A Brief History of Bury St Edmunds

Bury St Edmunds is “The nicest town in the world” according to William Cobbett, Essayist and Traveller, and we agree! The town is probably most famous for the ruined Abbey that stands near to the town centre, surrounded by Abbey Gardens, and is one of the hidden gems of Suffolk.

The Abbey was built as a shrine to Saint Edmund, Saxon King of the East Engles. St Edmund was killed by the Danes in 869AD but for many centuries pilgrims came from all over the world to worship at his shrine. During mediaeval times a powerful Abbey was established, and it was here in 1214 that English barons met to swear the oath that would eventually force King John to accept the Magna Carta. The Abbey was largely destroyed in the 18th Century but the ruins can be admired in the picturesque and award-winning Abbey Gardens.

Abbey Gardens is enjoyed by visitors and locals playing crazy golf on the bowling pitch, studying the birds in the menagerie or just ambling about admiring the splendid gardens. Across the gardens you can see St Edmundsbury Cathedral, the only cathedral in Suffolk, dating back to 1503.


Things to do in Bury St Edmunds

You can find a lot of evidence of the Anglo Saxons during a stay in Bury St Edmunds. One place of particular interest is the West Stow Anglo Saxon Centre and Country Park. This attraction is on the site of an old settlement that was inhabited from 420 – 650 AD.

Today you can find a wonderful reconstruction of this settlement including Anglo Saxon houses that you can enter. The experience really brings history to life. In the Summer months the centre becomes even more realistic as costume groups mingle with visitors, answering questions on how the Anglo Saxons lived.

Bury St Edmunds is a very romantic town and would make a wonderfully memorable location for a wedding ceremony, reception or honeymoon.

For a history lesson you can really taste, take a trip to the local Greene King Brewery. This site has been home to a working brewery for over 200 years and opens its doors to visitors for an exhibition with a difference – you can taste the produce at the end! The attraction includes a tour of the working brew house (above) along with an opportunity to taste the beers being made there.

There are also several micro-breweries in Bury St Edmunds where you can see the beer being brewed, taste it and even stay on site! The Old Cannon Brewery in the heart of the town is well worth investigating, and for the man who has everything what more could he ask for than a weekend break in a Brewery!

If you want to stay in the heart of the town take a look at The Angel Hotel on the market square. Situated opposite the Abbey this stunning Georgian, ivy clad building is a local landmark and virtually an attraction in it’s own right. Offering 4 star accommodation and 2AA Rosette restaurant, for a real treat, this is the place to stay in Bury St Edmunds!

Also close to the centre are The Abbey Hotel just off the market square, and The Black Boy Public House.

Bury St Edmunds has probably the smallest pub in the UK – The Nutshell – small but perfectly formed and offering a terrific range of brews. It also contains a grisly exhibit to ward off evil spirits – but you’ll have to visit this pint-sized pub to see what it is!

At the other end of the scale is the magnificent Bury Cathedral, which is well worth a tour. For more information on points of interest, visit the Tourist Information Centre.

Bury St Edmunds has many unique features, but probably its proudest monument is the Grade 1 listed Theatre Royal. Following two years of extensive and exciting restoration, the Theatre was re-opened in September 2007. Built in 1819, this playhouse is the only surviving example of a Regency theatre in this country. It is the only theatre open to the public in the National Trust’s portfolio of properties.

The Theatre presents a vibrant, year-round programme of drama, music, dance and light entertainment, featuring many of this country’s leading companies and performers. We also offer a wide-ranging educational and community-based programme of activities.

To complement this work and to demonstrate just how special a building the Theatre Royal is, our ReVisit programme will offer regular guided tours of the Theatre, along with workshops and demonstrations designed to reveal what theatre-going in the early 19th century would have been like.

Smiths Row is situated in the historic Market Cross, a fine Grade I listed building restored in the Georgian period, with foundations dating back to 1583. Renovated by the celebrated architect Robert Adam in the late 18th century, it became a theatre for the townspeople. The Art Gallery took up residence in 1972. The building retains its high ceilings, Georgian façade, elegant arched windows and is lit by magnificent Venetian crystal chandeliers.

The Gallery is now a regional centre for contemporary art and craft. In addition to a programme of nationally important and regional exhibitions, it is a centre for workshops, educational activities and other events. In addition, it houses a thriving Craft Shop which sells high quality craftware for top artists and makers from the region and beyond.

A real family day can be found at Ickworth House, Park and Gardens. The house itself is a sight to behold. It was built by the 4th Earl of Bristol who was known for his rather individual and eccentric tastes. He wanted the house to be oval in shape – and it is!

The house is now open to visitors and inside you are invited to view the collection of old master paintings housed there. The gardens are really lovely, a mixture of 18th Century Parklands and a more Mediterranean themed area. There is an adventure playground to burn of excess energy, family trails and also popular cycle trails.

Another excellent day out just 7 miles from Bury St Edmunds is a trip to Pakenham – this village is unique in Britain in having both a working water mill and a working windmill, and it is situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty. The 18th C Pakenham Water Mill is on a Domesday site. A unique historical landmark, it has proved to be not only a popular attraction for mill enthusiasts, but also a source of fascination and enjoyment for tourists, ramblers, school parties, local artists and families – all looking for a day out with a difference.

So there’s lots to see and do in and around Bury, and we haven’t even mentioned the large new Arc Shopping Centre, the Festivals, so ….come and visit Bury and see for yourself!

Click here for more ideas for days out in Bury St Edmunds and What’s on in Bury St Edmunds.

Explore these things to do and places to stay in and around Bury St Edmunds…

National Trust Ickworth

Ickworth House, Horringer, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, IP29 5QE

Pakenham Water Mill

Water Mill Farm, Mill Road, Pakenham, Bury Saint Edmunds, Suffolk , IP31 2NB

Kentwell Hall

High Street, Long Melford, Suffolk, CO10 9BA

Explore 4×4

Elveden Courtyard, Elveden, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 3TQ

The Black Boy Public House

Guildhall Street, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, IP33 1QD

The Angel Hotel

Angel Hill, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, IP33 1LT

Roosters B+B

Little Manor, 3 Upper Town, Pakenham, Bury Saint Edmunds, Suffolk, IP31 2JY

Kings Forest Holidays

Wideham Farm, Icklingham Road, West Stow, Suffolk, IP28 6HE

Drinkstone Park Bed & Breakfast & Gardens

Drinkstone Park, Drinkstone, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, IP30 9ST

Maison Bleue Restaurant

31 Churchgate Street, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, IP33 1RG