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Researchers recreate unfinished Tudor tombs

Researchers at the University of Leicester have recreate two Tudor tomb monuments that were never completed. The tombs originally were intended to stand in Thetford Priory and were planned by Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk – one for himself, and another for Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond.

Duke of Richmond's monument, Framlingham - Photo courtesy University of Leicester

The tombs were not complete when the priory was dissolved in 1540.  Some parts of the monuments were salvaged and later finished off in a different style and with different materials, in St Michael’s Church, Framlingham, Suffolk. Other parts were abandoned in the ruins of the priory and were discovered by excavators centuries later: those parts are now scattered in various museums – including the British Museum – and stores.

Recreated tomb - photo courtesy University of LeicesterThe researchers have now brought together all these pieces, and used drawings in 16th century manuscripts, 3D laser scanning and 3D prints to recreate the monuments as they were originally intended.

The project is one of the exciting results of research by the Representing Re-Formation project team, a collaborative venture involving the University of Leicester’s Space Research Centre, the Department of the History of Art and Film, School of Museum Studies and the Department of Computer Science.

They worked with colleagues at the University of Oxford and Yale University as well as colleagues in English Heritage and the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service.





Dr Phillip Lindley, of the University of Leicester’s Department of the History of Art and Film, said: “Our exhibition studies the catastrophic effects of the Dissolution of Thetford Priory and of Henry VIII’s attempted destruction of Thomas Howard, third duke of Norfolk, on the ducal tomb-monuments at Thetford. Parts of two unfinished monuments were salvaged in 1540 and later moved to St Michael’s, Framlingham, Suffolk: other pieces were abandoned in the ruined priory, only to be excavated in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

“With English Heritage’s help, we have managed to reunite the excavated pieces, which are scattered across various different museums and stores.  It is wonderful that the British Museum have also loaned their two sculptures from the group.

“Using 3D laser scanning and 3D prints, we have – virtually – dismantled the monuments at Framlingham and recombined them with the parts left at Thetford in 1540, to try to reconstruct the monuments as they were first intended, in a mixture of the virtual and the real.”

Thetford Priory, ruins, English Heritage =- Photo courtesy University of Leicester

The recreated tombs are now on display as part of the Thetford’s Lost Tudor Sculptures exhibition at the Ancient House Museum, in Thetford, Norfolk. The exhibition will run until 29 March 2014. Click here for more details.

Dr. Lindley added, “We are delighted to work with the curator of the Ancient House Museum, Oliver Bone, and his staff. The museum is a few hundred yards from the priory site where the tomb-monuments were first carved nearly five hundred years ago.

“The Ancient House is itself a Tudor building and it is a surprising thought that the original sculptors probably walked past the very building in which we are now exhibiting their work.”

Source: University of Leicester

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