King Richard III Visitor Centre, Leicester

Interesting how a dead bloke in a car park can generate so much interest isn’t it? In August 2012, a new archaelogical dig began in a car park in Leicester. Richard III was famously killed in battle at the Battle of Bosworth Field (memorably depicted by Peter Cook in the first ever episode of The Blackadder). His body was taken to Greyfriars Friary and buried in a very crude grave. With Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries just around the corner (only 50 years later), the grave was lost, and the story that Richard’s bones had been chucked into the River Soar at Bow Bridge arose.

However, in September 2012, there was some certainty that the body found on the first day of the dig was that of Richard III, and DNA analysis showed that mitochondrial DNA extracted from the bones matched that of descendants of Richard’s sister Anne of York. Alongside other evidence, there was enough to convince the University of Leicester “beyond reasonable doubt” that the skeleton was that of Richard III.

In July 2014 a new visitor centre opened up in the former Alderman Newton School, and it has a very “old school” feel to it. As you enter (through the gift shop in a Banksy style) you are met with a throne and a projected film about Richard’s early life.

Off you then wander through displays about his short life, with stained glass, tapestry and classic museum style information boards. Upstairs is the Discovery zone, which tells the modern story of the archaelogical dig, the science involved in identifying the body, dramatic depictions of Richard III and a glowing skeleton on a fake CT scanner.

Once all that is explored, you can go and stand in a quiet room above the actual spot where the body was found. A glass floor allows you to stand right over it, and a tasteful projection of light recreates the shape of the skeleton in the grave site.

After that, there’s a cafe for lunch. There are brunch dishes served until 1:30pm and lunch dishes served from 12-2:30pm. There’s a choice of sandwiches, toasted sandwiches, jacket potatoes, quiches and salads. Later on you can also have afternoon tea.

We popped in for lunch. There were no jacket potatoes today so Mrs MOFAD had a toasted tuna crunch panini and I had the Leicester Ploughman’s – Melton Mowbray pork pie, Red Leicester and gammon ham.

It appeared on a slate. A medieval trencher I could have perhaps forgiven, but not a slate. A trencher may be edible, metal or wood, but never stone. Serving method aside, it was very nice. Good cheese, really tasty ham, a nice bit of pickle, a decent roll, decent pork pie and some good salad (a little let down by the strands of iceberg). A good ploughman’s and Mrs MOFAD’s sandwich was also good.

All in all it was a great morning out, a very interesting wander through a very local piece of history that has captured the nation’s interest. And the cafe’s not bad either. Shortly after this we were off to a comedy show in a curry house. The Leicester comedy festival is up and running!

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