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Bury St Edmunds' Historical Hot Spots!

Discover Bury St Edmunds fascinating past at these 10 historical spots...

1,000 Years of History

Bury St Edmunds is a town with a rich, varied and infamous history. In the 9th century, the King of East Anglia, Edmund was martyred in Bury St Edmunds and the town has proudly remained a memorial to and inextricably linked with him to this day.

Among many other historical and medieval trivia, Bury St Edmunds also played a role in the Magna Carta and is the final resting place for a French Tudor Queen. Because of its rich social and historical background, the town offers an unparalleled opportunity for people to appreciate some amazing historic buildings and attractions in or nearby the town. Whether you are a history buff or a parent looking to excite their child about the history of the town, Bury St Edmunds has something for everybody.

The town is known and envied nationally and beyond for its historic buildings and fabulous period architecture, attracting people from all over the world to visit the thriving, bustling market town.

We’ve put together this list of ten historical attractions worth visiting. However, if you are decide to make the trip to any on our list, try and allow some extra time to find more, since Bury St Edmunds has hundreds more buildings, museums, churches that you can find easily enough and are guaranteed to draw enjoyment and inspiration from. Plus there are historic towns and villages surrounding Bury St Edmunds to explore including Lavenham and Newmarket.

The Abbey of St Edmund

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Photo: Jon Miles

Bury St Edmunds’s Abbey Gardens are unlike any other public or historic garden one could imagine, with impressive grounds containing the remains of The Abbey of St Edmund; one of the wealthiest Benedictine monasteries in history.

The award-winning Gardens sprawl across 14 acres and contains a park, formal gardens, sports facilities, an aviary, children’s play area and wildlife feeding area and a café, showcasing every time-period across the grounds, with the remains including the Abbey's Great Gate and Norman Tower, the fascinating ruins and west front of the church.

Visitors enter the Abbey precinct - as they have since the 14th century, through the impressive Great Gate.

St Edmundsbury Cathedral

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Photo: Shawn Pearce

With spectacular views of the town from the Tower Tour and its spectacular vaulted ceiling, a visit to St Edmundsbury Cathedral is a ‘must do’ when visiting Bury St Edmunds.

Known as the Parish Church of St James until the 20th century, building began in the late 11th century on the orders of Abbot Anselm, when he was unable to make the pilgrimage to the shrine of St James in Compostela, Spain. St Edmundsbury Cathedral – or The Cathedral Church of St James as it is formally entitled – received its cathedral status in 1914 with the creation of the diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich. It is the only Cathedral in Suffolk.

An ongoing work through the centuries, St Edmundsbury Cathedral was the only unfinished Anglican cathedral in England until 2010, when the final phases were completed through a millennium project. The Millennium Tower, a resplendent 150-foot Gothic structure, opened in 2005 and a stunning vaulted ceiling was signed off five years later. Book the Tower Tour for a closer look and to take in the impressive views from the roof.

Moyse's Hall Museum

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Photo: Emily Fae

Moyse’s Hall Museum is situated in the heart of Bury St Edmunds where it has overlooked the historic marketplace for almost 900 years! The building has ranged in use from workhouse to the town’s Bridewell to even a police station before becoming a museum in 1899.

The diverse collection of artefacts at Moyse's Hall Museum offers a fascinating view into the past with collections that document the foundation of the early town – from the creation and dissolution of the Abbey, to prison paraphernalia and artefacts providing intriguing insights into superstition and witchcraft.

The museum houses West Suffolk’s world class collection of horology including rare timepieces bequeathed by musician and clock collector Frederic Gershom Parkington; fine art by renowned local artists Mary Beale and Sybil Andrews; plus regularly changing exhibitions.

Bury St Edmunds Guildhall

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Bury St Edmunds Guildhall, the oldest surviving civic building in the Country having been placed within the heart of Bury St Edmunds for over 800 years.

In a town famed for its historic buildings, the Guildhall rightly takes its place among the most fascinating.

Dating back to 1279, it is the oldest continuously-used civic building in Britain and proudly boasts a World War Two Royal Observer Corps Control Centre – the only surviving room of its kind in the country.

Bury St Edmunds Guildhall features interactive displays and collections taking you on a journey through time and history.

Visit The Court Room, the Banqueting Hall, the RAF’s WWII Royal Observer Corps Operations Centre Headquarters, the Tudor Kitchen, courtyards and fabulous open gardens.

Through each room The Guildhall explores 700 years of local history and tells the story of the people who lived it. Live re-enactors will also appear on special occasions.

Bury St Edmunds Theatre Royal

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Experience what it was like to go to the theatre in pre-Victorian times at Britain’s last surviving Regency playhouse, the Grade 1 listed Theatre Royal, the country’s third oldest theatre.

The varied programme of drama, dance, music and comedy provides entertainment throughout the year in a charming and intimate setting – and the annual pantomime always attracts a full house.

Built in 1819, the theatre runs under the auspices of the National Trust. There are tours available from February to November.

St Mary's Church

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Photo: Rebecca Austin

Discover the final resting place of Mary Tudor, Queen of France and sister of King Henry VIII, and the renowned magnificent hammer-beam Angel roof at St Mary's Church, a hidden treasure.

St Mary’s claims to be one of the largest parish churches in England, and has the second longest aisle and the largest west window.

It contains a wealth of 15th century woodcarving and outstanding examples of stained glass including the Mary Tudor Window, presented by Queen Victoria in memory of Princess Mary Tudor, Queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk.

Suffolk Regiment Museum

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Originally opened in 1935 within the Regimental Depot site in Bury St Edmunds, which included the Sergeants’ Mess and Officers’ Mess, the Suffolk Regiment Museum was moved in 1968, to its current venue which is based within the former Suffolk Regiment Armoury.

The museum displays the history of the regiment which covers all battalions; from regular to volunteer battalions, war-time and militia. It also has artefacts and exhibits about the foundation in the late 1600s of the experience of individual soldiers which concentrates on various ephemera and collectibles such as weapons, equipment, uniforms, medals and photographs.

The museum is free to visit.

Greene King Brewery

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Photo: Emily Fae

Greene King has been brewing beer in Bury St Edmunds since 1799, when 19-year-old Benjamin Greene founded Greene’s Brewery.

The brewery has a fascinating history going all the way back to 1086, when monks would brew ale on the site of the Great Abbey using water from Bury’s chalk wells which are still used today by Greene King.

Greene King now runs over 3,000 pubs and bars across the country but the company still brews its beer using traditional methods. Tours run daily followed by tastings at Greene King Beer Cafe.

The Angel

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You cannot miss the blue plaque at the front of The Angel Hotel, installed on the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth to commemorate his visits to Bury St Edmunds and a thank you to the man who featured the former coaching inn and the town in his book The Pickwick Papers.

Dickens, who created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era, first stayed at The Angel in 1835 as a journalist for the Morning Chronicle (staying in what was then room 11).

In 1859 and 1861 Dickens returned to The Angel to read to a captive audience at the nearby The Athenaeum, staying in what is now room 215, now known as the Charles Dickens Suite. The Angel's ground floor features some wonderful nods to Dickens including quotes from the author on mirrors, Dickens books on display in the lounge and artwork featuring the man himself.

Scenes for Armando Iannucci's The Personal History of David Copperfield based on Dickens' novel and stars Dev Patel, were shot in front of The Angel on Angel Hill in Bury St Edmunds in July 2018. It is fitting that the film was released 185 years after Dickens first stayed there.

The Athenaeum

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The Athenaeum in Bury St Edmunds is a Grade I listed building built in the early 18th century, purpose-built at the time as the Assembly Rooms and comprises a number of indulgently sized rooms available for hire.

Chief among them is the ornate, romantic and palatial Georgian Ballroom, with its chandeliered ceiling and grand décor calling to mind scenes from Pride and Prejudice. The building was originally constructed as somewhere for local residents to gather to enjoy social events and pastimes, which included playing cards, reading books, attending parties and generally having a good time.

The building offers regular chances for members of the public to visit, from Christmas events to wedding fayres and more and with its unrivalled period features, sweeping staircase and beautiful location, you’re bound to feel like you’re on a film set, so dress sophisticated!

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