Leicester is famous as the city where the remains of King Richard III were discovered by a team of historians and archaeologists. It’s also one of the most excavated cities in Britain, and home to one of the earliest recorded mosaics in the country. Little wonder then that it was chosen as the place to launch the biggest archaeological event of the year!

Over the next two weeks, the Council for British Archaeology’s Festival of Archaeology gives budding historians the chance to uncover the story of Leicester, from its Roman roots to the coming of the railways, at a host of events.


Flushing out Leicester’s history

It all kicks off on July 17 at Abbey Pumping Station, where ‘Plague, Pestilence and the Black Death’ are gruesomely brought to life by an historical re-enactor, and Stephen Baker, from the University of Leicester Archaeological Society, gives a fascinating talk on historic mass graves recently unearthed on a city building site.

Fans of TV’s Time Team and Digging for Britain are also in for a treat as presenter Raksha Dave (pictured below with historian and presenter Dan Snow) appears as part of CBA Executive Director Neil Redfern’s new series of talks called ‘In Conversation With…’ She will be answering pre-submitted questions from the public, and helping the audience to understand the science of archaeology.

Visitors can also learn about the Victorian engineering that revolutionised the health of the city’s inhabitants and even take a free ride on the miniature railway at this unique museum.


Making your own discoveries

If you’re in Market Harborough on launch day, and you happen to be a gardener who’s come across pieces of pottery whilst digging, get yourself to ‘Great Bowden Finds Day’. On the Village Green members of Great Bowden Heritage & Archaeology will identify your finds, or seek expert help if needed. Gardeners from Rutland and Leicester can also get involved, with ‘Rutland Finds Day’ on July 31 and ‘Leicester Finds Day’ on August 1.

Also on launch day, ‘Prayer and Pilgrimage – a Tour of Leicester Cathedral’ takes visitors on a 40-minute journey through the Middle Ages, when St Martin’s Church was a place of pilgrimage.

On July 19, a journey of a different kind is taken on ‘Leicestershire Railways’, a digital event which focusses on the development of the county’s railways.


Abbey ruins – walk and talk

Desford Local History Society hosts a digital talk on July 20, when archaeologist Peter Liddle will help listeners uncover ’50 Years of Leicestershire and Rutland Archaeology’. Peter is back in action on July 21, when he and Grahame Appleby take you on a ‘Leicester Abbey Tour’. Together you’ll walk through the remains of Leicester Abbey and the ruins of Cavendish House in the city’s beautiful Abbey Park. The pair will talk about University of Leicester excavations that have given incredible insight into what was one of the country’s wealthiest Augustinian abbeys.

You can choose to join the festivities at home with two very different but equally interesting free online talks. ‘From Tide to Table: The Archaeology of Oysters’ is hosted by William Johnson, from University of Leicester Archaeological Services. And the Very Rev’d Dr David Monteith, Dean of Leicester, who oversaw the re-interment of King Richard III at Leicester Cathedral, talks about ‘History, Heritage & Faith: Richard III, the Gift that Keeps on Giving’.


Activities just for Romans

You can get out and about on July 23, with a ‘Guided Walk of Burrough Hill’, and on July 24 you can become a Roman for the day at the ‘Creative Romans, Family Day’ at LCB Depot in St George’s Cultural Quarter. Toddlers to 10-year-olds can bring their grown-ups with them and indulge in tons of free activities, from creating a mosaic to building an aqueduct.

Stretch your legs on July 27 with an ‘Evington Moat Guided Walk’, and on July 28, you can stay at home for an online talk. Entitled ‘Monument, Memory & Myth: Use & Re-use of the Cossington Bronze Age Barrows’, it delves into the secrets of burial monuments excavated at Cossington gravel quarry.


A chance to make new friends

With Jewry Wall Museum out of action as it undergoes a major renovation, the next best thing is to join the Friends of Jewry Wall Museum for a day of discovery on July 31. ‘Experience Roman and Medieval Leicester and see our Oldest Church’ gives you the chance to view objects, enjoy craft activities and take a guided tour of St Nicholas Church, which dates back to Anglo-Saxon times.

Head to Groby on July 31, and you can join Peter Liddle for ‘A Tour of the Grounds of Groby Old Hall’. It has an incredible history, once owned by the Grey family, which counted two Queens of England amongst its members, Elizabeth Woodville and Lady Jane Grey.

Bringing the festival to a close, ‘The Beginnings of Coalville: In the Footsteps of Stenson and Stephenson’ is a guided walk with Coalville Heritage Society through the history of this former coal-mining town.


A city with buried treasures

A number of other events will be held on various dates throughout the festival, including the ‘Fresh Water for Loughborough’ exhibition at Loughborough Library, and ‘Carved in Stone – a Tour of Leicester Cathedral’. Focussing on the building’s materials, from its Norman origins to the Victorian era, visitors will also take a close look at the striking Swaledale fossil stone tomb of Richard III. The king’s original gravesite, one of the most incredible archaeological discoveries of the 21st century, can be seen at the adjacent King Richard III Visitor Centre.

For information about all the festival’s events visit their website

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