…you can’t really beat Bury St Edmunds. They did what it said on the tin.
In all my travels around England’s green and pleasant land, I’ve never made it to the East Anglian coast, which given how much I love that environment is perhaps surprising. The problem is that Norfolk and Suffolk aren’t really on the way to anywhere bar each other so I needed a reason to travel. More about that in a future blog about a lighthouse that became a cinematic star.
Anyway with a few days to spare this week, it was time to rectify my omission. My friend Jane who used to live nearby suggested that I add Bury St Edmunds to my itinerary; not because it is coastal but simply because it is an interesting town. I was glad of her input, though as I said to her later, for an atheist I end up spending a lot of time in churches.
The Church however is what the town is all about. Yes it has other features such as a very colourful hotel (The Angel), the country’s first internally illuminated street sign (a design that doesn’t seem to have caught on elsewhere) and a very subtle-looking branch of the nation’s favourite purveyor of cheese pasties.
The clue however is in the name. From early in the 10th Century the relics of St Edmund were located here. Edmund was an East Anglian king who was martyred on the orders of a Dane with the magnificent name of Ivar the Boneless for refusing to renounce his religion. From such origins a highly profitable industry may grow, and the Benedictine Abbey was one of the largest and richest in the country, until Henry VIII intervened.
The Abbey is gone, though the site is now home to formal gardens, colourful artworks, and a little wildlife.
The prime evidence of this religious site is in the two gateways that remain and two churches that still stand, one of which has assumed the status of cathedral. I say the Abbey is gone, but one of the most interesting features of the churchyard is the way in which residential properties have been incorporated into what remains of its walls. Ingenious recycling.
But back to the cathedral. Originally the church of St James, it was transformed in the 20th Century into St Edmundsbury Cathedral, and whilst it is compact compared to the Abbey it’s interior is still worth a visit for the light that fills the internal space and the polychromatic font cover at the very least.
Just a technical note about the shot down the nave. Without my tripod I tried to use my camera bag as a stable support for a long exposure, and though it gave lateral stability, the lens drooped slowly while the shutter was open. I like the ethereal effect though, so will share that with you rather than the more prosaic version.