diamond geezer

 Friday, May 25, 2018

Gadabout: LEICESTER

Leicester is one of England's larger cities, and can be found in the East Midlands a nudge further north than Birmingham. It has a long history but has never been a major player on the tourist trail, indeed I was so underwhelmed on a day trip in 1994 that I've never felt the need to go back. But in 2012 the city unexpectedly hit the dead monarch jackpot, and quickly capitalised on it, so now offers a significant sightseeing draw.
[9 photos]

Richard III's death at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 ended the Wars of the Roses and ushered in the Tudor dynasty. The last English king to be slain in battle, Richard's naked body was carried to Leicester on the back of a horse and there displayed to the public as proof of his demise. Henry VII's court historian reported that Richard was "buryed two days after without any pompe or solemne funerall... in th'abbey of monks Franciscanes", a location understood to be the Grey Friars priory. But this was levelled during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and modern-day Leicester gradually grew up on the site.



Now a set of highly unlikely coincidences take over. In the 1990s Philippa Langley picked up a random book at an airport, which turned out to be about Richard III, beginning her obsession with the much-maligned king. In 2004 her research took her to a social services car park in Leicester, never fully built over, where she had "an overwhelming feeing" this was the place. A crowdfunded dig eventually materialised, ostensibly to stake out the former abbey, but which unintentionally uncovered the royal bones in the first hour and a half. The skeleton's curved spine and battle wounds looked convincing, but only because this is the 21st century were scientists able to prove "beyond reasonable doubt" that Richard III's remains had been found. To have rediscovered a king is all but unbelievable.

The city of Leicester has capitalised on its historical good fortune by building a visitor attraction on the site. They already owned the car park, and swiftly bought up the empty school building nextdoor, transforming it into the King Richard III Visitor Centre. Follow the RIII Dynasty Death and Discovery banners (and blimey, there are enough of them), towards the cathedral square where a swish-looking glass entrance awaits. An adult ticket costs £8.95, which is a mite steep for the provinces, but you'll get good value so long as you go round slowly and take everything in.



First up is a Throne Room, i.e. a room with nothing in it but a throne, and five actors performing virtual monologues on two arched screens at the rear. It is perhaps a nod to the Netflix generation, and the school party who followed me round certainly sat entranced. I was more involved by the utterly comprehensive rundown of the Wars of the Roses nextdoor, essentially a heck of a lot of words on some walls, which might be why the vast majority of visitors seemed to give it a miss. The ground floor concludes with an audiovisual reconstruction of Richard's final battle, a bit generic if all you do is watch the walls, so again reading is essential to make the most.

Upstairs, assuming you don't stray into the cafe, modern day interpretations of Richard III are put under scrutiny. A line up of top Shakespearean actors fills one wall, while changing attitudes to disability are challenged on the other. Things pick up when the exhibits reach the story of the hunt for Richard's body, because numerous primary sources are available, and the day-by-day astonishment of the major players comes across well. There then follows an in-depth examination of the scientific evidence which proved this was indeed the dead king, including DNA matching, carbon dating and bone analysis. The sheer improbability of the ultimate announcement packs an emotional punch.



To finish, you return to the ground floor and walk out into a special 'contemplative' room nudged out into the car park to cover the site of discovery. A glass floor allows visitors to look down into the crucial archaeological trench to see a layer of monastery tiles, and a hologram in the shallow indentation where Richard's body was exhumed. The member of staff keeping watch can tell you all about other bodies unearthed in the dig, and which way the choirstalls ran, so again take your time rather than dashing through. Meanwhile, on the other side of the wall, cars are still parked up in as incongruous a way as they must have been Philippa walked in with her lucky hunch, before the last medieval monarch was uncovered.

Several cities claimed burial rights for Richard's body, notably York because he was of their noble House. but in the end Leicester got the nod. This has proved particularly fortuitous for Leicester Cathedral, a parish church given an ecclesiastical upgrade in 1927, which suddenly gained something inside worth seeing. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Benedict Cumberbatch and some notably low ranking royals turned up for the reinterment in 2015, in scenes which you can relive on a touchscreen in the south nave.



Richard's tomb is undeniably impressive, topped by an angled slab of Swaledale limestone cut through with two deep indentations forming a cross. This sits on a darker-coloured inlaid plinth, namechecking the dead king and listing his dates, screened off behind a similarly-updated altar. A sign by the entrance alerts visitors not to use flash photography and, in a modern twist, also outlaws selfies. But check service times before you turn up, because you won't see any of the conclusion to this amazing story if evensong is underway.

And if all this has dragged you to Leicester, what else is there to see? Quite a lot, as it turns out, from across the centuries.



Jewry Wall Museum: Huge excavated Roman public baths, and masonry wall, alongside a repository of Iron Age, Roman and medieval remains [closed for long-term upgrade] [2nd century]
St Nicholas: The oldest church in the county, now seriously overshadowed by modern dual carriageway [10th century]
St Mary de Castro: Other than this church, which recently lost its spire, not much remains of Leicester Castle other than its grassy motte [11th/12th century]
Leicester Market: Much tweaked trading hub, currently spread across undercover benches, formerly home to the famous Lineker fruit and veg dynasty [founded 13th century]
Leicester Guildhall: Mighty-well-preserved timber-framed hall, once used as the town hall, now with historical exhibits attached [free] [14th century]
Newarke Houses Museum and Gardens: Odd historical hotchpotch of a museum, with industrial remnants, period 1940s shopping street and regimental reminiscence [free] [16th/17th century]
New Walk: Charming Georgian promenade, a kilometre in length, linking the city centre to the university (no bikes) [18th century]
New Walk Museum and Art Gallery: Splendid classical repository of the arts and sciences, mostly the former, but whose exhibits include mummified remains, Britain's largest (observed) meteorite and the free-standing Rutland Dinosaur [free] [19th century]
The Golden Mile: A stretch of Belgrave Road renowned for its Indian restaurants and sari shops, where the city's Diwali celebrations are based [20th century]
National Space Centre: Rockets, astronomy, cosmology and a planetarium... but heavily biased towards a family audience, so I gave it a miss [£14] [21st century]


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
853
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths
exploring urban wastelands

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain
#coronavirus

read the archive
Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv