his period of the middle ages.

The king's coffin at Bosworth field Photo Diocese of Leicester
The king’s coffin at Bosworth field
Photo Diocese of Leicester

The Crown

The crown placed on the coffin of the king was commissioned by John Ashdown-Hill. It was a replica of the crown that Richard wore at the Battle of Bosworth, which was, after his death, placed on the head of the victor Henry Tudor as he was proclaimed king,  at Bosworth Field.

The Play

According to the Royal Shakespeare Company, we owe it to Shakespeare for writing the play about Richard III.  Had he not done this, the king might have been forgotten and might not be here today.  Historians argued over the pros and cons of the Tudor representation of Richard and the extent to which the recent discoveries had changed the history books.


The reinterment of monarchs was common in mediaeval times. Today’s service was based on a document, found in the British Library, of a service carried out at the time of Richard III.


The Earl of Derby was interviewed by Jon Snow.


Dominic Cumberbatch Photo Diocese of Leicester
Dominic Cumberbatch
Photo Diocese of Leicester

Actor Dominic Cumberbatch (38) read a poem written by poet laureate Carol Anne Duffy, as part of the service. Three actors, who had taken on the role of the king in plays,  were present including Robert Lindsay. Asked if he would play Richard again, Lindsay replied that he was now old to do it (he is 65 and Richard was 33 when he was killed.) The Actor will be playing Richard lll in the BBC series The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses.

The coffin

The coffin in which the king was interred was made by his descendant Michael Ibsen, a Canadian-born cabinet maker now living in London. Researchers at the University of Leicester traced his ancestry back to the sister of Richard III, Anne of York and mitochondrial DNA from Michael Ibsen and Wendy Duldig was used to confirm that the bones found in the car park were in fact those of the king. Wood used by Ibsen to make the coffin was sourced from the Duchy of Cornwall. Ibsen designed the coffin to be very plain in style because, he thought, had Richard been placed in one in 1485, it would have been a very plain construction.

The Pall covering the coffin with its creator
The Pall covering the coffin with its creator

The soils

Michael Ibsen also designed and made the box in which three samples of soil were placed, from three key places of the king’s life – Fotheringhey, where he was born, Middleham, where Richard met his future wife Anne and Bosworth where he was killed. The soils were scattered onto the coffin by the Archbishop of Canterbury, once it had been lowered into the tomb.

The faiths

The preparation of the service and the way in which it was conducted, represented a collaboration between the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches.  Some commentators went so far as to suggest that the service represented in part  a reconciliation of the Churches of England and Rome. Leaders of Leicester’s many faith communities were present at the service.

The knights

Knights head the cortege procession at Bosworth Photo Diocese of Leicester
Knights head the cortege procession at Bosworth
Photo Diocese of Leicester

During the delivery of Richard’s coffin to the Cathedral, the procession was led by two horses mounted by knights in full mediaeval armour. In an earlier channel 4 programme about Richard, Dominic Smee, who also had the spinal condition adolescent-onset scoliosis which was indicated in the king’s skeletal remains. The programme, broadcast in August 2014, showed Smee being fitted with a tailor-made suit of armour.  He took part in a series of exercises on horse back, including a cavalry charge.  This suggested that the king’s condition would have been well hidden by his armour and that it need not have had any great effect on his ability to fight in battle.

The financial value

The financial value from the discovery and interment of King Richard was estimated to be some £50 million to the city and county between his remains being discovered in 2012 up to the present re-interment at Leicester Cathedral. In 2013, the City of Leicester failed in its big to become the City of Culture 2017, a prize that would have been worth £15 to £18 million. According to the BBC, Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture boosted the regional economy by £800m, attracting millions of new visitors to the city, figures showed.

What was the impact of the service?

Philippa Langley said, towards the end of the channel 4 broadcast, that the service had been emotional. “It represented the end of a journey”, she told Krishnan Guru-Murphie. Asked if the crowds would keep coming back to Leicester, Philippa believed that they would.   Both the discovery of the bones and now their reinterment had stimulated public interest in Richard and in the history of the middle ages. John Ashdown-Hill complained, in his interview, that the Eulogy had got the wrong month for Richard’s birth; it was October, not May, he claimed.

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Richard the person

One thing that stood out in the service was that we were witnessing the re-burial of a human being, a person, an individual and the prayers were for his soul as a man, as much as for him as a king of England. During Jon Snow’s presentation, from the commentary box overlooking the Cathedral’s south courtyard, the reconstructed head of the dead king was placed on the table in front of the chairs where the interviewees were seated. The whole period, between the discovery of his body and his laying to rest today, has brought him into peoples’ consciousness as a man; we have got to know him, more so than with any other monarch from the middle ages with the possible exception of Henry VIII. TV has played a key role in bringing history to life in the popular imagination, through programmes such as The Tudors and Wolfe Hall. There have been many reconstructions of heads and faces from skulls that have been dug up and a bevy of scientists have emerged, skilled in this kind of procedure. Facial reconstructions have been seen before on programmes such as Time Team.

What has the week been like?

As a resident of Leicester,  I have followed the events closely, either being present at some of them myself or watching as they were broadcast on the television news programmes and reported in the press. I decided today to watch the whole of the live broadcast, by Channel 4,  of the service at the cathedral (I did not get a ticket in the public ballot) rather than going there to cover the event from outside with the general public. Seeing Leicester become the focus of the world media this week gave me a sense of pride both as a resident of the city and as a journalist.  Yesterday and today, the world news was somewhat eclipsed by the tragic crash of the Germanwings plane in the French Alps. All the media was a captivated by the re-interment just as the public were. My week was dominated by attending events and press conferences, writing new stories and articles and by delving deeper into the history of the king and his times. Being someone who has a passion for both history and for news, this was an exciting and commanding week.

I kept hearing references to Richard III being “England’s most controversial King.” This annoyed me; all of the mediaeval monarchs were controversial, for one reason or another. In fact, I cannot think  of an English monarch at any time in history around whom controversy has not been waged, right up the present day. At the time of the death and funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, there was controversy about the present Queen and her failure to respond to what was happening in London. If we consider Henry VIII’s activities, whilst king of England, there is surely more there than we could lay at Richard’s feet.  It is a question of degree; it is all relative. Channel 4 often referred to the death of the princes in the tower, during the programme today and during previous broadcasts, as though this was the defining issue that sticks to Richard.  Admittedly, they also pulled in pro-Richard comments about his good and positive achievements, from commentators who offered a balanced viewpoint.  Seeking to highlight the many myths surrounding Richard is as much modern media spin as that pumped out by the Tudor propagandists.

One factor that contributed to the public attendance was the weather. On Sunday, the sun was shining all day and the brilliance of a spring day helped to bring people into the streets in their thousands, all over the city and county. Today, the guests arrived at the Cathedral on an overcast morning, slight rain bringing out umbrellas but towards the conclusion of the event, the sun came out and the sky cleared.

As Richard’s coffin was lowered into his tomb, it felt like the wars of the roses has finally come to an end. Historically the wars ended at the conclusion of the battle of Bosworth, but their echoes have carried on to the present time. In a way what we also buried today was the remains of the conflict between the houses of York and Lancaster. It made me smile to hear Richard referred to as the “people’s Plantagenet.”

A Yeoman of the Guard at the Cathedral Photo Diocese of Leicester
A Yeoman of the Guard at the Cathedral
Photo Diocese of Leicester


What a stroke of luck

23rd March 2015

What a stroke of Luck

The story of how King Richard III came to be buried in Leicester

Editor Trevor Locke looks at the life of Richard III and how his remains came to be discovered under a car park in Leicester.

Richard's statue with white roses placed by the public
Richard’s statue with white roses placed by the public

The bones of the mediaeval king, Richard III, were unearthed in the city of Leicester. If we ask ourselves why that happened, a remarkable story unfolds.

The week of 22nd to 27th March 2015 witnessed a series of events in Leicester that were of interest around the world. Tens of thousands of people converged on the city to see one of the biggest tourist attractions of the year; certainly for Leicester, if not for England.

The link between Richard and Leicester.

Part of the facade of Leicester Castle
Part of the facade of Leicester Castle

Richard III visited Leicester in 1483 when he stayed at Leicester Castle. Richard stayed at the castle in 1483 and wrote to the King of France, signing the letter ‘from my castle of Leicester.’  [Arts in Leicester]

During his short reign, Richard was continually on the move. He rarely stayed in the same place for long. He was either rushing round the country from one battle to another or attending meetings with nobles. These were turbulent times and there was continuing friction between the houses of York and Lancaster.

Why did the battle take place?

Richard was killed at the battle of Bosworth in 1485 at the age of 32. His life had been full of activities of one kind or another.  He was born into the House of York and to the Plantagenet dynasty – during the reign of Henry VI – in 1452, at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire. The period was marked by troubles and conflicts of interests – not uncommon in mediaeval times. When Henry VI died in 1471, the crown passed to Edward IV.  Likewise, when Edward IV died, his eldest son Edward was due to inherit the throne. Before that could happen, both Edward and his brother Richard were declared illegitimate. Under the law of time, this put paid to either one of them inheriting the crown. As the next person in line, with the strongest claim, Richard took the crown in 1483. Richard III might have been crowned King but there were many in the House of Lancaster who would like to depose him. Richard had close relatives who felt they too had a claim to the royal blood line.

In 1483, he became the Lord Protector of the realm, charged with looking after the affairs of the 12 year old King Edward V. Not only did he shoulder the complicated affairs of state but he also had to tackle rebellions by powerful nobles.  In July 1472, he married Anne Neville, daughter of the Earl of Warwick.  A couple of months earlier, in May, the Yorkists had defeated the Lancastrians at the battle of Tewkesbury. Even Richard’s marriage gained him enemies and he forced to give up part of his lands. The Pope even declared that his marriage was unlawful. When he was only nine years old, Richard was made Duke of Gloucester, a high status title in the ranks of the nobility. His lifetime saw many changes of land holdings and titles in the constant struggles between the houses of York and Lancaster.

Richard’s life was in a state of constant turmoil with battles, rebellions and power struggles  surrounding him throughout his life.

Why did the battle take place near to the small town of Market Bosworth?

Henry Tudor was so aggrieved about what Richard had done, by taking the crown in 1483,  that he raised an army with the intention of seizing the English throne and claiming it for himself. Henry and his army left France and landed in Wales. Richard’s scouts were sent out to report the movements of the Lancastrian army. When word of Henry’s invasion reached Richard III, he raised an army and headed out to fight Henry Tudor.  In August 1485, Richard III was at Nottingham when we heard of Henry’s invasion; Richard used Nottingham Castle as the headquarters of his army.

Richard’s army started to muster in Leicester on 16th August. Richard reached Leicester on 20th August; his aim was to prevent Henry Tudor from reaching London. The paths taken by the various armies lead them towards the Leicestershire town of Market Bosworth and it was near there they decided to pitch camp and prepare for battle the following day.

The site of the battle has become known as ‘Bosworth field’ but historians came to believe that it was actually fought on Ambion Hill, following writings in the 19th century. Archaeologists later decided on an alternative location, following detailed research of the area. This was close to the villages of Dadlington and Stoke Golding, to the south west of Market Bosworth. The area was a watery marshland.  By late afternoon, on the 20th August, Richard learnt from his scouts that the army of Lord Stanley was at Stoke Golding while William Stanley was at Shenton. Henry Tudor and his men were at Atherstone. The battle took place on 22nd of August; it lasted for about two hours and was over by noon.

During the battle, the 32 year old Richard was killed by two severe blows to the head. His body was stripped naked, thrown over the back of a horse and taken to Leicester.

After the king was killed, why was his body taken to Leicester?

Leicester was the largest big town; it was nearer to the scene of the battle than Nottingham. The victorious Henry, having been crowned king at Bosworth, wanted to reach London as soon as possible. Richard was buried in Leicester; but why not in London, where his wife Anne Neville was buried, after her death in March 1485, when she was interred in Westminster Abbey in an unmarked grave. Henry had to act quickly to keep ahead of the Yorkists who were all over the country.

King Henry feared that news of Richard’s death could cause civil unrest.  He decided that he needed to show people that Richard was dead. The corpse was taken to Leicester (rather than to Nottingham) and paraded through the streets.  His body was put on public display in the Church of the Annunciation, in The Newark, a Lancastrian collegiate foundation with which Henry Tudor had connections.

Leicester was known to be a place in which many people supported the House of York. Richard’s two visits to the town might have won him some friends and supporters there.  Henry Tudor knew that he would have to convince them that the king was in fact dead, if he was to avoid an uprising.

Richard was buried in the chancel of the priory church of the Grey Friars – a Franciscan priory that had stood in the centre of Leicester since 1230. The priory church had probably been built in around 1255. History writer Polydore Vergil records that the dead king was buried two days later without pomp or a solemn funeral.

He was buried by the Franciscan monks from Grey Friars  Priory. They dug his grave in the choir of their church, an appropriate position for someone of very high status. The choir was just in front of the high altar. Even the original stone commemorating Richard, was placed between the two sets of choir stalls in Leicester cathedral.  King Henry erected a tomb over the grave in 1495. We know very little what this tomb looked like, other than it was constructed from either alabaster or marble. After the dissolution of the Monasteries, the tomb disappeared and the site of Richard’s burial was lost for 500 years.

It is clear from the archaeological analysis of the skeleton and the earth in which it was found, that the king had been buried in a hurry. There was no detectable sign of a coffin, or even a shroud and the skeleton was lying in an odd position. Some believe that the body was still naked when the Friars placed it in the hole they had dug. It was however common practice to bury bodies naked but usually the dead were wrapped in a burial shroud or winding sheets.

Bear in mind that at this time, England was a catholic country; it would be nearly another fifty years before Henry VIII separated England from the church of Rome. After some years, Richard’s tomb was lost. During the reign of Henry VIII, the monasteries were dissolved and Grey Friars was dissolved in 1543.  Much of the stonework used in the building of the church was robbed away, some of it being used to repair the nearby church of St. Martins (at the time a parish church and now the cathedral.)

Richard III lies in repose
Richard III lies in repose

A story was told by the father of the architect Sir Christopher Wren, that whilst he walking in the garden that was once part of the Grey Friars Priory, accompanied by Robert Herrick,  they came across a pillar on which were inscribed the words ‘Here lies the body of Richard III sometime king of England.’

Why did they dig for the bones in a car park?

The Richard III Society had been bringing together people with an interest, in this enigmatic English king,  since 1924. With its numerous branches, located in various parts of the world, the Society’s aim had been to find the truth about a king who was surrounded by myth and legend. For more than 88 years the society tirelessly sought to find the monarch’s remains. The Society had plaques erected in various places to draw attention to Richard; they also had a stone, commemorating his death, placed in front of the altar of Leicester Cathedral.

In 1986, historian David Baldwin published an article about Richard’s grave in which he examined the historical evidence for where the king was buried and concluded that it probably lay underneath the St. Martin’s end of Greyfriars Street – almost exactly where it was in fact found 26 years later.

Leicester had the right experts to both conduct the dig and then to examine and analyse the finds. The excavation took place only a couple of miles from the University of Leicester. At the time that people were pointing their fingers at the car park in Leicester, prior to the commence of the dig,  the University was already acclaimed for two important areas of knowledge and expertise:  one was archaeology and history and the other was DNA. Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys discovered the technique for ‘genetic finger printing.’ He was the first person to produce a genetic finger print, in September 1984. Sir Alec’s work led to the development of this technique and it went on to be used in a variety of problem-solving fields. The  University of Leicester Archaeological Services team, an independent professional unit of archaeologists, embedded in the School of Archaeology and Ancient History,  was a prestigious outfit with a fine record for archaeological research . The existence of these two fields of expertise meant that the skills and knowledge required to dig for the remains of the long-dead king were available in the same city in which he was buried. Once the bones had been discovered, scientists at the local University where then able to apply their techniques to verify that he was in fact the long-lost monarch and to use mitochondrial DNA analysis to establish that these were in fact the remains of Richard III.

Had the car park site not been dug in 2012, it is possible that it would have been sold to developers and the site damaged by building work, the remains being either left undiscovered and built over or worse still disturbed by excavation for building foundations.

So, Leicester became the last resting place of a mediaeval monarch. A local university had all the technical skills and resources to both excavate his remains and to verify that the bones were in fact those of the long lost Plantagenet king.

That strikes me as being several strokes of luck.

Portrait of King Richard III
Portrait of King Richard III

See also:

Our article giving the background to the life and times of Richard III

The king’s remains arrive at Leicester Cathedral

Places of interest along the route of the procession

News about the reinterment

Our feature article on Richard III

Richard arrives at the Cathedral

Sunday 22nd March 2015

Richard III – the burial of the King – part 1

The king’s remains are brought to the Cathedral.

Trevor Locke reports on the transfer of the king’s remains from the University to the cathedral.

First edition, 23rd March

Today, the remains of the last Plantagenet king of England were brought to Leicester Cathedral in readiness for their re-burial on Thursday.


Crowds had gathered along the route of the funeral procession, not just in the Leicester but in the other places along the way:  Market Bosworth, Dadlington, Sutton Cheney, Newbold Vernon, Desford and Leicester Forest East. Some estimated that the crowds in the city were in excess of 35,000; more than double that number were present in the county along the route taken by the procession.

The hearse traveling through Leicester Forest East Photo by Kevin Gaughan
The hearse traveling through Leicester Forest East
Photo by Kevin Gaughan

It was bright afternoon, the sun shining down from a clear blue sky – which encouraged many people to turn out to view this historic moment in the life of the city and county.

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At the Clock Tower, a large screen was showing the live broadcast to masses of people who had assembled behind crash barriers that extended up to the top of the High Street and beyond.

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In Jubilee Square, another large screen was also broadcasting TV pictures to people who had assembled there.

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People choose all kinds of places to get a view of the procession as its passed.

Around St. Nicholas church people had filled every available position, long before the procession was due to arrive.


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The procession arrived at St. Nicholas Circle, led by the Mayors of Leicester and The Bishop of Leicester The Right Reverend Tim Stevens.

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Various other representatives of the city followed.

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In their red regalia, were the Guild of Freemen of the city.

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A band of Dhol drummers reflected the multi-cultural nature of today’s event.

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A large party of school children was carrying banners and flags that they had made.

The coffin was taken into St. Nicholas church, where a service was conducted.

The coffin was transferred to a horse-drawn gun carriage for the next leg of its journey around the city.

Overhead, helicopters hovered, high in the sky, their rumble troubling the otherwise fairly quiet scene below.

17: 30

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In the ground outside the south entrance to Leicester Cathedral, the media was setting up a large number of camera points. Media from 19 countries were here to cover the event.

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Priests dressed in a variety of coloured vestments were getting ready for the service and officials scurried around attending to last-minute details.

An air of restless anticipation pervaded the grounds as people awaited the arrival of the king’s cortege.

As I was writing up my notes, a film crew from Channel 4 arrived in front of me. Philippa Langley, from the Richard III society was interviewed by news presenter Krishnan Guru-Murphie.

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Philippa Langley was the driving-force behind the search for the remains of the king which result in the discovery of the bones in a car park in 2012.

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Diocesan Press Officer Liz Hudson was busy organising the large corps of media representatives, talking on her radio and doing a great job keep the vast media machine rolling forward smoothly. Much of the work of organising this internationally televised event required minute attention to detail.

The slow-moving procession wound its way through the streets of the city before finally arriving outside the south gate of the Cathedral.


A single bell began to chime from the tower of the Cathedral. The procession arrived in Peacock Lane, two soldiers in full medieval armour leading the procession on horseback; they rode into the grounds and took up position in front of the south porch.

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Various dignitaries took up their positions and the University of Leicester handed over the remains of the king to the Anglican Bishop of Leicester. Richard Buckley, the Project Director of the Richard III dig at the University of Leicester, formally handed the legal document transferring the custodianship of the remains to the Bishop of the Leicester and his diocesan colleagues.

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The coffin has been brought from St. Nicholas church by a horse-drawn gun carriage. The procession of was led by two horsemen dressed in 14th century armour, representing the pageantry of the occasion.

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The gun carriage, pulled by four horses, stopped outside the gate.  Along the processional route, many members of the public had thrown white roses on to it, as it passed them by.

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The coffin was brought into the grounds and taken into the Cathedral. The plain casket was made from English oak by Michael Ibsen,  a cabinet-maker from Canada and one of the descendents of the King, whose mDNA helped to prove the authenticity of the bones.

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Inside the Cathedral many people had gathered, representing a wide cross-section of the many faiths of Leicester and its various communities. After almost 523 years the last remains of Richard III were brought to the Church of St. Martin, which was standing at the time he was buried in the chancel of Greyfriars Monastery.  After his death at the Battle of Bosworth, in 1485,  Richard was given a hasty burial in a small grave, where he remained until 2012 when a team of Archaeologists from Leicester University discovered his bones, underneath a car park in the nearby buildings of the social services department.KR3 March 22 for magazine 23

The gun carriage was pulled by four horses.

Although he reigned for only two years, Richard III’s time as king of England was marked by unrest and conflict between opposing factions. The Tudor dynasty, whose king – Henry – vilified the deceased monarch.  Shakespeare (the favoured playwright of Elizabeth I) was instrumental in creating the myth that surrounded Richard, through his play Richard III.

The coffin of the king will be buried in a specially constructed tomb on Thursday 26th March.

See also:

Our feature article that gives the background to the life and times of Richard III

Our article that gives information about the various places that the procession went to or passed by

News and information about the reinterment events

Guide to procession route

20th March 2015

Background to the Richard III Processional Route in the City

Based on information provided by The Diocese of Leicester.

1) Bow Bridge

This bridge, built in 1863, replaces the original Bow Bridge that existed in medieval times.

The Bow Bridge and the Richard III Story

For the people of Leicester, the Bow Bridge has always had great significance to the Richard III story. King Richard crossed the bridge when leaving Leicester on his way to do battle at Bosworth and his corpse was brought back by the same route following his defeat. There was also a story that, after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, Richard III´s body was dug up by an angry mob and thrown into the River Soar.  This story, now disproved, is recalled on the plaque near the bridge erected by Benjamin Broadbent, a local builder, in 1856.

A white rose on Bow bridge
A white rose on Bow bridge

When the old bridge was demolished in 1861, the new bridge was designed by the city as a memorial to Richard III, its ironwork depicting the white rose of York, the Tudor rose, Richard´s White Boar emblem and Richard´s motto “Loyaulte me Lie” (Loyalty Binds Me). English place-names ending in -cester, often indicates that the place is the site of a Roman castra (a military camp or fort, but it can also apply to the site of a pre-historic fort.)

A red rose on Bow Bridge
A red rose on Bow Bridge

The Legend of the Old Woman and the Prophesy

According to folklore, King Richard´s spur struck part of the bridge as he rode out to Bosworth. An old woman watching his departure then predicted that when he returned to the town, his head would strike the same point on the bridge.  It is said the prophesy came true when the king´s corpse was brought back to Leicester slung over a horse.  This legend is recalled on plaques on the bridge.

2) Jewry Wall

The remains of the Roman bath house, known as 'Jewry Wall.'
The remains of the Roman bath house, known as ‘Jewry Wall.’

Ratae Corieltauvorum

Following the Roman Conquest of AD 43, Leicester or Ratae Corieltauvorum, as it was known, developed into an important Roman town. Many great public buildings were constructed including the baths in AD150. Today, the only visible reminder of Leicester´s Roman past is the remaining wall (of the baths complex) inaccurately known as ‘Jewry Wall.’ The wall is one of the largest pieces of Roman masonry still standing in Britain.

Roman life and the baths complex

Bathing was an important part of cultural and social life in Roman towns.  Bath-houses were places to exercise, relax, eat, socialise and make business transactions as well as getting clean. Access to the baths complex is thought to have been through the arches in Jewry Wall. You can discover more about the baths and Roman Leicester at Jewry Wall Museum.

The discovery of the Roman baths in the 1930s

Until the 1930s people believed Jewry Wall was part of a temple to Janus.  It wasn´t until 1936 when a factory was demolished to make way for new swimming baths that the Roman baths complex was discovered.  Pioneering archaeologist Dame Kathleen Kenyon led the excavations that were the first large-scale archaeological investigations of Roman Leicester.

3) St Nicholas Church

Leicester´s oldest place of worship

St Nicholas’ church is Leicester´s oldest surviving place of worship.  Built originally in Saxon times around the 9th or 10th centuries, it has been remodelled since but the original walls of the nave (main central hall) still remain. Other early features that can still be seen include Norman arches and the tower (added around the 11th century).

Roman connections

The church was built next to the surviving wall of the Roman baths, probably in use until the 4th century AD. Those who built the church clearly made use of Roman building materials as Roman tiles can be seen incorporated into Saxon windows on the north side and into the church´s facade. There are also Roman columns in the churchyard.

The changing fortunes of St Nicholas church

In the later Middle Ages St Nicholas was a poor church.  With no money for repairs, parts of the building were demolished after1600 and the spire was removed in 1805. In the 1950s and 60s slum clearance and new road schemes resulted in the parish losing most of its residents. After a brief spell as the Chaplaincy Church for both universities in the city, St Nicholas is now home to a congregation that values its membership of “The Inclusive Church Network”.

4) Jubilee Square
Was named Jubilee Square to mark the Queen’s 2012 visit to Leicester, the first stop on Her Majesty’s tour of Britain.
a. High Cross

The heart of medieval Leicester.  Markets were held here on Wednesdays and Fridays.  In 1577 the High Cross was built.  It provided shelter for traders, consisting of eight pillars in a circle holding up a dome.

The structure gradually fell into disrepair as the town developed and by 1773 most of it was pulled down to allow room for carriages to pass by.  Just a single pillar remained and a cross of granite set into the roadway now marks the spot where it once stood

b. Roman Forum and Basilica

Back in the 3rd century AD this area would have been the administrative and bustling commercial heart of Roman Leicester.  Beneath your feet lies what remains of the forum and basilica. To the west was the Jewry Wall public bathhouse and temple, to the north a macellum or market hall.
The forum was a large open square surrounded on three sides by colonnades containing shops. What remains of the colonnade can be seen at Jewry Wall Museum.  It would have acted as a market place as well as a centre for religious, social and political gatherings. It is likely the forum would have taken over 50 years to build.
On the fourth side of the forum was the basilica, a large aisled building which contained offices and would have served as Roman Leicester’s administrative and judicial centre.
It is thanks to the 21st century renaissance of Leicester and its new commercial and residential developments that we know so much about its ancient past. As old industrial buildings are demolished, archaeologists can move in to uncover evidence that gives us clues to what the city looked like over 2,000 years ago.

c. Wygston’s House

Built around 1490, this medieval house is now the oldest dwelling in the city.

Wyggeston's Hospital and Boys School, 1876
Wyggeston’s Hospital and Boys School, 1876

Who was Roger Wygston?

The initials RW appear several times on the painted glass panels belonging to this house, so we believe it was the home of Roger Wigston (1430 -1507), one of Leicester´s leading wool merchants. He was Mayor of Leicester three times as well as a Member of Parliament for the town.

The Story of the House

What you can see from the outside is a medieval timber hall overlooking a small courtyard. The front of the house (on Applegate) was rebuilt in 1796 in a more fashionable brick whilst the rear wing was added later in Victorian times over what was the medieval kitchen.

Why is the house important?

The Wigstons were a rich and important local family. William Wigston, Roger´s father, made the family fortune from the wool trade in the early 15th century. Roger´s nephew, also William, was a great benefactor of the town and founded Wyggeston Hospital in 1513 and later the Wyggeston schools.

5) Medieval Streets

Depiction of Leicester in the 15th century
Depiction of Leicester in the 15th century

Leicester´s medieval streets

Medieval Leicester lay within the old Roman walls. The town walls followed the lines of what are now Soar Lane, Sanvey Gate, Church Gate, Gallowtree Gate, Horsefair Street and Bath Lane in the West.  Four fortress-like gates provided the main entrances into the town known as North Gate, East Gate, South Gate and West Gate.

Today the area around Guildhall Lane, Loseby Lane and St Martins East and West gives a good impression of what medieval Leicester might have looked like with its densely built-up narrow streets.

The medieval High Street (now Highcross Street and Applegate) was the town´s main trading area and was lined with the houses of the wealthy and the more important inns.

What´s in a name?

Sanvey Gate – This is thought to be a corruption of Sancta Via (the Holy Way) and may have been a route for religious processions to St Margaret´s Church.

Loseby Lane – This is named after Henry de Loseby, a local 14th century landowner.  The cattle market was held here in the middle ages.

Gallowtree Gate – This derives from the road (“gata”) that leads to the gallows at the top of London Road

Cank Street – It is thought this is named after the public well that lay there

Butt Close Lane – The site of the town´s archery butts (a shooting field, with mounds of earth used for the target.)

Holy Bones – This name could be derived either from the discarded animal bones from the butchers trading close to St Nicholas Church or from the path leading to St Nicholas´churchyard. The 17th century scholar Edmund Gibson claimed the Romans built a temple here, dedicated to the god Janus. “An argument whereof is the great store of bones of beasts (which were sacrificed) that have been digged up,” he wrote. “On this account, that place in town is still called Holy Bones.”

Friar Lane – The lane runs alongside the site of a Franciscan friary, occupied by friars known as the “Grey Friars”. The Franciscan Friars (Orders of Friars Minor, often called the Grey Friars from the colour of their garments) came to England in 1224, around a year before the death of St Francis of Assisi, their founder. Friars differ from monks in that they are not a secluded community but work among the local people, on whose charity they are dependant. The nave of the friary church would have been accessible to the public, while the rest of the buildings were private. Medieval Leicester supported two other friaries, one Dominican and one Augustinian.

6) Highcross Street

a. Free Grammar School

One of the oldest schoolhouses in England

The school was built around 1573 using stone, timber and lead from St Peter´s church that had been demolished following an appeal to Queen Elizabeth I. The Royal coat of arms is displayed over the entrance.

What do we know of the pupils?

Remarkably, details of the school curriculum have survived. Pupils attended lessons six days a week with a half-day on Thursdays. Summer hours were 5am – 5pm with a two-hour break and in winter 7am-5pm. Subjects included English, Latin and Greek grammar and older boys were expected to speak Latin to each other.  At its height around 130 boys studied here but by the 1830s attendance had fallen dramatically as rival schools opened in the town. It closed in 1841.

Why is it important to the story of Leicester?

Thomas Wigston founded the school using money from his brother William´s estate.   You can see the name “Sir William Wigston” on the benefactors’ plaque on the Highcross Street side of the building. The Wigston family were great Leicester benefactors.

In later years the building was a carpet warehouse and a booking office for Barton Transport of Nottingham. It is now a bar and restaurant

b. The Blue Boar Inn (near to the site of the Travelodge)

On 20th August 1485 King Richard III spent his final night in Leicester at the Blue Boar Inn before riding out towards Bosworth to engage the forces of Henry Tudor in battle. He brought his own bed with him from Nottingham Castle, allegedly because he “slept ill in strange beds.” His bed was supposedly left at the inn, perhaps the intention being the king would return there after the battle.  The room he stayed in was described as a “large gloomy chamber” whose beams were decorated with representations of vine-tendrils.

What do we know of the Blue Boar Inn?

Built in the mid-15th century, the Blue Boar was one of Leicester´s principal coaching inns, a place where aristocrats and wealthy merchants would stay when moving around the county. Previously King Richard had stayed at Leicester Castle on his visits to the city but by 1485 the building was falling into disrepair.

Legend has it that the inn was originally called the White Boar, which was Richard´s emblem.  After the battle it is alleged that the landlord hastily painted the sign blue, a blue boar being the emblem of the Earl of Oxford, Henry Tudor´s chief supporter.

What remains of the Inn today?

Nothing remains of the Inn today however the University of Leicester have reconstructed a 3D model of what the Inn would have looked like from detailed plans found in a 19th century notebook.

7) High Street

a) The High Cross Coffee House, High Street (1895) now the Highcross pub

The High Cross Coffee House was designed by Leicester architect Edward Burgess, a Quaker. The exteriors of the coffee houses were deliberately ornate to attract customers.

Thomas Cook was a lifelong supporter of the “Temperance Movement” that encouraged people to give up drinking alcohol, believing drunkenness was the cause of many problems. Cook, a devout Christian, was a founder member, in 1877, of the Leicester Coffee and Cocoa Company Ltd. which set up 14 coffee and cocoa houses. Designed to keep people away from public houses, they provided affordable food and “nutritious, comforting and healthful beverages at the easy price of a penny a pint”.

The coffee houses, which were open to both sexes, were airy and comfortable with dining, reading and billiard rooms.

b) Coronation Buildings

Once described as a “jolly piece of commercial vulgarity”, the Coronation Buildings marked both the Coronation of Edward VII in 1902 and Britain´s continuing strong ties to its Victorian Empire.  The Leicester architect and philanthropist Arthur Wakerley, Mayor of Leicester in 1897, designed this Art Nouveau style building.  He also designed the Turkey Cafe on Granby Street.

A celebration of the British Empire

Building in Leicester's Victorian High Street
Building in Leicester’s Victorian High Street

Look up and you can see some panels with a Union Jack centre and animals representing parts of the Empire.  These are:
Africa – an ostrich, Australia – a kangaroo, Burma – an elephant, Canada – a mountain lion or cougar, Egypt – a camel, India – a tiger.

The Singer Building in Leicester's High Street
The Singer Building in Leicester’s High Street

How were the buildings used?

From their opening in 1904 until the mid 1960s the greater part of the Coronation Buildings was occupied by the main showroom and Midland head office of the Singer Sewing Machine Company.  It soon became popularly known as the “Singer Building”.

8) Gallowtree Gate

a) Clock Tower

The Clock Tower
The Clock Tower

Meet me at the Clock Tower!

Generations of local people have met at Leicester´s Clock Tower, one of the city´s best known and most iconic landmarks.

The first traffic island in Britain

The Clock Tower was built originally as a solution to traffic congestion on the site of the town´s former hay and straw market. Horse drawn vehicles all converged on the area known as the Haymarket from six streets, causing chaos. It was decided that “The Haymarket Memorial Clock Tower” would be constructed as the first traffic island in the kingdom.  The competition to design it was won by local architect Joseph Goddard. A bottle containing coins, newspapers and the names of the town´s Corporation was placed beneath the topmost stone when construction finished in 1868.  In 1903 tramlines were laid round the Clock Tower and the system of junctions was the most complicated in Britain.

A memorial to Leicester´s benefactors

The Clock Tower was intended as a memorial to four of Leicester´s benefactors, carved by the stonemason Samuel Barfield.

Simon De Montfort was Earl of Leicester in 1239 and is remembered locally for giving townsfolk grazing rights on common land and for lifting certain taxes.

William Wigston was a wealthy wool merchant. In 1513 he founded Wigston´s Hospital for the poor. Money from his estate was used to found a Free Grammar School (still standing on Highcross Street).

Sir Thomas White established a trust fund in 1542 known as the “Town Hundred” which helped many local young men start up in business.

Alderman Gabriel Newton set up a trust for the education, clothing and apprenticing of boys. The former Alderman Newton School is now the Richard III Visitor Centre.

b) East Gates Coffee House, Church Gate (1885) Now Cruise Clothing

The East Gates, opened by the duchess of Rutland in 1885, was described as “built in the domestic style of the 15th century, and both internally and externally much admired”.

Thomas Cook was a lifelong supporter of the “Temperance Movement” that encouraged people to give up drinking alcohol, believing drunkenness was the cause of many problems. Cook, a devout Christian, was a founder member in 1877 of the Leicester Coffee and Cocoa Company Ltd. which set up 14 coffee and cocoa houses. Designed to keep people away from public houses, they provided affordable food and “nutritious, comforting and healthful beverages at the easy price of a penny a pint”.

The coffee houses, which were open to both sexes, were airy and comfortable with dining, reading and billiard rooms.

c) Thomas Cook Building

The Thomas Cook building
The Thomas Cook building

Who was Thomas Cook?

Thomas Cook was the pioneer of popular tourism and founder of the international travel company Thomas Cook and Son. He was also a devout Baptist and Temperance (anti-alcohol) campaigner who died in Leicester in 1892. He is buried in Welford Road Cemetery.

How did the travel business start?

In 1841 Cook organised a Temperance excursion from Leicester to Loughborough on the recently opened Midland Counties Railway. More excursions followed and thanks to him in 1851 over 160,000 people went by train to see the Great Exhibition in London.  European tours began in the 1850s and in the early 1870s Cook himself conducted the first “round the world” tour. Panels on the exterior of this building show scenes from the history of the business including the Nile expedition of 1884 when Cook steamers assisted in the relief of Khartoum.

What do we know about the building itself?

The building was commissioned by Thomas Cook´s son, John Mason Cook, who took over from his father and was responsible for much of its success. The ground floor housed the excursion, tourist and shipping office alongside the foreign banking and exchange department. It was designed by local architects Goddard, Paget and Goddard and opened in 1894.

9) Leicester Markets

a) The Corn Exchange

Leicester's Corn Exchange building
Leicester’s Corn Exchange building

A touch of Italy in Leicester

The Corn Exchange, now a distinctive city landmark, was originally built as a place for dealing in grain in 1850.  The ground floor was designed by William Flint whilst the upper floor, bridge and clock tower were added by F.W. Ordish five years later. Ordish´s design was criticised at the time but today the Corn Exchange is a source of civic pride. Its distinctive venetian-style bridge or exterior staircase is often referred to as the “Bridge of Sighs”.

A building for trade, civic and judicial functions

Many Victorian towns built corn exchanges in market places for farmers and merchants to trade corn and grain to meet the demand for food created by the expanding urban population. They were often unsuccessful as traders preferred to use local inns and the importation of grain from America reduced usage still further. Leicester´s Corn Exchange continued to be used for civic and judicial functions however.

A stage for Leicester´s great civic events

The Corn Exchange provided a distinctive central point in Leicester.  Due to its size, and the fact its external staircase could act as a podium, it was used for a range of important meetings and occasions. Ramsay Macdonald used it for canvassing in the election of 1906 and a service to mark the coronation of George V was held there in 1911.  In 1931/2 the hosiery union used the Corn Exchange to broker a solution to the strike by Wolsey hosiery workers.

10)  Silver Arcade – Silver Street

An arcade for Victorian shoppers

During the 19th century, shopping arcades became fashionable.  Hoping to capitalise on their popularity, J.E. Hodding, a solicitor, commissioned local architect Amos Hall in 1899 to design one for him.

What is special about the Silver Arcade?

Silver Arcade has some unusual features, for example it is one of only two surviving Victorian arcades in Britain with four storeys.  Whilst shops lined the ground floor, the arcade is also unusual for its time in providing showrooms and offices, rather than apartments, on the upper floors. According to the original plans, WCs for women were provided at ground level only, as it was “not anticipated females will be employed above the ground floor”.  This assumption was soon proved wrong as tenants on the upper floors in 1906 included two tailoresses.

Who were the tenants of the Silver Arcade?

Local trades directories show that over the years units were occupied by haberdashers, drapers, tailors, boot manufacturers, confectioners, newsagents, tea and refreshment rooms, book sellers, singing teachers, hairdressers and rope makers as well as commercial travellers, estate agents, debt collectors and even a trades union.

Its future in doubt, Silver Arcade closed in 2000, but was able to re-open again in 2013 following an award-winning refurbishment that included two new lifts. It is now occupied by a range of independent retailers, specialist craft firms and a restaurant.

11) Granby Street – top end

a) Turkey Café – Granby Street

The Turkey Cafe
The Turkey Cafe

Turkey – country or bird?

The charming Art Nouveau-style Turkey Cafe was designed by local architect and former mayor Arthur Wakerley.  People at this time were fascinated by “orientalism” and the building reflects Wakerley´s interpretation of Turkish architecture. Turkey the country and turkey the bird are both themes woven into his design. The frontage of the building was covered in matt-glazed Carraraware made by the Royal Doulton company.

“A place to give rest to the body and pleasure to the eye”

Once finished, the Turkey Cafe was leased to the restaurateur John Winn, opening in 1901. The family continued to run it until the 1960s.  Cafes were popular in Edwardian times as they provided respectable meeting places for women and were promoted by anti-alcohol campaigners as an alternative to pubs

Advertisements from 1911 show that Winn´s had its own bakery and roasted its coffee each day “by the Most Efficient Mechanical Process Invented”. They claimed to serve “the finest coffee the world produces, roasted hourly, ground hourly, and retaining all its delicious aroma”

Changes to the Cafe

In 1911 the cafe was extended to provide a Smoke Room for gentlemen and extra tearooms. A “Ladies´ Orchestra” gave performances twice daily. The cafe regularly hosted social events and the meetings of local clubs and societies.  The building has been frequently remodelled, both inside and out, but in the 1980s Rayners (Opticians) restored the exterior using original architect drawings.

12)  Cultural Quarter
The emerging Cultural Quarter has transformed the St. Georges area of Leicester from the city’s former textile and shoes hub into a thriving area for creative industries, artists, designers and crafts people.

Curve designed by Raphael Vignoly
Curve designed by Raphael Vinoly

At the heart of the Cultural Quarter is the ultra-modern Curve Theatre, designed by international architect Rafael Vinoly. Curve has a growing reputation and one of the country’s leading producing theatres, including world premieres alongside shows direct from the West End.

Phoenix - cinema and digital arts centre
Phoenix – cinema and digital arts centre

Phoenix cinema, digital arts centre and café bar brings inspirational film and art through its varied events programme, exhibitions and educational activities. Phoenix is part of the Phoenix Square development, home to architects and designers in creative workspace units, creating a unique cultural environment. Phoenix have developed 2 apps to help reveal the hidden history of the Cultural Quarter – find out more about these apps on the Story of Leicester website.

Leicester Creative Business Depot
Leicester Creative Business Depot

The Leicester Creative Business Depot (LCB Depot) on Rutland Street provides incubator units for new and emerging creative businesses with the Fuel café for visitors.
Makers Yard, Leicester’s newest studio space for professional artists and designer-makers. Located in the oldest surviving hosiery factory in the East Midlands, the factory has been lovingly restored into a charming and purpose-built complex, ideal for practices such as fashion, textiles, ceramics and wood-working.
For art lovers there’s a developing connection of gallery spaces, with independent artist studios and gallery space, Two Queens, showcasing leading contemporary art in a converted factory space. There are also digital art exhibitions on show at Phoenix Square, and exhibition spaces at LCB Depot, including Pedestrian Arts and Fabrika, both independent arts centres in Humberstone Gate.

a) Curve
Curve is a spectacular state-of-the-art theatre based in the heart of the Leicester’s vibrant Cultural Quarter.
Opened in 2008 by Her Majesty The Queen, our award-winning building, designed by acclaimed architect Rafael Viñoly, offers a completely unique visitor experience.
Unlike any other theatre in the UK, we have no traditional backstage area. Audiences can enjoy the full theatre making process, peek behind the scenes and maybe even spot an actor or two dashing from the stage to their dressing room or enjoying a coffee in our Café. Our curved façade is made from 1,192 tonnes of steel and 46000m² of glass.
Managed by Leicester Theatre Trust, Curve is a registered charity providing engaging world- class theatrical experiences for our local communities. We enable people of all ages and backgrounds to access, participate in and learn from the arts, nurturing new and emerging talent, and creating world-class theatrical experiences.

b) Orton Square

John Kingsley Orton was born in Leicester in 1933 and from the age of two, lived on the Saffron Lane council estate.  After winning a scholarship to RADA in 1951, he met Kenneth Halliwell, an actor and writer seven years his senior.  Halliwell would become Orton’s friend, mentor, lover and, eventually his murderer.

Between 1964-1967, Joe Orton contributed to an exciting working class culture that swept through the nation.  A promiscuous and openly gay man at a time when homosexuality was actively persecuted by the police, Orton was the rising star of an ‘alternative British intelligentsia’.

His first stage play, Entertaining Mr Sloane, was a huge success while his second, Loot, won the coveted Evening Standard award for Best Play.  However, Orton’s success as a playwright and celebrity put a distance between himself and Kenneth Halliwell that the latter found increasingly difficult to cope with.

In August 1967, Halliwell, by now suffering from severe depression, murdered Orton before killing himself.  His suicide note referred to the contents of Orton’s diary as an explanation for his actions.

c) Makers Yard

Part of Leicester´s hosiery story

The buildings at 82-86 Rutland Street, now Makers Yard, are the earliest surviving example of an unpowered hosiery factory in Britain.  They were originally built between 1854 and 1863 for J. Brown and Sons, a hosiery manufacturer specialising in gloves.

Home working to factory mass production

The buildings of Makers Yard show how the hosiery trade changed from a home-based to a factory-based industry. The door and two windows to the right of the building were part of the original warehouse built in the mid 1850s This was used for storage and distribution of items made by outworkers in their own homes. Knitters left their homes and came to work in the factory at the rear of the site when it was completed in 1860.  The factory has larger windows to let in the light needed for the knitters to see their work. A second warehouse, with carriage access to the left, was added in 1862-3.

Later owners

By the 1890s J. Brown and Sons had left Rutland Street and the building was shared by smaller firms, mainly related to the leather industry. Hosiery manufacture returned to the building in the 1980s with the last firm, Charnwood Hosiery, making military socks for the Falklands War and sports socks for football clubs like Manchester United and Liverpool.

Makers Yard today

The building was refurbished in 2013 and now provides workspace units for creative entrepreneurs. Many original features have been retained.
For details of the creative businesses operating from Makers Yard and details of public events held here visit

d) Alexandra House

Alexandra House
Alexandra House

A bootlace warehouse

This remarkable building, described as “one of the finest warehouses in the country”, was built originally to store bootlaces.   It was designed by Leicester architect Edward Burgess in 1897 for Faire Bros. Ltd, one of the largest boot and shoe lace manufacturers and exporters in the world.  By the 1920s the building housed 2,000 employees, was illuminated throughout by electric light, had six hydraulic lifts and even a private telephone exchange for 100 telephones.

Faire Bros. & Co. Ltd

Many of the Faire Bros. & Co. bootlace brands, such as “Jumbo” and “Old England” could be purchased throughout the world. The company also made suspenders, braces, garters and belts in ten factories around the country.

During World War II the company supplied products for the war effort including 21,500,000 yards of parachute cords and 9,000,000 boot and shoelaces. In response to the wartime rubber shortage they invented the “Natty Grip” suspender fitting. The company even presented a Spitfire to the RAF Fighter Command, naming it “St George” after the company´s main trademark.

Alexandra House and Faire Bros today

Another invention linked to this building is the treasury tag, still made by Faire Bros today and used in offices around the world.  Alexandra House has now been converted into apartments.

e) Pfister & Vogel Warehouse

Leather warehouse and offices

Built in 1923, this striking building was originally constructed as a leather warehouse and offices for the American-based Pfister & Vogel Leather Company.  Designed by local architects Fosbrooke and Bedingfield, this four storey, three bay building was designed for the efficient handling of different types of leather and features an unusual mix of architectural styles.

Pfister & Vogel Leather Company

Pfister & Vogel was a worldwide company based in Milwaukee. By the late 19th century Milwaukee was the largest tanning centre in the world and Pfister & Vogel owned the first and largest tannery there. The investment the company made in such a distinctive building demonstrates the level of confidence foreign companies had in Leicester´s footwear industry during the interwar period.

The building today

Pfister & Vogel were sole occupants of the building until the late 1930s after which time they shared it with other leather merchants and textile related companies.  In recent times the building has undergone a 1.2m award-winning restoration to convert it into apartments and a bar/restaurant. It was renamed Leather Factors in 2009 in recognition of its origins.

13) Rutland Street

a) The Grand Hotel

The Grand Hotel (now called The Ramada Jarvis)
The Grand Hotel (now called The Ramada Jarvis)

b) The Leicestershire Banking Company

Banks played a crucial role in the growth of trade and industry in 19th   Century Leicester. The Leicestershire Banking Company (formed 1829), was owned by shareholders, most of whom were businessmen from Leicestershire. By the early 1870s the company had outgrown their existing premises and commissioned the prominent Leicester architect Joseph Goddard to design new ones. Built in the French Gothic Revival style, the new bank features many carved exterior details by local stonemason Samuel Barfield who created the figures on the Clock Tower.

What does the building tell us about banking in the 19th Century?

The Midland Bank building (later owned by the HSBC)
The Midland Bank building (later owned by the HSBC)

Local banks like the Leicestershire had limited assets and were vulnerable to the collapse of businesses to which they had loaned money or to large numbers of investors suddenly withdrawing their funds. The elaborate design of the bank, both inside and out, was therefore designed to inspire confidence in depositors, while fire-proof corridors and rooms with safes in the basement ensured the physical safety of valuables.

What happened to the building later?

The turn of the century saw the Leicestershire Bank merge with the London City and Midland Bank. The building became a branch of the Midland Bank and then HSBC.  More recently it was acquired by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), also known as the Hare Krishna Movement, who extend a warm welcome to all visitors on Sundays. For more information about the building visit

14) Belvoir Street & Town Hall Square

a) The Town Hall

The clock on the town hall
The clock on the town hall

Guildhall to Town Hall

Leicester was still using the medieval Guildhall as its Town Hall right until the mid-19th century.  By the 1870s however it was no longer adequate to support a rapidly growing industrial town. The old cattle market site was chosen for a new Town Hall and a competition held to design it. Leicester born architect Frances J. Hames won the commission with his modern Queen Anne style design. The new Town Hall housed the Council offices and Council Chamber,  law courts, Sanitary Department, School Board and 30 lamplighters.  The Borough Police moved into the basement (where there were 13 cells) whilst the Fire Brigade had a station behind the building.

What is unusual about the Town Hall?

Look carefully and you can see it has been built on a sloping site with an extra storey levelling it up at the Horsefair Street end. The construction period is reflected in the different dates on the front gable (1875, the intended date of opening) and wrought iron gates at the main entrance (1876).

A modest but elegant square

The town hall square
The town hall square

Frances J. Hames also designed Town Hall Square with its fountain, the gift of Alderman Israel Hart, the first Jewish Mayor of Leicester. Alderman Hart was a pioneer of readymade men’s’ suits. There is an identical fountain in Oporto, Portugal.

b) Women´s  Social and Political Union Shop

What was the Women’s Social and Political Union?

The Women’s Social and Political Union, led by Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst and better known as the Suffragettes, was formed in 1903 to campaign for votes for women. Frustrated at the lack of progress by existing organisations campaigning for the female vote, the WSPU promised, “Deeds not Words”.  One of its most prominent members was Mrs Alice Hawkins, a shoe machinist at the Equity co-operative shoe factory in Western Road.

Deeds not Words

The campaign tactics of the WSPU were more militant than those of the “suffrage societies”.  Rather than write letters they would hold open-air meetings, disrupt political gatherings and take part in national demonstrations.  Window-breaking, cutting telephone wires, vandalising golf courses and arson were among their tactics, actions for which many suffragettes were imprisoned. Alice Hawkins herself served five prison terms.

Why was the WSPU shop important?

The WSPU shop at 14 Bowling Green Street opened in 1910. It sold postcards, pamphlets, badges and other “Votes for Women” merchandise as part of the propaganda campaign and to raise funds for the cause.  It also provided a base for the local branch organisation – and a place for women to spend the night of the 1911 Census, refusing to be counted in protest at their continuing lack of a parliamentary vote. They had to wait for this until 1918, when the vote was extended to women over 30.

c) Belvoir Street Chapel

Joseph Hansom and the “Pork Pie Chapel”

Affectionately known as the “Pork Pie Chapel”, Belvoir Street Chapel was designed by Joseph Hansom, inventor of the horse–drawn cab.

Built in 1845 to accommodate a growing Baptist congregation, it was designed for up to 1,500 people and included lecture and schoolrooms.  Its circular interior was lit by gas presenting a “brilliant appearance”.

Special trains brought people to its inauguration in 1845 and the guest speaker, Dr Harris, remarked that “he never saw a chapel so beautiful; never met with one so easy to speak in; nor one in which the congregation presented so beautiful a prospect as this did, from its architectural arrangements”.

Why is it important to the Story of Leicester?

Non-conformists were Christians who refused to “conform” to the Church of England and so set up their own churches. They held considerable political and economic power in Victorian Leicester. Baptists were a particularly large and influential group and included the likes of Thomas Cook, prominent manufacturers and civic dignitaries.

Hansom Hall

By the 1940s the congregation had united with the Baptists of Charles Street Chapel and in 1947 the building was sold. Today it forms part of Leicester College and is referred to as Hansom Hall, after its architect.

15) New Walk

Welcome to New Walk
New Walk is a rare example of a Georgian pedestrian promenade. Laid out by the Corporation of Leicester in 1785, the walkway was intended to connect Welford Place with the racecourse (now Victoria Park) and followed the line of a Roman trackway, the Via Devana.  Originally named Queen’s Walk, after Queen Charlotte, consort of George III,  it was eventually the popular name of the “New Walk” that survived.  Almost a mile long, New Walk has been a Conservation Area since 1969, ensuring its unique character is protected.

16) Greyfriars Friary

This panel marks the location of the former Greyfriars Friary complex.

Greyfriars Friary and the Richard III Story

Following his death at the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485, King Richard´s naked corpse was brought back to Leicester slung over horse. His body was put on public display to prove he was dead and then removed by the Franciscan friars of Leicester to be given a simple Christian burial in the choir of their church in the Friary complex.

What do we know of the Greyfriars Friary?

Established in Leicester in the 12th century, the Friary was home to the Franciscan order, also known as Grey Friars after the colour of their habits.  The friars would have spent their days going out into the community to preach, beg and hear confessions. The Friary itself would have consisted of cloisters, a chapter house, a church and accommodation for the friars.

Finding King Richard III´s grave

Although archaeologists from the University of Leicester knew King Richard had been buried in the Greyfriars Friary when they started their dig, locating his actual grave site was very difficult. Henry VIII had ordered the demolition of the Friary in 1538 and over the following centuries the land had been redeveloped and built over many times. By the 21st century, what had once been a religious friary had become a site for office conversions and a car park. The excavation that took place here in August 2012 not only advanced our knowledge of the Greyfriars site but was to reveal the final resting place of a king.

What remains of the Friary today?

A small piece of grey stone wall is all that remains of the Friary today.  This can be found in a car park  near to the Cathedral end of New Street next to an attendant´s hut.
17) Herrick’s House – Friar Lane
Robert Herrick (Heyrick), three-times mayor of Leicester.[26] Herrick built a mansion fronting onto Friar Lane,[17] with extensive gardens over the east end of the Friary grounds. These gardens were visited by Christopher Wren Sr. (1589–1658) in 1611, who recorded being shown a handsome stone pillar with an inscription, “Here lies the body of Richard III, some time King of England”.[27] The Herrick family, who also owned the country estate of Beaumanor, near Loughborough,[28] sold the mansion to Thomas Noble in 1711,[27] who, like Herrick 130 years before him, represented Leicester in Parliament.[29]
18) King Richard III Visitor Centre – Dynasty, Death and Discovery
Following the discovery of King Richard III remains in autumn 2012 the City Mayor announced the development of a King Richard III Visitor Centre. The Centre was developed by the council working in partnership with a range of organisations including Leicester University, Richard III Society, Leicester Cathedral and  Demontfort University.  As part of the development we set up a Trust to manage the ongoing delivery of the Centre.
On the ground floor of the Visitor Centre, Dynasty tells the much debated story of the king’s life and times in a medieval England racked by decades of fighting in the Wars Of The Roses. Visitors will be able to discover the story behind Richard’s rise to power as the last king from the great house of Plantagenet and the reforms he made during his short reign.
Death gives visitors the chance to learn about the Battle of Bosworth and how betrayal led to the king being cut down in the thick of battle while defending his crown and his return to Leicester.
On the first floor, Discovery unearths the astonishing story of the research, archaeology, science and painstaking analysis that led to the discovery and identification of the long-lost remains of the king.
Exhibits include both a partial and the full facial reconstruction, giving visitors the chance to see the work in progress and the final reconstruction of Richard. There is also a replica of Richard’s skeleton, printed using 3D technology. The skeleton clearly shows his curved spine, as well as his battle injuries, including the fatal blow.
Through interactive displays, visitors will be able to match up DNA and discover the process used to identify the remains. A suit of armour is also on display and those visiting the exhibition will be able to learn how it protected the wearer.
Visitors return to the ground floor to complete their experience with a visit to the site of King Richard’s burial, preserved in a quiet, respectful setting and with a contemplative atmosphere, fitting for the last resting place of a slain warrior and anointed monarch.

20) Leicester Cathedral

Leicester Cathedral
Leicester Cathedral

Situated in Peacock Lane, the construction of the original St Martin’s Church was started in the 12th century by the Normans. It was rebuilt in the 13th and 15th century.  Being so close to the Guild Hall meant that the church had strong links to the merchants and gilds and it became the ‘Civic Church’. As the principal church where all civic services were held it was therefore the natural choice to become the cathedral for Leicester in 1927 when the Leicester diocese was re-created. After a period of over 1,000 years, when the last Saxon Bishop had fled from the Danes, Leicester again had its own bishop
Although the core of the church is 13th century, Leicester Cathedral today is predominantly a Victorian building as the outer walls were heavily restored in the 19th century. The tower and spire, designed by the architect Raphael Brandon, were rebuilt in the 1860s. The porch, designed by J.L. Pearson, the architect of Truro Cathedral, was constructed as a memorial to four vicars of St Martin’s, who were all members of the Vaughan family.
The church has two south aisles and the outer aisle was once the chapel of the Gild of Corpus Christi. St George’s Chapel can be found to the left of the south door. This was originally dedicated to the Gild of St George and at one time displayed a life-size figure of St George on horseback near the altar. This was taken out and borne through the streets on a wheeled stage on the Gild’s feast day until the custom was abolished in 1547. Today the chapel houses memorials and colours of the Leicestershire Regiment from 1688.
A large memorial stone slab commemorating Richard III was laid in the Cathedral in 1980 and can be found in the Chancel floor. The announcement on 4th February 2013 that the remains found in the Greyfriars car park were indeed those of Richard III was a momentous day for the City of Leicester. The subsequent announcement, that the remains would be interred in Leicester Cathedral means that preparations are now underway to prepare a suitable resting place for the former King.
21) The Guild Hall

Leicester's medieval Guild Hall
Leicester’s medieval Guild Hall

The Guild Hall dates back to medieval times and would have been a building of importance during the time of Richard III.  The Great Hall, built in 1390, was a meeting place for the Guild of Corpus Christi, a select group of influential businessmen and gentry founded in 1343.  This Guild was the richest in the town and a powerful force in medieval Leicester. The emblem of the Guild, the Host and Chalice, is featured in a 15th century stained glass window in the Mayor´s Parlour.   The Guild had their own altar in the Church of St Martin (now Leicester Cathedral) and used the Great Hall for banquets at times of high festivals.

Many of the Guild´s members were associated with the Corporation of Leicester so they began using the Guildhall as a place of assembly. By 1563 the building had become Leicester´s Town Hall and the ground floor of the west wing became known as the Mayor´s Parlour.

The Medieval Guild Hall today

This impressive and important medieval building narrowly escaped demolition in 1876.  At the time people considered it old-fashioned, gloomy and unsuitable for its purpose as a civic building.  In 1922 the building was completely restored and opened to the public.

See also:
History of Leicester Part 1

History of Leicester Part 2

Our article on Leicester Castle


Tuesday 17th March 2015

Adrian Mole

The Musical

Curve – until 4th April.

Funny, heart-warming and very enjoyable.

Our rating: *****
Director: Luke Sheppard
Choreographer: Tim Jackson
Book and Lyrics by Jake Brunger and music and lyrics by Pippa Cleary.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole. Photo Pamela Raith Photography
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole.
Photo Pamela Raith Photography

Tonight saw the world première of Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ The Musical. The theatre was packed; in the bar area, BBC TV crews were doing live interviews and outside there was an OB van, its dishes sending the signals to the networks. It all added to the excitement of this auspicious occasion.

When it first appeared in 1982, Sue Townsend’s first Adrian Mole book was an instant success and sold millions of copies world-wide. I remember reading it, soon after it was published, constantly laughing out loud (much to the surprise of the other passengers on the train). The book was made into a TV series in 1985, the theme music’s title song being written by Ian Dury no less. The BBC broadcast a version of it as a Radio Four thirty minute play in 1982.

Tonight’s production was in two acts. The music was provided by a band, seated in an orchestra pit just below the front of stage. The five-piece band was under the directorship of Luke Sheppard. The set and costume designer was Tom Rogers.

What made tonight’s experience so unforgettable was the atmosphere – everyone was loving the show. Like the book, there were moments of pure hilarity, silly naivety and sheer pantomime. Risqué double entendres from the adult characters, Adrian’s adolescent naive comments and absurd situations kept the audience in fits of laughter pretty much throughout the whole performance. The musical had ably captured the spirit of the book. The show was a tour-de-force of musical comedy and a celebration of the bitter-sweet absurdities of adolescent growing pains.

Adrian and Pandora have their first proper kiss; a prolonged engagement, that the audience caught the pleasure of;  afterwards Adrian walks to the front of the stage. The expression on his face was one of elation and surprise; you could tell from the reaction of the audience that this was one of the show’s unforgettable moments. Joel Fossard-Jones had to cut short the clapping and cheering by launching into his next song.

It was somewhat odd that the actors in the classroom scene comprised members of the young cast and adults both playing school children. Odd though this was it certainly amused many members of the audience. Many references occurred in the dialogue that evoked Leicester in the early 1980s; such as the reference to Pandora’s new dress, when Adrian Mole suggested she had bought it in C&As (the clothing store that used to be in the Haymarket shopping centre) whereas she retorted that it had been purchased at the much classier Debenhams. In one scene there was a bus stop bearing the world Leicester City Council, an allusion to the bus services once being provided by the local authority.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography.
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole.
Photo: Pamela Raith Photography.

Tonight the lead role was taken by Joel Fossard-Jones, aged 13 ¼, one of four youngsters sharing the role. Adrian’s best friend Nigel was played by Samuel Small (also aged 14 ¼) with plenty of sparkle and energy. Classroom bully boy Barry Kent was played by Harrison Slater, who also did the puppetry for Sabre the Mole family’s dog.   It was a conscious decision by the producers to give the teenage parts to actors of the same age – a feature of the musical which should be roundly applauded. Pandora Braithwaite was played tonight by Imogen Gurney; a role that she performed with great charm and resonance. Solidly good singing and acting came from members of the adult cast – Rosemary Ashe in the role of Adrian’s grandma, Neil Ditt as Adrian’s father George Mole and Kirsty Hoiles as his mother Pauline Mole. The curmudgeonly Bert Baxter was played by Neil Salvage.

During the interval, The Simpletones (Leicester’s top a capella and barbershop quartet) were singing in the bar area.

In act two, the school nativity play (devised by Adrian) was a pantomime but one that had the audience in stitches as they watched the antics taking place on the stage.

The show closed to a standing ovation from the audience whose reaction to the musical was justifiably jubilant and genuinely appreciative. At the final bows, tonight’s line-up was joined by others members of the young cast, the various teams of teenage actors who are taking it in turns to share the burden of the nightly performances, each one dressed in the crew jackets emblazoned with Adrian Mole emblems.

I liked this production; Curve has given us so many good musicals over the years but this is one that many will remember with particular affection.

Leicester is a city that is making a name for itself these days. The reburial of a medieval monarch is nearly upon us and when this show goes on tour, even more people will come to recognise that the Midlands city with the somewhat odd name is a place with a considerable resonance for music and the arts. Famous Leicester acts and artists have already paved the way for the city’s musical notoriety:  Kasabian, Sam Bailey, Engelbert Humperdinck, Showaddywaddy… to name but a few from the world of music. The world will come to know Leicester as the birthplace of King Richard III, Sue Townsend, Joe Orton and several others. We shall see.

See also:

Background and story of the musical and read about sue Townsend on our feature article page

The coverage of the show on the BBC website.

I miss our life

16th March 2015

Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 ¾ – The Musical.


The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole. Photo Pamela Raith Photography
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole.
Photo Pamela Raith Photography

Curve told us:

We are delighted to share with you the second song from Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ The Musical, which runs at Leicester’s Curve until Sat 4 Apr. This world premiere production opened at Curve this weekend (Sat 7 Mar), and we’d love it if you could share this heartfelt number from the show, I Miss Our Life!  The video for the track can be found on our YouTube page.

Curve have released another song from Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 ¾ – The Musical. Entitled I Miss Our Life, the music video gives viewers another exciting opportunity to listen to the score from this world premiere production, which is now previewing at the theatre.

With book and lyrics by Jake Brunger and music and lyrics by Pippa Cleary, this new musical of Sue Townsend’s best seller is directed by Luke Sheppard, and runs until 4 April.

Set in 1980s Leicester, Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The Musical, follows the daily dramas and misadventures of Adrian’s adolescent life. With dysfunctional parents, ungrateful elders, a growing debt to school bully Barry Kent and an unruly pimple on his chin, life is hard for a misunderstood intellectual who is only 13 ¾…

To top it off, when new girl Pandora captures his heart, his best friend Nigel steals hers. Can Adrian win back her love and escape his chaotic family life?

With an infectious original score, this brand new adaptation rediscovers this much-loved novel and bring Adrian’s story to life once more.

See also:

Our feature article on Adrian Mole the show


Richard III Reinterment news

Page last edited:  29th April 2015

29th April

New events tell Richard III story

Visitors to Leicester Cathedral will now be able to discover for themselves the history and legacy of Richard III’s life and death, thanks to a new programme of events and activities, part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The programme includes:

  • New information panels telling Richard III’s story;

  • Guided tours led by well-trained and professionally supported volunteer guides;

  • A new guide book;

  • On-line information;

  • Workshops and resources for schools, supported by an Education Officer and;

  • Display of the Coffin Pall, processional banners and the ceremonial crown from the reinterment service.

Alongside the King Richard III Visitor Centre and Bosworth Battlefield heritage site, Leicester Cathedral is now a nationally important location for visitors to explore and enjoy this unique heritage, understanding better the life, faith, legacy and significance of Richard III’s final resting place. HLF has provided £94,100 towards the total project costs of £189,000.

19th March

The Bones of a King: Richard III Rediscovered

The only book written by the full team of experts who uncovered the king.

The Bones of a King is published by Wiley
The Bones of a King is published by Wiley

Written specifically for the general reader, The Bones of a King: Richard III Rediscovered will publish on 26th March, the day of the king’s reburial at Leicester Cathedral.

The dramatic story of Richard III, England’s last medieval king, captured the world’s attention when an archaeological team led by the University of Leicester identified his remains in February 2013. The Bones of a King presents the official behind-the-scenes story of the Grey Friars dig based on the research of the specialists directly involved in the discovery.

The book is published by Wiley.

The Bones of a King is available on Amazon.

15th March 2015

Richard III looms large in Leicester

As the re-interment of the last of the English Plantaganet kings approaches, we look at the story so far and at what is coming up, as the world’s media prepares for a trip to our city.

January 17th

Roads and travel

Leicester City Council told us:

VISITORS coming to Leicester to watch the final journey of King Richard III are being offered advice on how best to travel into the city.

Thousands of people are expected to come into the city on Sunday, March 22, as a procession carrying the king’s remains makes its way from the Leicestershire countryside into the city on its way to Leicester Cathedral. An influx of spectators and well-wishers are expected to line the route, which includes the A47 Hinckley Road, Bow Bridge, St Nicholas Church, and a short tour of the city centre before the coffin is handed over to the cathedral. Detailed information for visitors is now available, explaining the best routes to get into the city, the Park and Ride service, parking availability on the day, cycling and walking routes and vantage points for people to view the cortege.

For more information see the Council’s website.

January 13th

Latest pictures from inside Leicester Cathedral

5th February

scroll down for latest photos

King Richard’s Prayer Book given modern twist

Artwork inspired by King Richard III’s prayer book and produced by pupils of 81 Leicester and Leicestershire schools appears in a new book published today, Thursday 5th February, called “Our Book of Hours”. King Richard’s own illustrated Book of Hours was found in his tent by the victorious soldiers of Henry VI, after the Battle of Bosworth. As Leicester Cathedral prepares to rebury King Richard’s mortal remains on 26th March, the new Book of Hours will be launched by the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd. Tim Stevens and many of the young artists at the King Richard III Visitor’s Centre at 11.30am. The book features 91 full colour plates of stunning, creative pieces of art. Students at local schools were invited to interpret passages from the Bible and their vibrant artwork is presented in a 188 page hard cover book printed by local company, Gartree Press. A leather bound presentation version of “Our Book of Hours” is being prepared. It will be on display in Leicester Cathedral from the week of King Richard’s reinterment. King Richard’s Prayer Book will be in the Cathedral for the period of reinterment, on loan from Lambeth Palace. Copies of “Our Book of Hours” can be reserved from Christian Resources in St Martins House and the King Richard III Visitor’s Centre and costs £20.00.

11th February

Leicester Funeral Directors appointed for Richard III’s final journey

King Richard III’s final journey will be overseen by Funeral Directors A J Adkinson & Son of Oadby.

On Sunday 22 March the King’s mortal remains will be transported by the company from the University of Leicester, via the battlefield villages of Dadlington and Sutton Cheney to the Bosworth Battlefield Centre. After a short ceremony, the cortège will move to Leicester, where the King’s coffin will be transferred to a horse drawn hearse for the final leg of the journey around the City Centre arriving at Leicester Cathedral at 5.45pm. “We’re tremendously excited to be involved in such a landmark event for Leicester,” says Company Director Jenny Gilbert. “It is always a privilege to be given the responsibility of providing funeral services for anyone, but to be involved with the interment of a former King of England really is a huge honour for us. As one of the oldest independent and family run Funeral firms in Leicester we are taking great pride in our role in the day’s events. It promises to be a truly once in a lifetime occasion not just for us but for everybody who will witness it.” Miranda Cannon Project Director of the Leicester Cathedral Quarter Partnership Board says, “A J Adkinson & Son made an excellent bid to play a key role in this historic occasion. They were able to clearly show to us a real understanding of what was needed and demonstrate a real depth of experience and expertise that is already proving invaluable to us in planning the reinterment events. We are of course especially pleased that a local firm was successful and shows what great talent and expertise we have in our county.”

13th February

Leicester Cathedral ready to receive King Richard III

Inside Leicester Cathedral Courtesey of King Richard III website
Inside Leicester Cathedral
Courtesy of King Richard III website

The first phase of the internal reordering of Leicester Cathedral has been completed in readiness for the reinterment of King Richard III at the end of March. For the last 26 weeks, builders Fairhurst Ward Abbotts (FWA) have been working in the Cathedral while it remained open to the public. The stunning conversion includes a new Sanctuary under the tower for the main altar, the creation of Christ the King Chapel at the east end of the building and the construction of an Ambulatory (a walking space) in which the King Richard III’s tomb will be built. “The transformation of our Cathedral is so striking and more than we even hoped,” says the Very Revd. David Monteith, the Dean of Leicester.

Building work inside Leicester Cathedral Courtesey of King Ricard III web site
Building work inside Leicester Cathedral
Courtesey of King Ricard III web site

“Suddenly we have become aware of the soaring arches and spacious beauty of our building. The craftsmanship is fantastic. All will be ready for March and the re-interment of Richard III.” The project overcome several challenges, including discovering a number of underground crypts during the excavation works. Working closely the archaeological team which discovered the remains of King Richard III, the builders lowered the height of these crypts and covered the voids. “We’re proud to have played a role in such an important project and feel very privileged to have created a resting place for a King,” says Matt Webster Conservation Director of FWA. The mortal remains of King Richard III will be received by the Cathedral on 22nd March and will lie in repose for three days before being reburied on the 26th March 2015.

Building work at Leicester Cathedral Courtsey of King Richard III website
Building work at Leicester Cathedral
Courtesy of King Richard III website

Richard’s coffin

The lead lining to be placed inside the coffin of King Richard III has been created by Leicester firm Norman and Underwood and Dr Jon Castleman, chairman of the company, will be the man with the last glimpse of the King as he welds shut the lead lid.
Jon said: “It will be my privilege to lead weld the lid once the king is placed in there.” He added that it was an honour to be chosen to make the ossuary.”
Read more about this

Film footage reveals potential ‘Killer Blow’

University of Leicester video shows injury on inside of skull – Injury to interior surface of cranium revealed, Injury consistent with a sword or the top spike of a bill or halberd. The film is among 26 video sequences being made available to media by the University of Leicester.
“It was one of those eureka moments which Carl Vivian happened to capture on film which we will all remember.”- Professor Guy Rutty, University of Leicester/Home Office forensic pathologist
New film footage revealing for the first time details of the potential killer blow that claimed the life of King Richard III has been released by the University of Leicester.
Find out more

23rd February

Route of cortège announced

The precise route King Richard III’s cortège will follow through Leicestershire has been published today.
Read more about this and see the route as a map
See the full route that the cortège will take
26th February

Royal visitors

The Dean of Leicester is delighted to announce that Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex is to attend the reinterment Service for King Richard lll on Thursday March 26 at Leicester Cathedral. She will be joined by their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. In his capacity as Patron of the Richard III Society, The Duke of Gloucester will also be attending Compline, the Service of Reception on Sunday 22 March at Leicester Cathedral.
The Very Revd. David Monteith, Dean of Leicester says: ‘We are highly delighted and honoured to receive three members of the Royal Family to the reinterment of King Richard. I know that our city and county will offer a very warm welcome to our principal guests’.
[from King Richard in Leicester website]

Bosworth reinterment event

Leicestershire County Council will be making 2,000 tickets available next week for an event to mark King Richard III’s final journey. The Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre event, which includes an afternoon service led by the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, the Bishop of Leicester, takes place on Sunday, 22 March.

The county council has already announced a series of events to take place at Bosworth from Monday, 23 March to Sunday 29 March. The programme, which supports the permanent battlefield exhibition, includes:

  • Series of daytime and early-evening talks, including ‘Arming King Richard III for battle’ with Dominic Smee, the King’s ‘body double’ in a TV documentary;
  • Battlefield tours to the likely site of King Richard III’s demise in battle;
  • What Remains of Richard III? – a play about King Richard III’s reputation;
  • Book launch by historian John Ashdown-Hill;
  • Hawkwise falconry displays and guided walks

March 4th

Channel 4 announces reburial coverage plans

The programmes:
Richard III: The Return of the King – Evening of Sunday 22nd March
This programme will capture the climax of the procession of the King’s mortal remains back to the site of his death at Bosworth Battlefield through the streets of Leicester and the service that marks the king’s reception into Leicester Cathedral with a sermon given by Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols. Channel 4 will also assemble leading historians, actors, politicians, descendants of the King and key participants in his rediscovery, to ask who Richard really was and what his place in British history should now be.
Richard III: The Burial of the King – Morning of Thursday 26th March
Live coverage of the reburial service, attended by members of the Royal Family, as the King is formally reinterred at the east end of the Cathedral. Guests at the service and key players in the King’s story will join Jon in the studio beforehand and afterwards, and a series of short films will offer glimpses of the preparations for this unique event and explore the debates surrounding it.
Richard III: The King Laid to Rest – Thursday evening
A final programme showing highlights of the reburial service from earlier in the day and – live – a last moment of intimate ceremonial, in which those who led the campaign to find Richard and his descendants, gather to bid the King a final farewell.
The Bosworth beacon, lit when Richard’s remains arrived back at the site of his death on Sunday morning, will be extinguished as the massive tombstone is revealed for the first time.
Find out more from King Richard in Leicester web site

6th March

Richard III videos made available to public

Historic collection chronicles dig, discovery and identification of the last Plantagenet monarch. The University of Leicester is making a suite of documentary footage available to media and the public ahead of the reburial of King Richard III.
Hours of video footage captured by documentary maker Carl Vivian is available via the University’s YouTube site and extracts are being provided to media crews for their own news and feature outputs.
In total, 20+ videos are being made freely accessible on the University of Leicester YouTube Channel and 26 sequences from these videos are being made available to the media. The videos include the historic very first moment University of Leicester archaeologist Mat Morris discovered human remains- on the first day of the dig. In it, Mat can be seen looking at a human leg bone uncovered within hours of the 2012 Grey Friars archaeological dig starting. He confirms it is an articulated skeleton, records it as Skeleton One and covers it over so it is protected until more is known about its context within the site. Eleven days later Skeleton One was uncovered and displayed staggering circumstantial evidence for it being the remains of King Richard III.
You can view that clip here
Mat said: “Finding the skeleton’s leg on Day 1 was the first significant medieval discovery of the project, although at the time we had no idea how significant it would prove to be. The skeleton was the first material evidence that we were digging in the right area and that the friary must be in the vicinity but at this point on the first day the person could have been buried anywhere, inside the church, outside in the graveyard, in one of the other friary buildings. It took another eleven days to establish that the grave was in the right area of the church to investigate further, with spectacular results.”
The videos made during this project are all available on the University of Leicester YouTube channel and include a pre-dig interview with lead archaeologist Richard Buckley in which he describes the chances of finding Richard as a long shot; the dig and the burial; identifying the remains; the fatal blow; injuries to the remains; DNA analysis and conclusion.
Also included are the Judicial Review decision, the tomb design and much more.
Carl Vivian, from the University’s Creative Services team, said: “It’s been an incredible adventure and an enormous privilege to be able to follow the story of the search, discovery and identification of King Richard III. From the outset it seemed so unlikely that his remains would be found and then he turns up in trench one on the very first day of the dig – you just couldn’t make it up.”
“I’m extremely proud of the record that I’ve made of this project and hope people enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed recording these truly historic moments.”
Members of the public can view the videos using the following links:
Richard III videos on-line
Pre-dig Interview with Richard Buckley
The Archaeological Dig
The Burial
Removing a Tooth for DNA Analysis
Discovering the Fatal Blow
Identifying the Remains
Injuries to the Remains
The Scientific Outcome
The DNA Analysis & Conclusion
Hair and Eye Colour
The Break in the Male Line
Is the Skeleton Found in Leicester Richard III?
Uncovering the Church of the Friars Minor Leicester
Opening the Medieval Stone Coffin Found at the Richard III Burial Site
The Judicial Review Decision
The Tomb Design
The Date of the Re-interment
Cathedral Memorial Stone Lifted

King Richard III Visitor Centre
[University of Leicester Press Office]

9th March

Tomb makers

…the man who’s made the tomb for King Richard III in Leicester Cathedral. James is one of the more remarkable of the many fascinating people I’ve met in the course of this unparalleled journey that the discovery of King Richard III’s remains has brought about. I’ve mentioned him before, but having just returned form another visit to his workshop
James is one of the more remarkable of the many fascinating people I’ve met in the course of this unparalleled journey that the discovery of King Richard III’s remains has brought about. I’ve mentioned him before, but having just returned form another visit to his workshop in Rutland I’m filled again with admiration for his craftsmanship, attention to detail – and just plain old-fashioned stubborn determination to get the job done!
The tomb’s design was, as is well known, not without controversy, being developed by Josh Mccsh, our architect, in collaboration with Chapter, the fabric group, and subject to the overall approval of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England. But once it was settled last March most people will have given little thought to how it would actually be made. It’s just one bit of stone on top of another, after all, isn’t it? Wrong! Granted the top stone – the swaledale fossil – is one large piece. But finding the right stone, for both size and orientation, transporting it to the workshop, and then beginning the painstaking task of slicing, polishing and finishing it is a specialist task above all specialisms. For a starter, how do you turn a 3 tonne block of fragile stone over to cut the other face without risking it breaking? (There’s not another one on the shelf you can reach for.) And there’s the cross to cut into it – without damaging it – and the internal facets to fix and polish. Just one of the tasks where James has invented a tool which didn’t exist, to smooth down those tricky internal faces.
Find out more

New film footage provides unique insight…

The University of Leicester has released a unique insight into the archaeological dig that has captured the imagination of the world, with new film footage of a second excavation at the site where the remains of King Richard III were discovered in 2012.
The sequence – an 11 minute time-lapse video – documents the month-long dig undertaken by archaeologists at the University of Leicester in July 2013. This is the first time such a behind-the-scenes insight has been revealed into the archaeological process. Mathew Morris, the Grey Friars Site Director from the University of Leicester’s Archaeological Services (ULAS) narrates the video to describe the archaeological process of excavating the car park. He said: “This is a bit of the excavation that you don’t often get a chance to see. The video shows all aspects of the dig. This was a much bigger excavation than our first on this site when we discovered Richard III, and was our last chance to document the archaeology before the Visitor Centre was built on top of the car park. “This second dig was key to providing us with more information about the relationship of Richard III’s grave to the rest of the church. We were able to excavate the additional graves we had identified during the first dig and also found evidence of a new friary building. This film footage is a great way to capture all of the aspects of the dig.”
The footage was taken from a camera positioned looking down onto the dig from the old school building which is now the Richard III Visitor Centre. At the time the building had no electrical power so the camera was run from a car battery which was changed every four days. Over the 28 day period, the camera took more than 50,000 individual still images which were then rendered into the final clip, a process that took over 40 hours.
Carl Vivian, Video Producer explained: “The University of Leicester has always been keen to record and make all aspects of the Richard III project freely available, and when the second dig was announced, it was suggested immediately that a time-lapse recording should be made to allow for the whole process to be viewed. This is another fascinating insight into the hard work that has underpinned the search and discovery of the remains of Richard III.”
The University is releasing 26 video sequences to illustrate the key events in the discovery, science and reburial of the last Plantagenet King.
Carl added: “The search and discovery of Richard III has been an extraordinary adventure and part of why it has been so unique is the fact that the archaeologists and scientists have allowed every step of the journey to be recorded, so everyone can see and share the moments of each discovery being made. I’m really proud of the recordings we’ve made and the part they play in telling the story.”
You can see the time-lapse sequence here:
· Time-lapse Recording at the Richard III Burial Site
For more information about the 2013 Grey Friars excavation, please visit the ULAS news blog
[University of Leicester Press Office]

12th March

Funeral feast

University of Leicester archaeologists identify ingredients for medieval dishes served during King Richard III’s reign

Medieval Armour Courtesy of KingRichardIII website
Medieval Armour
Courtesy of KingRichardIII website

Museum volunteers recreate medieval recipes using University research for an event at Jewry Wall Museum on Sunday 22 March
Archaeologists from the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) have lent their expertise towards a series of medieval recipes designed to provide insight into the culinary dishes that may have been served up during the reign of King Richard III.
Margaret Adamson, a volunteer with the Friends of Jewry Wall Museum, has come up with a series of recipes based on archaeological finds and documentary research on ingredients found in Leicester by ULAS.
A selection of these dishes, including a medieval vegetable soup called pottage and Bosworth jumbles – or biscuits – will be available to taste during a free public event at the Jewry Wall Museum on Sunday 22 March to coincide with the first day of the reinterment of King Richard III.
Margaret said: “These foods are examples of what may have been available at a local inn, such as the Blue Boar Inn, for ordinary people.
“There are some medieval recipe books and written accounts which tell us about food mainly for the rich and a display of replicas showing examples of these will also be on show and will remain at the museum until Sunday 29 March.”
Angela Monckton, Consultant in Environmental Archaeology for ULAS, said: “Specialists at ULAS have identified a number of ingredients and food types available in Medieval Leicester, mainly from environmental archaeology which involves sieving soil samples from excavated sites to examine for microscopic plant and animal remains. “The plant remains include cereal grains and seeds which can be identified to find the crops, herbs and vegetables present at different periods of time.
“Animal remains include fish bones and scales of freshwater and sea fish, and bird bones together with animal bones as food remains. These results have been collected from a number of sites over the years, particularly from the Highcross excavations in Leicester.
“Seeds and cereal grains can be preserved by charring if burnt accidently, while organic remains can become mineralised by the sewage in cesspits – a sure way of finding out what was eaten – both of which are common in Leicester.”
Following previous success with a recipe booklet entitled ‘A Taste of Roman Leicester’, Angela and Margaret are working on a follow up booklet called ‘A Taste of Medieval Leicester: Food fit for a King?’ which should be available to visitors of the museum in the summer.
Margaret added: “I have used what is known about local ingredients and old recipes to imagine what food may have been served at a local inn to visitors to the town. Food history is very important because without food there would be no history.”

Medieval food
Medieval food

Margaret’s Medieval tasting will take place from 11.30am to 3.30pm on Sunday 22 March at Jewry Wall Museum, the same day King Richard III’s coffin will leave the University and begin its journey to Leicester Cathedral.
The free public event ‘Medieval Leicester and King Richard III’ will also feature a demonstration of a knight dressing for battle, the history of the Battle of Bosworth, medieval music, craft activities for children and much more.

Medieval dishes courtsey of KingRichardIII website
Medieval dishes
courtsey of KingRichardIII website

The food display will remain at the museum until Sunday 29 March to mark the end of the reinterment week.
[University of Leicester Press Office]
13th March

What do we really know about King Richard III?

Factual and fictional portrayals of the last Plantagenet King explored at public open day on Saturday 21 March
Public open day on Saturday 21 March from 10am to 4pm on University of Leicester campus. The event will take visitors on a journey of Discovery, Knowledge and Identification
Takes place in the week of the reinterment of King Richard III
Experts will share insights into the portrayals of Richard III throughout history, from Shakespeare’s ‘hunch-backed toad’ to the modern-day examinations of his dialect, at a public open day at the University of Leicester. At the exclusive event on Saturday 21 March, the general public will also have the opportunity to hear from modern-day relations of the last Plantagenet King who were involved in the identification of the remains and learn about the legal process surrounding his reinterment in Leicester.
A full schedule of free interactive and hands-on workshops and talks will take place on the University campus from 10am to 4pm, including:
David Baldwin: ‘Leicester’s Lost King’ An analysis of King Richard’s reign and character by the historian who first identified the likely location of the grave.
Tracey Elliot: ‘A Moot Point’ and Sean Thomas: ‘Burial Rights’An exploration of the legalities around the discovery of Richard III, followed by an explanation of the subsequent judicial review into the issuing of the exhumation license.
Dominic Smee: ‘Body of Evidence’ How one man’s journey into the role of Richard III has altered our understanding and perceptions of the man and the warrior.
Michael & Jeff Ibsen and Wendy Duldig: ‘Bloodline’ How does it feel to discover you’re related to Richard III? The descendants share their stories in this facilitated discussion
Philip Shaw: ‘The King’s Speech’ How documentary evidence gives us clues to the dialect and written practices of Richard III.
Mary Ann Lund and Sarah Knight: ‘A Rose By Any Other Name’? Exploring the ‘real’ King Richard by comparing and contrasting historical and literary accounts of Richard III.
Nicole Fayard: ‘The ‘Other’ Richards’ Without the constraints of the need for historical ‘accuracy’, discover how King Richard III is portrayed in performances of Shakespeare’s play across Europe.
The event will take visitors on three journeys, starting with The Discovery Journey – which looks at the excavation and post excavation work carried out by archaeologists.
Then there is the science behind the find.
The Identification Journey will look at the DNA and genealogy research which linked Richard III to his modern day relations and proved beyond doubt that the skeleton was that of the former Plantagenet king.
Finally, The Knowledge Journey looks at the ongoing research and what academics have learned as a result of the one of the most important archaeological finds of all time.
Organiser Jim Butler, Events and Engagement Manager for the College of Arts, Humanities and Law, said: “For the first time since his discovery we are giving the public access to both the key people and the spaces that were crucial to the discovery and identification of Richard III.
“In addition to the first-hand accounts of the team that searched for and discovered King Richard’s remains, the public will be able to engage with the historic research and the science in a uniquely hands-on way to gain a real sense of the huge scale of the work undertaken across the University.
“In addition to the thirteen expert talks there will also be 27 hands-on activities which include opportunities to extract DNA from organic matter, witness the awesome power of an arrow fired at plate steel, have their own DNA profiled, examine real skeletal remains and sample a medieval banquet.”
Dr Richard Buckley said: “Like other members of the team, I’ve given many talks on the discovery – we have been to venues in most English counties, not to mention a few abroad as well.
“What continues to surprise me is the excitement the project generates.
“It’s done so much for the profile of archaeology and even after two years people are still fascinated with the story – and why wouldn’t they be, I still have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.”
Visitors do not need to book to attend any of the events. However, if spaces are limited it will be organised on a first-come-first-served basis.

21st March

Richard day at Leicester University

A free day of family-friendly activities celebrating the University of Leicester’s research, discovery and identification of Richard III will be held on Saturday 21 March. Free interactive and hands-on workshops and talks take place from 10am – 4pm at the University of Leicester campus and the experts involved in the discovery and identification of the remains will be available to speak to media about their work.

See also:
Our news page for items relating to Richard III’s reinterment
The background to Richard III
More news about Richard’s reinterment
Opening of the KR3 visitor centre


The Black Swan

Reviewed by Trevor Locke

Original published in Arts in Leicestershire magazine in April 2011.

Republished here as part of our archiving project.

Darren Aronofsky’s darkly disturbing story about classical ballet is a taut and often shocking portrayal of the rigours of perfection and professional pressure. Brilliant camera work and casting makes it a gripping film that is heading for the Oscars and Bafta awards.

The Black Swan (film) From April 2011
The Black Swan (film)
From April 2011

Rightly so, because Natalie Portman in the lead role of Nina, the psychotically troubled ballerina is convincingly realistic. The role of Thomas, the Artistic Director (Vincent Cassel) is well played but by no means as solid.

The film endlessly slips between the real world and the bleak nightmares and paranoid hallucinations of the ballerina. The camera follows the action in a hand held way, using the technique of real life news journalism and documentaries, first developed in the Blair Witch Project.

It’s fast moving scenes follow the progress of aspiring dancer Nina whose ambition is to be cast in the role of the Swan Queen. Having secured the role, she becomes obsessed that other dancers are trying to take it away from her. Tchaikovsky’s great classic ballet is often regarded as having the sweetness and candy flossed chocolate box of a beautiful romance; in fact it has a dark side, a grim underside of evil and Aronofsky follows this in his film.

From the stunning opening sequence, the film is constantly backed by the luscious music of Swan Lake, either in full orchestration or on the piano. Set in New York, the cast are rehearsing for a “…stripped down, visceral and real …” interpretation of the Russian masterpiece. The challenge to the lead role is to deliver a convincing portrayal of the White Swan and then transform into an equally convincing evocation of the Black Swan, moving from white to black, from good to evil, in the same character.

Various scenes vividly portray the bone cracking, joint crunching rigours of ballet. The ballerina is meant to float effortlessly across the stage, gliding with almost super-natural grace. To achieve this, ballet dancers have to train like Olympic athletes, having even more agility, combined with considerably more strength than weight-lifters and more tenacity than rugby players. They have to punish their tiny, skinny bodies remorselessly in the pursuit of perfection of effortless movement. Nina has spent years, relentlessly pursuing control of her body and her movements but in so doing has sacrificed her emotional life.

The film portrays professional dance, at this level, as shot through with sexual passions and pressures, dancers mortifying themselves emotionally and physically in the pursuit of discipline and perfection. The Artistic Director, Thomas, asks Nina to “loose herself in the role”, to become the character she is portraying on stage and to make the White Swan as equally convincing as the Black Swan.

Nina, however, lives at home with her cloying mother, a dancer who gave up her career to give birth to her. The tension between the two women boils and creaks and ends in (imaged) violence. The mother treats her little princess like a child; in order to get into the black role, Nina scoops up the profusion of white, cuddly, soft toys in her bedroom and stuffs them into the garbage chute.

She goes out to a night club with another dancer, takes drugs, gets drunk and gets laid in the men’s toilets, the night before her first performance. She (actually or in fantasy) brings the other dancer back to her flat for a night of hot girl on girl action through which she looses her inhibitions and develops her dark side. Did she really do this or was it one of her fantasies? The film adeptly confuses the real story of the plot with Nina’s fantasies and dreams and we are left wondering whether it actually happened or was just part of her mounting psychotic delusions.

This is where Aronofsky handles the story line with brilliant precision. After all, the story of Swan Lake is a theatrical fantasy, a tale of light and dark, good versus evil, spinning out a monumental tale on stage. It’s why Swan Lake is so widely acclaimed as the world’s most famous and celebrated Ballet, beloved of dressy lovers of high art and dance school students alike and the least understood.

The film, like the ballet, peels off the sequins and feathers to reveal the naked passions, the bodily agonies and intense mental pressures that are said to lie underneath. The Black Swan graduates from being a ‘dramamentary’ about ballet into a horror movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat, makes you jump (like all good horror flicks do) and has a surprise ending that you were least expecting. It finishes with a monumental finale of high drama. Just like Turandot or Madam Butterfly’s suicide, Tosca flinging herself off the wall to her death or Brunnhilde riding into Siegfried’s funeral pyre … in that regard the finale of the film is in keeping with high art.

The film noir’s dark and disturbing scenes are counterpoised with those of the corps de ballet in their glistening white tutus gliding across the stage in the light of the moon. But that’s after you have seen moments of sexual abuse, scenes of lesbian love-making and gut wrenching moments of extreme violence laced with plenty of sweat and gore.

This tense and gripping drama ends with some digitally enhanced special effects where you see the skin of the ballerina morphing into the skin of a bird, which then mystically sprouts black feathers as she reaches the climax of the dance and becomes the Black Swan, her body taking on the persona that has been growing in her mind. Two hours of spell-binding story-telling keeps you on the edge of your seat and blasts you with scenes you would not associate with classical ballet.

Beneath the polish and glitter of all great art (it would have us believe), there lurks a dark underbelly that the audience never sees. Aronofsky lays it bare and in so doing creates a masterpiece equal to that of Tchaikovsky. I can hear choruses of professional dancers hooting with laughter about this; but then, thousands of people love Phantom of the Opera and Hamlet. All that Aronofsky has done is to tell a story. It’s a tale of the Brothers Grim, proving that even in the twenty-first century, an audience can enjoy a dramatic plot whose roots reach back thousands of year into the rise of ancient Greek theatre. It’s just the technology that has changed. It deserves an Oscar.
See also:

Review of The Woman in Black (play)

Review of Abigail’s Party (play)

Review of Finding Richard (Film)

John Shuttleworth

9th February 2015

 John Shuttleworth – A Wee Ken To Remember

at The Little Theatre

Joe Simons was there

“We all go a little funny when we get older.” What is probably best described to the layman as “an elderly Alan Partridge doing Bill Bailey”, or rather, “Count Arthur Strong goes musical”, John Shuttleworth has rocked audiences all over, from Windermere to Kendal, Guildford to Maidstone.

He came on stage halfway through eating a custard cream, which was, disappointingly, a lot softer than he expected. This would set the tone of the evening as the wonderfully bumbling, lovingly befuddled OAP Shuttleworth, the alter ego of veteran comic Graham Fellows, took the stage.

I went to see this Leicester Comedy Fest show at The Little Theatre, a venue I had not been to before and was surprised to find it just tucked away off of a main street I have used for years. My friend and I, nursing a pre-show drink, perused the merchandise which consisted of the usual fare of CDs, DVDs and fridge magnets to more age-appropriate items such as flasks, tea towels and travel rugs. Indeed Fellows gets the middle-England, Rover-driving, polo-neck jumper-wearing feel right down to the very detail!

The title of the show is actually the result of a typo, and Shuttleworth uses this to talk both about the titular Ken (neighbour/friend/booking agent) and some of his favourite weekends… Other rambling topics are digressed upon, such as how Cinnamon Grahams have lost his trust now that they have changed their name to Curiously Cinnamon (“it sounds like drugs!”) to the fact that Andy Murray doesn’t win anymore because he’s stopped doing “that angry face.”

The black stage adorned with only a stool, a microphone and his keyboard (“ballad setting ON!”), all the attention was on versatile singer-songwriter Shuttleworth as he ripped through (or rather, carefully primed apart) a genre-defying set, from rock ’n’ roll (“Yes, it is the devil’s music”) to calypso (“Get up and move your feet!”), playing a lot of his self-claimed ‘classics’ such as Y-Reg (an ode to his Austin Ambassador) and Can’t Go Back to Savoury Now (a poignant story of starting on your pudding before you’ve had your fill of the main).

Seeing as it is equal parts acting, stand-up and music, Fellows does a great job in never letting any of these facades slip, which is what you’d expect from a comedian who has been playing the same role for nearly 30 years. One feels inclined to almost review it as a performance piece rather than a stand up comedy musical. There’s something odd about watching a man, bearing in mind he’s been playing the same elderly character since he was in his 20s, gurning his way through offbeat performances and quirky musical numbers.

Fellows has been quoted as saying he can’t carry on playing the character forever; it must be hard to relinquish a side of yourself that is so prevalent and long lasting. Where does Fellows end and Shuttleworth begin? Who wears the slacks?! Maybe enough existentialism for one night…

Aside from some sound issues during the first act, the show was hilarious and genuine hearty laughs came by the bellyful. If you’re over 50, be it in mind, body or soul, and find yourself laughing and the slowly encroaching signs of dementia on the elderly then I highly recommend this show to you! Catch Sheffield’s answer to Supertramp on his tour until the end of March.

See also:

What’s on in Leicester

Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival 2015



News about dance and dancers

25th January 2016

This page forms part of our archives

Nupur Arts Dance Academy

4th August 2015

Nupur Arts Dance Academy has just received £30,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting project commemorating their 25 years in promoting and developing South Asian Dance in Leicester and Leicestershire.

Driven by Nupur Art’s Youth Association, this project will focus on the impact that the organisation has made locally to participants, audiences and the wider public through the creation of an exciting documentary and web resource.  The grant will enable a group of 15 young volunteers to develop transferable heritage and media skills and also play a key role in increasing the awareness and understanding of the development of South Asian dance across the Leicester community. There is a significant knowledge-gap in the records of numerous heritage organisations in the Leicestershire area on the progress of South Asian dance over the 25 years that Nupur Arts has developed, but there is certainly a growing interest in the art form with huge festivals and audiences being attracted to sell-out shows. This project will address this need of promoting the growth of South Asian dance and also empower the young people of Leicester to engage with arts, media and heritage in their local area.

From its humble beginnings, Nupur Arts Dance Academy has become the largest dance organisation in Leicestershire with over 300 students learning a range of Indian classical and contemporary dance styles every week.

As well as innovative productions, vibrant community performances and engaging workshops in the community, in 25 years Nupur Arts has built a core team of young dancers that teach and choreograph in classes and projects. With this focus on young people and by working with heritage professionals from East Midlands Oral History Archive, this project will not only map the journey that the organisation has made but also how it has influenced the cultural landscape of the region. It is a highly relevant history and important to our past and present participants in a city where people of South Asian origin make up at least 31% of the population.

Commenting on the award, Smita Vadnerkar, Artistic Director of Nupur Arts Dance Academy said: “We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and are confident the project will support young people to be active citizens with pride in the cultural heritage of Leicester.”

Jonathan Platt, Head of HLF East Midlands, said: “Nupur have educated and entertained Leicester for the past 25 years, helping to expand the city’s understanding of South Asian dance. Thanks to National Lottery players, our investment will create a fantastic opportunity for young people to explore the company’s story whilst learning a set of valuable new skills.”

Source: Nupur Arts

Midlands best dance crew

Midlands Best Dance Crew Returns for 5th Year

Dance at 2Funky
Dance at 2Funky

Now in its 5th year, Midlands Best Dance Crew 2015 comes to Curve Theatre, Leicester, on Sunday 8 November. It will see the crews with the fiercest moves dance it out, for a panel of industry insiders, to win this year’s trophy and a £1000 prize. An evening of stunning routines, using hip-hop, street and break dance, the annual competition is repeatedly sold out and showcases a wealth of urban dance talent.

The event will also feature a ‘Best Dancer in the Audience Section, with a £50 prize.
Previous winners of the competition have included Addict, who have gone on to perform as part of high profile dance shows such as Street Dance (Channel 4), Britain’s Got Talent (ITV) and Got to Dance (Sky1).

Vijay Mistry, Director of 2Funky Arts said: “We’re thrilled that Midlands Best Dance Crew is returning for its 5th year. We’re looking forward to seeing the best, emerging urban dance talent that the region has to offer.”

Midlands Best Dance Crew 2015
Sunday 8 November (doors 6.30pm, show time 7pm)
Curve Theatre, Rutland St, Leicester, LE1 1SB
Tickets: £10-16
E: T: 0116 242 3595

6th March 2015

Project  E

The new dance company in Basin Echo, which focuses on stimulating the audience imagination and interaction with the arts.

Our current project E/ aims to encourage the skills of creativity and critical thinking in 21st Century  schools. We are producing a dance film through the use of mainstream academically approved subjects (Mathematics, Science etc), which gives everyone a basic common ground to relate to. There will be no indicated theme or meaning to the film, it will present a form of art which the spectator can nurture in their own minds.

We are creating E/ to support movements such as Art and Culture Matter and the importance of Arts in Education. Having previously dance for Leicester Youth Ballet (Arts in Education) for 10 years, I understand the importance of keeping the arts in education.

We are in pre production of the project, which is scheduled to be completed in August 2015.

Visit Project on Facebook

See also:

Street Dance