Alright, British history buffs, now’s your chance to revel in the details of – get this – the restoration of the tombs of Thomas Howard, the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, and Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, all with the magic of 3D printing.

If you don’t recall what happened to the tombs of the late 16th Century British Dukes, let me refresh your memory. So, after a long life of machinations, including high treason against King Henry VIII, and imprisonment in the Tower of London, Thomas Howard was entombed at the Thetford Priory in Norfolk. Henry Fitzroy, the only illegitimate son of Henry VIII acknowledged by the King, married his own half-sister, Howard’s daughter, of course. So, when Henry VIII’s only son died of consumption, we were left with King Edward VI as an heir, and Fitzroy’s tomb as a monument to the dead would-be king, also at Thetford Priory in Norfolk.

Only, as we all know, the monastic priory was dissolved in 1540 and the tombs were not completed. This left restorers to finish the tombs off using other materials in other styles at St Michael’s Church, Framlingham, Suffolk.  hen, excavators found remaining pieces of the tombs in the ruins of the Thetford Priory, which have been displayed in a variety of museums, such as the British Museum in London.

3rd Duke 3D Scan

3rd Duke’s monument virtual disassembly, east end

So, now that we’re all caught up, we can return to the present day. Funded by a grant from the Science and Heritage Programme, researchers from every British institution imaginable – the University of Leicester’s Space Research Centre, Department of the History of Art and Film, School of Museum Studies and the Department of Computer Science, along with Oxford and Yale, and the English Heritage and the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service – have used drawings from 16th Century manuscripts, 3D scanning and 3D printing to recreate the tombs as Duke Tommy Howard would have originally wanted.

As the remains of the tombs were scattered throughout the country, the University of Leicester’s Dr Phillip Lindley, from Leicester’s Department of the History of Art and Film, explains how the task of recreating the tombs was accomplished:

Monument of Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, Framlingham

Duke of Richmond’s monument, Framlingham

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.

The recreations, a part of the Representing Reformation project, will be at the Ancient House Museum, Thetford, Norfolk, from 7 September 2013 to 29 March 2014, leaving us British history buffs with plenty of time to drool over the Tudor tombs.

Source: 24 dash

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