Exploded Gun Brings the Story of Richard III Into The Modern Age
As the nation prepares for the re-interment of the body of King Richard III at Leicester Cathedral later this month, visitors to York’s Richard III Experience, which explores the life and times of the maligned monarch, will be able to see artefacts that reveal new perspectives about his life, reign and rediscovery when never-before-seen exhibits go on display on Saturday 14 March 2015.
The new displays include the remnants of a 15th century handgun found at the site of the Battle of Towton, which experts believe may well have killed the soldier hoping to use the cutting edge technology on the battlefield. Although barely identifiable as a weapon, the fragments give a fascinating insight into weaponry used at Britain’s bloodiest battle.
“A number of gun fragments from the battle were recovered around five years ago, but this is the first time they will be seen by the public,” comments director of attractions for York Archaeological Trust, Sarah Maltby. “Handguns had been around for less than a century by the time of the Battle of Towton in 1461, and these fragments show just how unreliable they were. We can tell that this weapon effectively blew apart, almost certainly in use, so we can only imagine the horrific injuries – and possible fatality – its owner would have suffered.”
Other highlights on show for the first time at the Richard III Experience include:
- A human skeleton, which archaeologists believe may be a Lancastrian soldier executed after the Battle of Towton. The skeleton is one of 12 human bodies discovered at York’s Knavesmire during excavations in 2013; it is thought soldiers captured in battle were brought to York for execution, before their remains were hastily buried near the gallows.
- The remains of a chapel that Richard III commissioned to mourn the fallen soldiers of the Battle of Towton, a key battle in the War of Roses which had led to his own enthronement 20 years later. Although started in 1483, Richard’s death meant that the chapel was never completed.
- Clothes worn by archaeologist Philippa Langley when Richard III’s body was uncovered in Leicester, bringing his story right up to the 21st century. Philippa will also be appearing at the JORVIK Medieval Festival in August this year, and says: “The Looking For Richard Project has been an extraordinary ten year journey of discovery and I’m thrilled we are telling its story in King Richard’s ‘faire city’.”
“King Richard may only have ruled for two years but his legacy extends right up to modern times, so we thought it was important to bring his story up to date, adding to the wealth of material we already have on display about his world. It’s also impossible to understand Richard’s life without going deeper into the history of the Wars of the Roses that led to Richard III being on the throne, so we are delighted to be displaying many finds from the Battle of Towton which have never been seen before,” adds Sarah.
The new displays include both military and personal finds from Towton Battlefield, mostly found in Bloody Meadow and North Acres, areas known for the heaviest fighting. They make a significant contribution to our understanding of the 15th Century, as Simon Richardson, Honorary Member of the Towton Battlefield Society which generously loaned the items, and also a metal detectorist during the archaeological survey, explains:
“The collection represents 30 years of hard work, which has been carefully recorded from the start. Each find has been like a little piece of jigsaw, and piecing these together has made it possible to discover much more about how the battle was conducted. The handgun fragment, for example, is probably one of the most important finds. It represents a transition period when traditional longbows were still being used but ‘modern’ handguns were just being introduced onto the battlefield.”
The Richard III Experience at Monk Bar is part of The JORVIK Group of Attractions, which also includes the JORVIK Viking Centre, DIG, Barley Hall, and the Henry VII Experience at Micklegate Bar. The JORVIK Group also organise the annual JORVIK Viking Festival in February and JORVIK Medieval Festival in August.
For further details, please visit www.richardiiiexperience.com