Bury St Edmunds (although there seems to be some confusion over which way round its name should be) is a sizable town in West Suffolk. It maybe best known these days as the home of the Greene King brewery, but my wife and I were there to see a more historic side of the municipality.
We entered the Abbey Gardens through the Abbey Gate. A sign told us the original gate had been destroyed by townspeople in 1327, who staged a revolt against the power and wealth wielded by the monastery at that time. The current gate was built 20 years later in 1347.
There had been a monastery on this site since 633 AD. The body of King Edmund, who had been killed in a battle against the Danes, was brought here in 903 and an abbey was built in his honour. The King was also made a Saint. The Abbey was extended in the 11th and 12th centuries, becoming one of the largest churches in Europe. After this, it seemed to be all downhill for the monastery and its monks. After being ransacked in 1327 and repaired and rebuilt over the subsequent decades, the Abbey’s Prior was beheaded during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. In 1465, a fire devastated much of the Abbey and Abbot’s Palace. Finally, in 1539 came the dissolution of the monasteries and the site was sold for £412. It was subsequently robbed of most of its stone, which can be seen in buildings around the town.
The ruins of the Abbey are now surrounded by lovely flower gardens, set against the backdrop of St Edmundsbury Cathedral. Although there has been a parish church on site since 1065, the current church was built in the 16th century, not becoming a cathedral until 1914. Although historic, the cathedral was extended throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, so much of what we saw was actually quite recent.
After leaving the gardens, we passed the Angel Hotel, outside of which is a blue plaque marking the stay of Charles Dickens. He is said to have worked on “The Pickwick Papers” while he was in Bury St Edmunds. We passed up the chance to have lunch there, or indeed one of the grandest looking Wetherspoons pubs I have seen, but instead opted to dine in the beer garden of the Masons Arms. The duck breast was delicious.
After scampering around looking for fresh bread and cold cuts to take home for tea, it was time to leave St Edmundsbury. How its name got transposed, I still don’t know.
Bury St Edmunds is in West Suffolk, England, UK, 81 miles from London, 27 miles from Ipswich and 29 miles from Cambridge
By train, it is about 30 minutes from Ipswich and 2 hours from London Liverpool St with a change at Ipswich. The town is on the A14 trunk road from Felixstowe to the Midlands, which also links it with Ipswich and Cambridge
Food and accommodation
There are plenty of restaurants, cafes and pubs in the town centre. Click the link for accommodation
Click the link for further information on Bury St Edmunds