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Discover Bury St Edmunds Historic Role in the Magna Carta Story

The Magna Carta is widely recognised as one of the most important documents in the world and Bury St Edmunds played a crucial role in its creation.

Near the ruins of the Abbey of St Edmunds, nestled in the Abbey Gardens, is ‘Our Liberty’, a lasting memorial to Bury St Edmunds’ link to the Magna Carta. 

The Magna Carta is widely recognised as one of the most important documents in the world and Bury St Edmunds played a very crucial role in its creation.

A group of Barons met in St Edmund’s Abbey in 1214 and swore an oath to compel King John to accept the Charter of Liberties, a proclamation of Henry I. The most likely date for this meeting is November 20, 2014 because that was St Edmund’s Day. This act led directly to the Great Charter or the Magna Carta, agreed at Runnymede on June 15 1215.

The people of Bury St Edmunds have celebrated this link for hundreds of years with the town’s motto ‘Shrine of the King, Cradle of the Law’, which refers to our historic links with King Edmund (later St Edmund and the first patron saint of England) and the Barons’ meeting which led to the creation of the Magna Carta.

The ‘Our Liberty’ memorial, designed by Suffolk artist Nigel Kaines, in the Abbey Gardens includes the spears and banners of the barons who met in Bury St Edmunds in 1214, with bronze scrollwork displaying shields carrying the important commemorative events. The design is supported on original stone from the Abbey – stones which might have been witness to the arrival of the barons all those years ago.



It was unveiled in 2016 to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Bury St Edmunds’ very special heritage as a Magna Carta Town.

Elsewhere in the Abbey Gardens visitors can see two commemorative plaques erected in 1849 on the ruined piers of the crossing of the Abbey Church. 


The first marks the spot where on November 20th 1214 the barons swore at St Edmund’s Altar that they would obtain from King John the ratification of the Magna Carta.

The second lists the names of the 25 barons appointed the observance of the Magna Carta. Discover more about the barons of the Magna Carta on the Magna Carta Barons Trail, pick up a leaflet at the tourism information points in Bury St Edmunds during your stay.

To find out more about Bury St Edmunds’ links to the Magna Carta why not take a historic walking tour with the town’s blue badge guides and uncover more secrets and stories from the town? 

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