2012's discovery of Richard III's skeleton beneath a Leicester car park aroused a new interest in one of England's most controversial monarchs. But few of the diners in Penrith's Dockray Hall are probably aware that they are enjoying their food in the rooms where Richard wined, dined and slept over five hundred years earlier.
From childhood Richard was groomed for high office and military command, being appointed Admiral of England and Governor of the North on his tenth birthday along with a suite of other titles and responsibilities. His grandfather Ralph de Neville was the first Earl of Westmorland and built both Dockray Hall and Penrith's original castle, the latter on the site of a Roman fort. The properties came to Richard when at 19 he was granted the Manor of Penrith and became High Sheriff of Cumberland with orders to secure the county against the Scots and keep the lid on local rivalries.
Richard set about transforming Penrith Castle, building a banqueting hall, brewery, kitchens and a gatehouse. He had large windows cut into an existing wall to bring light into his personal apartments. While the work was underway he decamped to Dockray Hall. Legend has it that the castle and the Hall were connected by a secret tunnel permitting escape from a seige or clandestine deliveries to be made out of sight of prying eyes. If this is true it would been a great feat of engineering as the Hall sits 307 yards distant from the north-east corner of the castle.
Later, the Hall was subsumed into the next door inn which became the Gloucester Arms to match Richard's Dukedom.
In 1483 four hundred Penrith men marched from the town to Richard's Coronation, a likely mark of his local popularity and he is reputed to be commemorated in the north aisle of St Andrew's church where old fragments of glass have been set into a window depicting his crowned and sceptred head.
Richard was king from 1483 until he fell in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth Field, bringing to an end the royal House of York and the Plantagenet dynasty. Bosworth was the decisive battle of the War of the Roses and marked England's transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.