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TV dig finds remains of likely Richard III chapel

18 October 2013

TIM SUTHERLAND

THE remains of a chapel, thought to have been built by Richard III to commemorate a battle fought at Towton, in Yorkshire, have been unearthed as part of a TV documentary.

Contemporary reports suggested that 28,000 soldiers died in the War of the Roses battle at Towton, which was fought in a snowstorm on Palm Sunday, in 1461. The fighting was said to have lasted ten hours, and surrounding rivers are said to have run red with blood.

The victory won by Edward IV secured the crown for the Yorkist cause, and he planned a grand memorial chapel on the site, south of York.

Work did not start, however, until his younger brother, the Duke of Gloucester, came to the throne in 1483, as Richard III. When he died at the Battle of Bosworth two years later, the chapel was unfinished, and fell into disrepair.

Now experts who have been working on the battlefield since 1996 believe that they have found it. Tim Sutherland, a tutor in battlefield archaeology at York University, who made the first discovery of a mass grave 16 years ago, said: "The records say it was sumptuously finished - it was a royal structure; so we knew it would be of a very high standard.

"We know it had a roof, but maybe the quality decorations expected of a royal chapel had not been completed. And once Richard was deposed it would soon have been looted. Eventually its stones would have been quarried for other buildings; it probably existed for less than 100 years."

The dig was part-funded by the Sheffield-based TV production company Dragonshead for a documentary series, Medieval Dead, which starts later this month on UKTV's Yesterday channel.

His team discovered evidence of a sophisticated structure, including lead and glass from the windows, roof tiles, and well-finished blocks of stone.

"It looks ecclesiastical, it's definitely not a house, we can date it to the 15th century, and it is of a quality that would be used for an important building," he said. "We are very positive that it is the lost memorial chapel."

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