Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Bury St Edmunds

I’ve wanted to visit Bury St Edmunds after hearing the rather unusual name. I’d assumed it meant the place where St Edmund was buried.  However that doesn’t appear to be the case as St Edmund is buried in a number of places.   It’s suggested the ‘Bury’ part of the name is derived from the old Germanic word burgs or ‘fortress’.   The St Edmund half comes from King Edmund who was the king of Anglia around the 7th Century.  His cause of death is disputed with some historians suggesting he died in battle fighting the invading Vikings whilst others suggest he was captured and then killed by the Vikings.  If you follow the TV series Vikings you may recall Ivar the Boneless and his brother Ubba.  Who had Edmund shot full of arrows after he suggested to them his Christian faith would protect him.   Well he died and the Christians made a martyr of him!  

By 986AD a popular cult was formed around him and a shrine was erected.  In 1010AD Edmund was dug up and his remains moved to London for ‘safe keeping’.  They were returned three years later.  The shrine continued to be visited by nobles and kings with Edmund now being recognised as the patron saint of England.  In 1095AD an abbey was established at the location of the shrine.  By trading upon the memory of St Edmund the abbey became rich and powerful. 

In 1217AD Edmunds remains were stolen and taken to Toulouse, France by King Louis VIII.   Edmund is credited with saving the city from the 1628AD plague.  He was now making the French money.

It wasn’t until 1901 that the English (with the help of the Pope) managed to get Edmund repatriated.  He was supposed to be re-interned in Westminster Abbey but there was a dispute regarding the authenticity of the remains and they were kept at Arundel Castle until the issue was resolved.  Today Edmund waits at Arundel Castle; except for three of his teeth which the French gave to Douai Abbey.

Meanwhile the Abbey was sacked by the local population when they became fiercely disenchanted with the greed and corruption of the Abbott.   The population then realised they may have condemned their souls (and killed the goose laying the golden eggs) so they rebuilt the gatehouse.

The final demise of the Abbey occurred in the 16th Century during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.   That guy Henry again!

Bury St Edmunds has three major sources of income.  The nearby large sugar refinery which produces ‘silver spoon’ sugar from locally grown sugar beet.  Greene King brewery is located in the town.  Then there is the tourism.

The ruins of the Abbey

The Gatehouse which was rebuilt after the local population destroyed the original during the sacking of the abbey.

View from the Abbey grounds

Town side

The Pillar of Salt.  Erected in 1935, this is reputedly the first internally illuminated road sign in England.

The Corn Exchange is rather impressive.  I remember writing a query about the Corn Exchange in Newbury back in 2011.  I thought corn was sold, however Bruce of nb Insanity Again left a comment advising me ‘corn’ was a generic word for grain.


It’s now the local Weatherspoons!

The other building I wanted to see was the Guildhall

Parts of the structure date back to the 12th Century.  When the Abbey was sacked the Prior and some of the monks were imprisoned in the Guildhall.

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