As a company proud of our Leicester heritage, Norman and Underwood have been honoured to be closely involved in local projects surrounding the discovery of the remains of King Richard III in 2012.
Norman and Underwood were entrusted to carry out the roofing, cladding and glazing works on the new King Richard III Visitor Centre in St Martins, which provides visitors with a fascinating insight into the life and death of the King as well as the dramatic rediscovery of his burial site.
However, much closer to the heart of the matter was our production of the lead ossuary or coffin in which the King’s remains have been finally interred.
This project has drawn upon some of the craftsmanship available at Norman and Underwood using traditional tools and methods. The ossuary has been made from traditional sand cast lead which is produced at the company’s premises in Leicester, the lead being cast using the same principles as the Romans and probably those of the Egyptians.
The 60kg ossuary measures 1.7 meters long, 350mm wide and 275mm deep. Once inside an oak outer casket and including the King’s bones, the whole assembly weighs more than 110kg.
The task of sealing the ossuary will be carried out by Dr Jonathan Castleman, chairman of Norman & Underwood, who is part of the seventh generation of his family to work at the company.
He said: “It is a huge privilege to be chosen to carry out this task. The whole story of the rediscovery of Richard III has provided a significant boost for Leicester and, as a proud local company, we are pleased to play our part.
“Really, the whole project has shown the outstanding range of skills and abilities that are present in the city from the efforts of archaeologists at the University in discovering the remains through to our work on the ossuary.
“Very few companies can carry out the kind of sand cast lead work that we were able to complete for this project. Done correctly, this kind of lead work can last indefinitely. Excellently preserved samples of Roman lead work are often found.
“Finally sealing in the remains of the last of the Plantagenet monarchs will be a historic moment and very moving.”
Dr Castleman has worked at the company for 33 years and his grandmother came from the Underwood lineage of the business. The company has also carried out high profile restoration projects such as Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Bermuda Cathedral, The Kings Chapel in Gibraltar, the British Embassies in Moscow and Korea and, closer to home, Windsor Castle, St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Petworth House and Chatsworth House.
Liz Hudson of Leicester Cathedral said: “Norman and Underwood have a long history of excellent and exacting work both in Leicestershire and around the world. They are experts in their field and we are delighted that they have been able to take part in this remarkable story on behalf of the University and the Cathedral.”
Watch a video about the lead ossuary here:
Thanks to The Leicester Mercury for providing the pictures and video.