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Saturday, 26 July 2014

A day in the land of King Richard III

News of King Richard III continues to dominate in the city of Leicester. Plans are well underway for his reburial in the Cathedral next Spring, and his statue, which used to be in Castle Gardens, has been moved, cleaned and re situated between the Cathedral and the brand spanking new King Richard III centre which officially opens today.

On Tuesday though there was a press preview day, and at 8.55 am I was there live on air waiting to go in. Just before the stroke of 9am , I was invited in - the first journalist to enter the building.

The centre , which has cost £4.5 million , stands on the site of the mediaeval friary of the Grey Friars where the king's remains were buried over five hundred years ago. It's housed in the old Alderman Newton's School, which was then taken over by the Leicester Grammar School. It's a beautiful Victorian Gothic building which has been transformed.

So, I went in and during the morning, walked and talked my way through the centre in a thirty minute outside broadcast .

21st century technology is used to tell  the story of  our  mediaeval King's life and times in the War of the Roses.....

And the throne looked so inviting, I just had to sit on it for a while.....

Animations and displays tell the story about the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, where Richard became the last King of England to be killed in battle.

On the first floor, there's the incredible story of the most exciting archaeological find in recent years, which used modern science and technology to identify the bones of Richard III. It seemed surreal to be walking through the exhibits and photographs of the dig, which I visited  so recently here on display.

I interviewed Caroline Wilkinson from the University of Dundee who had come down from Scotland to visit the centre..she recreated the incredibly detailed facial reconstruction of Richard from his skeleton, which looks so remarkably like portraits of Richard.

Here she is on the left with Sarah Levitt, Head of Leicester Arts and Museums.
And one thing, I felt compelled to do, was take a selfie with Richard III himself.


I also interviewed Richard Buckley , Director of the University of Leicester's Archeological Services who led the search for Richard. He really is the most modest and self deprecating of men and always a pleasure to talk to. 

And on display was an amazing 3D replica of the bones of Richard III , created by Loughbrough University.

Dr Turi King was also there for the preview....she's the University of Leicester geneticist who  with her background both in archaeology and genetics, was approached in the very early stages of the dig. She was asked if the skeletal remains of a “good candidate” to be Richard III were to be found, would she be interested in overseeing the DNA analysis? Her answer was yes, and the rest is history!

And there was a fascinating computer generated animation which was developed by Steffan Davies and Jonathan Gration from de Montfort University. which shows a digital reconstruction of Grey Friars Church, where Richard was buried and his remains discovered, and the now-lost original tomb, which marked the grave.


Meanwhile, back on the ground floor , is the actual site where Richard was found. Instead of being outside  in the elements,  an indoor space has been created to protect the site and where visitors can sit in quiet contemplation

The architect who's done so well to create this centre yet sympathetically restore the Victorian building is Paul East

At the end of the tour, there's a chance to buy all things Richardian. Books about him, pens, mugs, you name it, it's there and all ready to buy.

But outside ,workmen were still building a wall at the back of the centre - I do hope they finished it before today!

 So, by now the new King Richard III Centre will be open and filled with hundreds of  people. It's well worth a visit, and as I left the centre on Tuesday, I was so sorry that my American Aunt Avril and cousin Melinda were still in Leicester to see it for themselves. they were here  only a few weeks ago., and would have loved it. 


  1. Wow! What an amazing place they've created, and so fast! I must go and see it. Thank you for the very full visual tour.

  2. Tou're welcome...and yes Pippa, do go!

  3. Isn't technology great? Looks like a very interesting place to visit.

    1. I love the fact that an age old mystery has been solved using the latest technology..adn yes, it's so interesting.Everyone I know who has been there is impressed...