Friday, 8 March 2013

What Lies Beneath? King Richard III – Landmark Information Group Makes New Discovery of Key Site Thanks to Historical Mapping

The civil war for the throne between the House of York and House of Lancaster which raged across England in the latter half of the 15th century culminated in the final Battle of Bosworth, during which Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, defeated his foe, King Richard III, to become the first English monarch of the Tudor dynasty.

Over 500 years later, the discovery of the remains of King Richard III buried beneath a Leicester car park has brought to the fore the question: ‘what lies beneath?’  How sure can environmental and engineering professionals be that, when they excavate a site in preparation for construction work, they know what they are likely to uncover? A car park in Leicester certainly seems a highly unlikely burial site for a former monarch and yet, how much do we know about the previous use of land throughout the UK – and how prepared can environmental professionals be?

Using historical mapping available with Envirocheck, the industry standard desk study information service, Landmark Information Group has carried out historical map analysis on the Leicester car park where King Richard III’s remains were found and on the site of the Battle of Bosworth which, on 22 August 1485, claimed King Richard III’s life – and it turns out that car parks feature in the ‘afterlife’ of both King Richard III and King Henry VII.

David Mole, Business Development Director, Environment – Land & Property, Landmark Information Group, said: “Using historical mapping dating from 1888 overlaid with current maps, we have identified how the use of the Leicester car park has evolved, from open grass land, to the car park that it is today.”

Identified as undeveloped grass land in the 1888 county series map, the first map to indicate the site as a car park was in 1954 Ordnance survey map.  This latter map is also the first to indicate that the site could be of historical interest, showing that the site was the location of a ruin, which was confirmed to a Franciscan friary in the mapping from the 1960s.

David continues: “We have also identified that the site used for Henry Tudor’s encampment, which sits outside the National Heritage-protected site of the actual battlefield, and made the discovery that a section of the site is now a car park. It is extraordinary that not only the burial site for King Richard III has become a car park, but that the site of his enemy’s encampment for the battle in which King Richard III died, has also been turned into a car park.

“Whilst this is an interesting fact, it does demonstrate the serious issue that, without thorough checks and investigation, it is often simply impossible to tell what lies beneath the top soil during excavation works. The recent history may be well known – such as whether a factory or gas works were situated on site and therefore decontamination is required – but what about the more historical use for the land? Discoveries such as sites of historical importance, sensitive land use, and ground water vulnerability can delay construction works for months or years; it can even put a stop to it altogether, resulting in extensive loss of money for all involved.”

David concludes: “It’s not all bad news however. Environmental and engineering professionals needn’t become mapping experts overnight; there are desktop information searches available, ideal for fast and highly accurate environmental site assessments. Obtaining a comprehensive report which includes extensive environmental information – including, for example, historical mapping, areas of special scientific interest and geological maps – that reveal previous uses of specific locations, can potentially save professionals time and money.”

Landmark’s Envirocheck Report is the industry standard desk study information service, providing professionals with fast and highly accurate environmental site assessments. Envirocheck delivers site-specific information with access to comprehensive Ordnance Survey current and historical mapping. The historical maps in the Landmark database exceed 1 million map files from 1840 to present day sourced from Ordnance Survey, Trinity College (Dublin) and the Royal Geographical Society.  The collection of Ordnance Survey maps is supplemented with RAF historical aerial photos and Russian Military Cold War mapping of the UK.  The Envirocheck Report offers a flexible solution by allowing professionals to choose the detail they need depending on their project requirements.

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