Things to do in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk
Few areas in England can match the beauty and history of Bury St, Edmunds and the surrounding towns, villages and countryside. Legends and folklore add to the rich web of history, which is woven into every street.
The motto of the borough of St. Edmundsbury, "Sacrarium Regis, Cunabula Legis", means "Shrine of a King, Cradle of the Law". The King is St. Edmund, King of the East Angles, who was killed by invading Danes in 869AD.
His shrine stood for centuries in the medieval Abbey in Bury St. Edmunds and from him the town derives its name. "Cradle of the Law" refers to the tradition that in 1214AD the barons of England met in the Abbey Church and swore an oath to force King John to accept the Charter of Liberties, this would become known as the "Magna Carta".
Bury St. Edmunds is a mediaeval town which grew up around the gates of the great Benedictine monastery founded in 1020AD. Bury was a prosperous market town with a thriving cloth making industry. St Mary's Church was built in the 15th century and it is here that Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII, is buried.
Many splendid Georgian buildings survive, but most are hidden behind elegant 17th and 18th century facades. The fine buildings in the town are a testimony to its prosperity in the 18th century.
Evidence of St Edmundsbury's past and present is all around us. Town and village streets, magnificent parish churches, and unspoiled landscapes throw light on an England that elsewhere has long been lost.
Today you can take the Abbey Trail through the town and visit the old Abbey Ruins, the remains of the great Benedictine Abbey, destroyed in the dissolution of 1539. The foundations and part of the walls still stand. You can also see The Abbey Gate - although the original was destroyed in the uprising of 1327, it was re-built in 1353 and stands at the entrance to the Abbey Gardens.
Elizabeth Frink, who was born and educated in Suffolk, sculpted the statue of St. Edmund near the visitor centre.
The Cathedral Church of St. James, dates from the 16th century and is Suffolk's mother church. St. Mary's Church built on the site of a Norman church in the 14th century which has an impressive interior, is also worth visiting.
Moyse's Hall Museum, the oldest domestic town house in East Anglia - houses an important archaeological collection and curious local history artefacts, which are complemented by a lively programme of changing events.
Manor House Museum is a magnificent Georgian Mansion, which overlooks the ageless tranquillity of the great Churchyard. Here you can see a sumptuous collection of costume, art and horology, interpreted through computer screens, bringing a wealth of knowledge to your fingertips.
The town has excellent leisure and shopping facilities. Wednesdays and Saturdays are market days, when the town centre becomes a bustling arena for bargain hunters. Bury St. Edmunds is a shoppers' delight; its rare mix of family-run businesses and high street names, traffic-free areas, ample parking nearby, and warm welcome make shopping a real pleasure.
The Theatre Royal is a beautifully restored Georgian Theatre, which is the oldest purpose-built theatre in England, and features opera, dance and music as well as drama from the best touring companies.
At one time this part of Suffolk boasted more pubs than churches. The number has dwindled over the years, but there is still a wealth of pubs including The Nutshell, reputed to be the smallest pub in Britain. There are also restaurants, bistros, cafes and hotels offering traditional Suffolk fayre and exotic dishes from all over the world.
The Borough may be steeped in history, but it doesn't live in the past. There are sports centres at Haverhill and Bury St. Edmunds, with up to the minute facilities, which the whole family can enjoy. There are 600 acres of parkland and open spaces to enjoy, with country parks and gardens. There are also golf courses, riding stables and nature trails, as well as boat and cycle hire.