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Reworked vHH-designed Richard III tomb revealed

van Heyningen Haward has unveiled its re-worked design for the burial chamber and tomb of Richard III at Leicester Cathedral

The ‘abstract’ design features a tomb made from Swaledale fossil stone, quarried in Yorkshire, on which a deep cross has been cut.

The original design also featured the Swaledale tomb, but it was to be set on a large circular plinth carved into a white stone Yorkshire rose. Under the reworked design it will instead rest on a rectangular plinth of Kilkenny stone on which the monarch’s name will be engraved, along with his coat of arms.

The practice had been caught in the crossfire between Cathedral watchdog the Cathedrals’ Fabric Commission for England (CFCE) and the Richard III Society which described the original design as ‘utterly uninspired’.

vHH project lead James McCosh said the new design ‘achieved a good balance’ between the wishes of the two organisations: ‘We are very happy with what we have achieved,’ said McCosh.

‘Everyone has had to compromise a bit, but we are happy and particularly pleased with the materials we have used,’ he added.

The very reverend David Monteith, Dean of Leicester said: ‘This is a tomb which reflects the era in which it is designed, as well as the solemn purpose for which it is commissioned.

‘To do anything else would be a pastiche of a medieval tomb and would ignore the fact he is being reburied in the 21st century. That is part of King Richard’s story now.’

The remains of the slain King, who died in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, will be placed in a lead ossory. The ossory will in turn sit in a wooden coffin, which will sit in the tomb.

The £2.5million reburial scheme will open to the public in the Spring next year.

Previous story (AJ 24.09.13)

Historians pull funding for van Heyningen and Haward’s Richard III tomb

Members of the Richard III Society have withdrawn their support for van Heyningen and Haward’s proposed tomb for the recently discovered remains of the 15th-century king

Phil Stone, chair of the Richard III Society initially described the design, which will sit in the chancel of Leicester Cathedral, as ‘utterly inspired’.

However the designs have since come under fire from other members of the society, with some pulling their funding for the tomb.

Archaelogist and society member Philippa Langley said the £96,000 proposal was ‘unfit for a medieval warrior king’.

Speaking to the BBC Langley said: ‘Members of the society think it is a very difficult design. The feeling is that it is too modern and stylised, and designed with a cathedral in mind not a medieval warrior king.’

The society had originally pledged £40,000 towards the tomb, but several members have now asked for their money back.

The remains of Richard III, who died in teh Battle of Bosworth in 1485, were discovered under a Leicester car park back in September 2012.

The raised tombstone, which will be constructed from Swaledale limestone and carved with a large cross, will sit on a floor inlaid with a large Yorkshire white rose.

The name of the king, the dates of his birth and death, his personal motto, and his badge will be carved into the dark circular band on the floor around the tomb. 

The project includes a £1.3 million scheme to refurbish and masterplan the cathedral to accommodate the King’s remains. Improvements to the inside of the cathedral will include opening up the area beneath the tower to make the tomb more accessible to visitors. Externally a scheme is underway to create a new public space outside the cathedral. Work on the cathedral gardens project is expected to begin next month.

The proposals now sit with the Cathedrals Fabric Commission, who will make a decision about whether the plans will go-ahead.

James McCosh, partner at van Heyningen and Haward commented: ‘We are delighted to have reached a point where our proposals for the tomb for Richard III can be submitted to the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England, demonstrating the cathedral’s commitment to honouring him and the quality of his resting place at Leicester’.

Plans for Richard III’s burial in Leicester are also facing a judicial review. A group of the king’s distant relatives, calling themselves the Plantagenet Alliance, want to see the remains buried in York.

The dean of Leicester, the very reverend David Monteith, said: ‘We fully respect the process of the Judicial Review which will ensure the procedure leading to the re-interment is correct. While this takes its course we must, as would any cathedral in this position, seek planning permission for the detailed and costly changes which need to be made to the building.

‘The overall concept is regal and respectful in its elegant simplicity, as befits the final resting place of a King of England. By placing the tomb in our chancel, we are giving King Richard the same honour as did those friars more than 500 years ago.’

Readers' comments (1)

  • I am surprised to see reburial in Leicester going ahead without a mention of alternatives. What happened to the take him home to York affair ?

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