THE cleaning at a Hereford museum of a 13th century skeleton generally thought to be a Blackfriars monk revealed that the corpse was probably a woman!

The discovery was at Coningsby Museum & St John's Medieval Museum.

Osteoarchaeologist Teresa Gilmore from Cotswold Archaeology, who was cleaning and examining the bones, saidP: "there is a 75% probability that the skeleton is female".

The skeleton was first discovered during excavations in the 1970s, when the former communal living area of the Coningsby Hospital was being converted into a museum. Analysis of the skeleton at the time suggested that it was the remains of a monk from the monastery whose ruins are in the adjacent rose garden.

Museum Secretary John Wallin was amazed. "For years we have been telling visitors a different story. This revelation is an interesting change in the history of the site. We can only speculate why a female was buried immediately next to the St John's Chapel."

Further research will be undertaken to confirm the gender of the skeleton and establish how she came to be buried under the floor of Coningsby Museum.

The newly-cleaned skeleton will be returned to his or her resting place in a display under the floor of Coningsby Museum & St John's Medieval Museum under the guidance of Virginia Mayes-Wright, Museum Development Officer for Herefordshire.

Virginia Mayes-Wright said: "The Coningsby site provides a great opportunity for people to see local history right on their doorstep - many don't realize the wealth of history they miss just feet away as they drive or walk into the city centre along Widemarsh Street.

"The cleaning of the skeleton is only part of the process, the museum will be fully cleaned and exhibits redisplayed for the re-opening after Easter".