On Tuesday 23rd November, Years 7 and 8 visited three important historical sites in Leicester: the Cathedral, the Guildhall and the Richard III Visitor Centre, which which strongly links with the children’s current studies of the Medieval period at school.

The Visitor Centre stands on the site of the medieval friary of the Grey Friars where the King John’s remains were buried over 500 years ago.  The exhibition gave pupils the chance to learn more about the King’s life and death – and to understand the huge events that led to his hasty burial and eventual rediscovery.  It explained one of the greatest archaeological detective stories ever told and features the first-ever genome sequencing of ancient DNA.  The children were able to see the exact place where Richard’s remains were buried over 500 years ago – a poignant place that has been transformed into a glass-floored contemplative space for visitors.

At the Guildhall the children (in year groups) took part in a workshop, ‘The Trial of Richard III,’ culminating in a mock trial in the Great Chamber.  Was Richard III a fair King or an evil tyrant?  Teams evaluated contemporary evidence from the medieval period, and later evidence from secondary sources, to make the case for the prosecution and the defence.  Pupils also learned about crime and punishment through the ages and had the opportunity to handle various historical artefacts.  The children began to see that Shakespeare’s interpretation of Richard III, as a wicked uncle whose mind and body was distorted, was perhaps the product of propagandists who were intent on defaming Richard in order to glorify the winners.

At Leicester Cathedral our group was treated to a guided tour.  Built on the site of a Roman temple dedicated to St Martin of Tours, Leicester Cathedral boasts 900 years of history.  More recently it has seen the reinterment of Richard III, the last English King to die in battle.  Over 100 years ago, the Victorian architect Raphael Brandon magnificently restored, and in places rebuilt the church including the addition of a 220 foot spire.  When the Diocese of Leicester was re-established in 1927, the church was hallowed as Leicester Cathedral.