Remains of executed Lancastrians?
The discovery of a dozen skeletons by workmen could belong to Lancastrian soldiers executed after one of the War of the Roses bloodiest battles.
The grisly find of 12 skeletons was made as electricity cables were laid on Tadcaster Road, near the Knavesmire in York.
The area was where criminals convicted in York were executed up until 1802 – including highwayman Dick Turpin – but archaeologists believe the bodies could belong to Lancastrian soldiers, possibly captured after the Battle of Towton.
Radiocarbon dating on two of the skeletons suggests they died around the 1460s.
The bones were discovered in November 2013 by Northern Powergrid and its contractor Interserve, who were working on replacing more than 6,500km of underground electricity cables.
York is one of only five designated UK areas of archaeological importance, which means any work disturbing the ground must be overseen, so the companies worked in conjunction with the City of York Council and York Archaeological Trust on the infrastructure project.
A team of archaeologists remained present on site at all times and, when workmen discovered the first bones, they were called over to examine the find and begin the process of carefully uncovering the skeletons.
The skeletons were identified as male and mostly aged between 25 and 40 at the time of their death. Two had significant bone fractures which could be evidence of fighting, perhaps associated with professional soldiers.
Ruth Whyte, osteo-archaologist for York Archaeological Trust said:
“We knew this was a fascinating find as, unlike 15th century Christian burial practice, the skeletons were all together and weren’t facing East-West.
“The Knavesmire was the site of York’s Tyburn, where convicted criminals were executed right up until 1802.
Were these individuals criminals or could they have been Lancastrian soldiers? They may have been captured in battle and brought to York for execution, possibly in the aftermath of the Battle of Towton during the Wars of the Roses, and their remains hastily buried near the gallows.”
Dave Smith, Northern Powergrid’s Project Engineer, said:
“When we started the 18-month project to replace cables dating back to the 1950s we never expected that we – and our contractor Interserve – would be so instrumental in helping unearth such a key discovery for the city.”
The skeletons have been handed over to York Archaeological Trust to protect and preserve. Arrangements are also underway to exhibit one of the skeletons as part of the city’s Richard III Experience at Monk Bar in March.
Source – Northern Echo, 27 Feb 2015