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Is King Stephen under Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School playing fields in Faversham?

By Bess Browning

The remains of an English king could be dug up from a Faversham school field.

Just days after thousands gathered for the reburial of Richard III, plans to excavate the playing fields at the Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School (QE) have been unveiled with the hope finding the bones of King Stephen.

The body of the medieval king, along with his wife Queen Matilda and son Eustace, were buried in the grounds of the former Faversham Abbey church in 1154.

Dr Brain Philip on the suspected site of King Stephen's burial. Picture Tony Flashman

Dr Brain Philip on the suspected site of King Stephen's burial. Picture: Tony Flashman

The Abbey was dissolved in 1538 by Henry VIII and most of it was demolished.

It was excavated in 1965 by the Kent Archaelogical Society, but remains of the King, who ruled from 1141 until 1154, were never found.

“As Richard III has been so celebrated recently, we want to have a big ceremony and a plaque to commemorate King Stephen" - Dr Brian Philp, director of the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit

Mystery has always surrounded King Stephen’s burial, with some suggesting his bones were thrown into the Creek and others speculating his tomb is in St Mary’s Church. But one man has other ideas.

Dr Brian Philp, director of the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit, led the team that discovered the Abbey in Faversham during the 1965 excavation and this week he was back in the town to launch the excavation to find King Stephen.

Dr Philp said: “I have now relocated the site of the royal vaults.

“We did not find any human bones in 1965 but the vaults were not fully excavated.

“We now need to commemorate the royal burials with a ceremony and a permanent plaque.

“After all, Stephen was buried 330 years before Richard III and certainly not in a car park.”

King Stephen holds Faversham Abbey

King Stephen holds Faversham Abbey

He visited the site on Monday and said the landscape has changed a lot since he was last there – in 1965 the fields, now used for QE pupils playing sport, were an orchard.

Dr Philp said: “Once we have found the exact location, we may be able to find the bones.

“As Richard III has been so celebrated recently, we want to have a big ceremony and a plaque to commemorate King Stephen.

“We want as many people as possible to be involved. We hope the school and the Faversham Society will have a part in this project.

“This is a crucial historical site in Kent.”


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