THE remains of a woman whose father ruled England during the 14th century have been found inside a church near Ledbury.

The discovery of Blanch Mortimer, who died in 1347 and was the daughter of Sir Roger Mortimer, who overthrew King Edward II and ruled the country for three years, was made at St Bartholomew’s Church in Much Marcle.

It was unearthed by Michael Eastham, a conservator of sculpture who has been working on the church's Grandison Memorial for nearly two years, and has caused amazement in the world of archaeology.

Mr Eastham says he was left shocked when the mysterious coffin was discovered jammed inside the tomb-chest.

"We could not work out what it was when we first took the stone panels from the front of the memorial," he said.

"We thought it might be a layer of slate but as we explored further we realised it was a lead coffin.

"It's the first time in more than 30 years as a conservator that this has ever happened."

Experts believe the coffin's remains are those of Blanche Mortimer whose memorial it is.

She was born in 1316 at Wigmore Castle in north Herefordshire.

After deposing Edward II by murdering him, her father was then himself overthrown by Edward II's eldest son, Edward III in 1327.

The tomb at St Bartholomew's is crowned by an effigy of Blanche Mortimer and is regarded as one of the finest in the country.

The coffin has since been returned to where it came from but with stainless steel supports inserted.

The work has been filmed to make sure a clear record is kept of the surprise findings.

"St Bartholomew’s is a stunning church anyway, the building dating from the early 13th century," said Paddy Benson, the Archdeacon of Hereford.

"We felt that keeping as good a record as we can for future generations would be worthwhile because if Michael Eastham has done his work well it could be another 700 years before anyone gets a chance to look inside again."