What lies beneath ‘chamber of secrets’ unearthed in Hemel Hempstead Old Town?

The site at Saint Mary's Close car park, next to the Old Town Hall, where the discovery was made.
The site at Saint Mary's Close car park, next to the Old Town Hall, where the discovery was made.

High-tech equipment that helped experts in their search for the remains of King Richard III will be pressed into action in Hemel Hempstead next week.

The move comes after the discovery of a mysterious tomb-like chamber under the Saint Mary’s Close car park off the High Street.

The scan is expected to use the same surveying service which helped unearth what were eventually confirmed as the long-lost remains of the 15th century king – slain in battle in 1485 – beneath a car park in Leicester last year.

The area where the Hemel Hempstead discovery was made was built over part of the churchyard which is still under the control of the St Albans Diocese.

The original work which created the paved area under which the tomb was found was part of a town improvement scheme carried out in the 1880s.

Civil engineering contractor Jackson, which has only just started carrying out a new series of improvement works to the Old Town over the space of 22 weeks which will eventually see the High Street turned into a one-way street, has stopped work on the site of the discovery for the time being, although the firm isn’t expecting to be put behind schedule by the discovery.

Engineer Barry Callow said: “There hasn’t been a body found at this stage but you hear of this kind of thing happening, and Richard III was found in a car park.

“We came across what we first thought was a tunnel, but it later turned out to be a chamber because there were walls around it.

“We had to dig deep to get the structural strength for the replacement car park, and that is how we came across it.”

Assistant site manager Michael Carr said: “We don’t want people to panic or delay the works. At the moment it is unlikely to cause any delays but we won’t know any more until the scan. We are carrying on in our other areas of the planned refurbishment.”

Andrew Dawson of Herts County Council, which is overseeing the contractors, said: “We are in discussions with the diocese and archaeologists as to how to proceed and are exploring a number of different options.

“The diocese has expressed the need for sensitivity in respect of the burials that may be present under the paved area and we will continue to take their advice on this as well as observing regulations concerning dealing with building over burials.”