Friday, 15 February 2013

Pull Up Your Socks And Keep Digging!

There was a time when people regarded the best socks you could buy were those manufactured by Wolsey, of Leicester. Clearly if your granny was a wizard with dpns**, her homemade knitted ones were better, but those who were in the know purchased Wolsey hosiery.

The company [established way back in 1755] got its name not from the owner, but from a local personality – the Tudor Churchman, Cardinal Wolsey, who died in Leicester in 1530 [on his way to London – he had been arrested and summoned to see Henry VIII] He was buried, unceremoniously, in the Abbey – now just a few bits of wall remain. You can see his statue in Abbey Park, Leicester [right outside the Tea Rooms!]

wolsey parkwolsey_thomas

He had originally planned a wonderful black marble sarcophagus for himself- but that stayed in storage – until George 3rd dug it out of the royal storage unit and donated it to St Paul’s Cathedral, to provide a fitting resting place for Horatio Nelson.

nelson-wolsey sarcophagus

But poor old Thomas is in an unmarked grave somewhere in the Abbey Ruins.

You know what’s coming next, don’t you? Yes, that’s right, people are calling for another dig, following the successful discovery of Richard III, to see if we can find another significant historical skeleton in our City Closet! I am not so sure that Wolsey has the same cachet as the horseless hunchback* – but you never know…

Hilary Mantel wrote a superb piece about him [here] and she clearly knows her stuff when it comes to “bringing up the bodies”!

Current joke doing the rounds in Leicester -Why was Richard calling for a horse, a horse? that car park is only just round the corner from Tesco!

[**that’s double pointed needles, for the non-knitting-readers]


  1. I vote for a dig! We've had such fun with the remains of Richard III, why not Cardinal Wolsey as well? Of course, it's more fun when they're buried in grocery store parking lots ...


  2. The woman who instigated the Richard Dig made them begin where there was an "R" painted on the carpark. And that's where he was.

    I just looked up Abbey Park [postcode LE4 5AQ] on 'Google Earth' to discover a "W" marked in the middle of the ruins. However it transpires the W just means there's a Wikipedia article to read!

  3. Wolsey is such an interesting historical figure ... I never know whether to think of him as a good guy or a bad one. But that's silly. Like most humans he was undoubtedly a mixture of both (from the human point of view).

    I had no idea that Nelson's splendid tomb was originally meant for Wolsey. Thanks for that interesting tidbit!

    Do you think Richard really was a hunchback? (Once again, "The Daughter of Time" raises doubts in the impressionable mind.) :)

  4. The skeleton apparently shows clear signs of scoliosis - but suggests his spine was twisted sideways rather than the exaggerated hunch [as portrayed by Olivier] So yes, I think he DID have 'skeletal issues' - but that does NOT make him 'bitter and twisted' !!

    I too was fascinated by the story of the tomb


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