1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bury St Edmunds

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BURY ST EDMUNDS, a market town and municipal and parliamentary borough of Suffolk, England, on the Lark, an affluent of the Great Ouse; 87 m. N.E. by N. from London by the Great Eastern railway. Pop. (1901) 16,255. It is pleasantly situated on a gentle eminence, in a fertile and richly cultivated district. The tower or church-gate, one of the finest specimens of early Norman architecture in England, and the western gate, a beautiful structure of rich Decorated work, together with ruined walls of considerable extent, are all that remains of the great abbey. St Mary's church, with a beautifully carved roof, was erected in the earlier part of the 15th century, and contains the tomb of Mary Tudor, queen of Louis XII. of France. St James's church is also a fine Perpendicular building, with a modern chancel, and without a tower. All these splendid structures, fronting one of the main streets in succession, form, even without the abbey church, a remarkable memorial of the wealth of the foundation. Behind them lie picturesque gardens which contain the ruins, the plan of which is difficult to trace, though the outlines of some portions, as the chapter-house, have been made clear by excavation. There is a handsome Roman Catholic church of St Edmund. The so-called Moyses Hall (perhaps a Jew's House, of which there is a parallel example at Lincoln) retains transitional Norman work. The free grammar school, founded by Edward VI., has two scholarships at Cambridge, and six exhibitions to each university, and occupies modern buildings. The Church Schools Company has a school. There are large agricultural implement works, and the agricultural trade is important, cattle and corn markets being held. In the vicinity is Ickworth, the seat of the marquess of Bristol, a great mansion of the end of the 18th century. The parliamentary borough, which returns one member, is coextensive with the municipal borough. The town is governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen and 18 councillors. Area, 2947 acres.

Bury St Edmunds (Beodricesworth, St Edmund's Bury), supposed by some to have been the Villa Faustina of the Romans, was one of the royal towns of the Saxons. Sigebert, king of the East Angles, founded a monastery here about 633, which in 903 became the burial place of King Edmund, who was slain by the Danes about 870, and owed most of its early celebrity to the reputed miracles performed at the shrine of the martyr king. By 925 the fame of St Edmund had spread far and wide, and the name of the town was changed to St Edmund's Bury. Sweyn, in 1020, having destroyed the older monastery and ejected the secular priests, built a Benedictine abbey on its site. In 942 or 945 King Edmund had granted to the abbot and convent jurisdiction over the whole town, free from all secular services, and Canute in 1020 freed it from episcopal control. Edward the Confessor made the abbot lord of the franchise. By various grants from the abbots, the town gradually attained the rank of a borough. Henry III. in 1235 granted to the abbot two annual fairs, one in December (which still survives), the other the great St Matthew's fair, which was abolished by the Fairs Act of 1871. Another fair was granted by Henry IV. in 1405. Elizabeth in 1562 confirmed the charters which former kings had granted to the abbots, and James I. in 1606 granted a charter of incorporation with an annual fair in Easter week and a market. Further charters were granted by him in 1608 and 1614, and by Charles II. in 1668 and 1684. The reversion of the fairs and two markets on Wednesday and Saturday were granted by James I. in fee farm to the corporation. Parliaments were held here in 1272, 1296 and 1446, but the borough was not represented until 1608, when James I. conferred the privilege of sending two members. The Redistribution Act 1885 reduced the representation to one. There was formerly a large woollen trade.

See[edit]

  • Richard Yates, Hist. and Antiqs. of the Abbey of St Edmund's Bury (2nd ed., 1843).
  • H.R. Barker, History of Bury St Edmunds.