Visit and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. The cathedral town, and the county town of Suffolk. Its motto, “Shrine of a King, Cradle of the Law” commemorates two of the outstanding episodes in its history. Edmund, last king of the East Angles, was killed in 869 by the Danes at ‘Haegelisdun’ (possibly Hellesdon, near Norwich). The English held his death to be a martyrdom; for many years he was patron saint of England. His remains were later taken to Beodricesworth and from the early 11th century this town was known as St Edmundsbury. In 1020 Cnut, having become king of England on the death of his rival, another Edmund, and no doubt glad to make a gesture that might help resolve discord between the English and Danish communities of his new kingdom, gave the monastery where the saint was buried the status of abbey.
At the time of the Conquest the abbot was Baldwin, a Frenchman and a Norman sympathizer, and town and abbey were spared disturbance.
The second historic episode took place on 20 November 1215 when the barons ‘Swore at St Edmund's altar that they would obtain from King John the ratification of Magna Carta’.
Bury St Edmunds today still retains the complete rectangular plan set out by Abbot Baldwin in the 11th century. It is essentially Georgian in appearance though many buildings and houses are of earlier date than their faades would suggest.
The famous abbey was over 500 ft long with a west front nearly 250 ft wide which made it one of the greatest churches in the country. What remains of it today, though but a small fragment of the original buildings, is sufficient to give some idea of its former splendour. The Norman Gate, c. 1120-50 stands squarely and firmly like some religious keep. It presents an interesting contrast to the Abbey Gate c. 1430-40 which, no less sturdy in appearance, has an altogether more refined pattern of decoration.
The remains of the abbey church are mostly those of the west front and into them have been built dwelling houses, a fact which still excites fierce controversy among those who would wish them to remain and those who press for their removal. Other parts of this once great abbey may be traced in the grounds which lead down towards the River Lark.
The cathedral church since 1914 has been St James's immediately south of the Norman Gate. It is 16th-century with l9th-century additions by Gilbert Scott. There are plans to enlarge it to a size more in keeping with its status as the only cathedral in the county. St Mary's Church has a magnificent Perpendicular exterior and its interior is no less perfect. The stone pendant in the roof of the Notyngham Porch, the splendid roof of the nave as well as that of the chancel are among the finest examples of their kind.
Another outstanding religious building is the Unitarian (originally Presbyterian) chapel in Churchgate Street, 1711-12, comparable to that at Ipswich. Its double-decker pulpit is noteworthy.
Bury, as it is locally known, abounds in fine examples of civic and domestic buildings. The Town Hall, originally designed in the 1770s by Robert Adam as a theatre, is a classically symmetrical composition of considerable charm.
Moyse's Hall, now an outstandingly interesting museum, dates from the 12th century (it may be East Anglia's oldest domestic building) and houses prehistoric, Roman and medieval exhibits. Only a little later in date is the famous Abbot's Bridge across the River Lark, near where Mustow Street meets Eastgate Street.
Bury is a town to walk in. Angel Hill, for example, with its spacious feeling of earlier days leads you into the central complex of the city with its many beautiful buildings of the 17th and 18th centuries. Near the General Post Office is Cupola House built in 1693 and featuring above its steeply pitched roof the cupola or turret, from which pleasing views could be obtained.
Not far away is the Athenaeum with its ballroom, the work of Francis Sandys. At the far end of Crown Street is the Theatre Royal, built in 1819 by William Wilkins, architect of the National Gallery, and of Downing College, Cambridge. It has been restored as one of Britain's finest Regency theatres.
The Guildhall, built in the 13th century, was remodelled in the 19th. Near St James's churchyard is the Provost's House, built in 1730, as an asylum at the bequest of Dr Clopton.
Among the famous literary figures associated with the town was ‘Ouida’, Louise de Ia Ramée (1840-1908). Born at Bury, the daughter of a French teacher, for some years she lived in London but about 1874 went to Italy where she died after having written over 40 novels, including a book of stories for children, Bimbi. Edward Fitz-Gerald, the translator of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam came here to school and Dickens wrote of the Angel Inn in his works. A tablet on a house in St Mary's Square commemorates Thomas Clarkson, the fighter against slavery.
Nearby towns: Eye, Haverhill, Lavenham, Mildenhall, Newmarket, Stowmarket, Sudbury, Thetford
Nearby villages: Great Barton, Great Welnetham, Horringer, Ixworth, Risby, Thurston
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