Garden Museum renovation uncovers secret tomb containing remains of five Archbishops of Canterbury

The renovation of the deconsecrated St. Mary-at-Lambeth Church at the Garden Museum in London has led to the astonishing discovery of a secret tomb containing the remains of five Archbishops of Canterbury.

(WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / Rosakoalaglitzereinhorn)Entrance to the Garden Museum. 30 January 2012.

In a video posted online by the Garden Museum, Rooff Ltd site manager Karl Patten recalled how they were just lifting up slabs to expose the ground when they uncovered a secret tomb. This led to an interesting find which museum director Christopher Woodward considered as a pleasant interruption to the renovation works, The Sun details.

"We were exposing the ground as part of the job and we were lifting the slabs in the arc area and we uncovered an entry to what looked like a tomb," said Patten in the video. "We got a camera on the end of a stick and discovered numerous coffins and one of them had a gold crown on top of it."

Woodward revealed that five archbishops were buried in the recently discovered tomb. Two had name plates with the names Richard Bancroft (1604 archbishop) and John Moore (1783 archbishop). He said they believe Frederick Cornwallis (1768 archbishop), Matthew Hutton (1757 archbishop), and Thomas Tenison (1695 archbishop) were among those buried inside.

So far, Woodward said they have identified at least 20 of the coffins. However, they still do not know the others buried there.

The details of the discovery have been kept under wraps for several months to ensure the safety of the vault until the Garden Museum's grand reopening next month. There are fears that the roof of the vault may have become unstable because centuries have passed since it was last opened, The Telegraph notes.

St. Mary-at-Lambeth Church, which was built in 1062, used to be an Anglo-Saxon church. In the 13th century, the Lambeth Palace was constructed and later overshadowed the smaller church.

Based on historical records, there were archbishops buried at St. Mary-at-Lambeth Church from the 17th to the 19th centuries. The discovery of the coffins was unexpected since people believed they were gone by the time the church was reconstructed in 1851.