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Medieval couple holding hands for 700 years

In the 14th century a medieval couple were laid to rest holding hands. After 700 years, archaeologists have discovered the pair during a dig to uncover a long lost chapel in Leicestershire, England.

A couple who have been holding hands for 700 years have been uncovered at the ‘lost’ chapel of St Morrell in Leicestershire - Credit: University of Leicester Archaeological Services
A couple who have been holding hands for 700 years have been uncovered at the ‘lost’ chapel of St Morrell in Leicestershire – Credit: University of Leicester Archaeological Services

The discovery was made by University of Leicester archaeologists during an excavation at the Chapel of St Morrell in Leicestershire, a site of pilgrimage in Hallaton during the Middle Ages. The four year project with the Hallaton Fieldwork Group (HFWG) has revealed the full plan of the chapel as well as the cemetery and evidence that the hillside has been used since at least the Roman period.

Project manager Vicki Score, explained “’We have seen similar skeletons before from Leicester where a couple has been buried together in a single grave. The main question we find ourselves asking is why were they buried up there? There is a perfectly good church in Hallaton. This leads us to wonder if the chapel could have served as some sort of special place of burial at the time.”

As well as the touching skeletal union, the excavations have also identified the walls and tiled floor of the chapel as well as fragments of stone masonry, wall plaster, tiles and lead from the windows. A number of silver pennies dating between the 12th – 16th centuries have also been found on the site indicating when the chapel was in use.

The team believe the chapel may have been an area of pilgrimage. A pilgrim badge with ‘Morrell’ inscribed on it was found within the walls of the chapel.

A total of 11 skeletons have been excavated so far, all orientated east-west in the Christian tradition and radiocarbon dated to the 14th century. One older male was killed by a sharp weapon such as a pole axe to the head, presumably in battle. Another young male was buried in a pit with his legs raised to his chest, possibly the result of a medical condition; analysis of his teeth suggest he had suffered trauma in his early childhood.

Members of the team excavating and  recording the chapel and the cemetery  - Photo University of Leicester Archaeological Services
Members of the team excavating and
recording the chapel and the cemetery – Photo University of Leicester Archaeological Services

Roman archaeology found beneath the medieval chapel suggests that the hilltop, which is the starting point for the Hare Pie Scramble and Bottle Kicking, has been a special place for over 2000 years.

A recent open weekend to promote the excavations was hugely successful, with the local school being given a tour of the excavations and several hundred people visiting over the course of the weekend.

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