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The National Lottery Heritage Fund to Support Abbey 1000 Celebrations

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has approved a Heritage Grant of £99,200 to support many of the events planned for the Millennium Celebrations of the foundation of the Abbey of St Edmund in 2022.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has approved a Heritage Grant of £99,200 to support many of the events planned for the Millennium Celebrations of the foundation of the Abbey of St Edmund, which have had to be postponed from 2020 to 2022.  The total value of the approved project is £208,950 including £109,750 match funding from local organisations. 

The Fund supports projects that connect people and communities to the UK’s heritage. Bury St Edmund’s grant is intended to encourage a wider range of people to be involved in the town’s heritage, many of them for the first time.  The events that have been proposed and approved will involve local people and visitors in telling the story of St Edmund, the foundation of the Benedictine Abbey and its relationship with the town.  


Libby Ranzetta, Chair of the Abbey 1000 Group, who are coordinating the programme of events said: “We are delighted that this Heritage Grant will add to local corporate sponsorship to help fund the Millennium Celebrations and we are grateful to the many people who buy National Lottery tickets week after week to make these funds available for worthy causes like ours.

“We are also grateful to the many local companies who are supporting the Millennium Celebrations and to the Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership and West Suffolk Council who made this successful funding application on behalf of Abbey 1000 and our town. 

“A thousand years is such a long time that it's hard to imagine how much the town has changed since 1020, but the wonderful events planned for next year will bring to life the history and human stories connected with the once all-powerful Abbey.  The programme is still growing and we would welcome ideas from groups and organisations who want to get involved in some way.  It will be some while before we get this opportunity again after all!”

Anne Jenkins, Director, England, Midlands & East at The National Lottery Heritage Fund said, “We are delighted to support this project, which thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, will mean that more people will be able to get involved with, protect, and learn about the exciting heritage right on their doorstep.”

Supporting nine events

The Heritage Grant will support nine of the planned events for the Millennium Celebrations together with funding for marketing, access for people who couldn’t otherwise take part and project evaluation.  These include:

Exhibition of seven Abbey Manuscripts in the Cathedral Treasury (2 May–9 June 2022). This will be the first time that the manuscripts are reunited in their place of origin since 1539. Hand written and decorated by monks in the Abbey, they are on loan from Pembroke College, Cambridge where they were donated by William Smart (Portreeve of Ipswich) in 1599.

Pilgrimage and Town Tours (May 2022) 

A group of walkers will make a pilgrimage from St Benet’s, Norfolk to Bury St Edmunds arriving on 14 May. Another pilgrimage group will walk from Ely to Bury St Edmunds in the spring to mark the historic anniversary. Uvius, the first Abbot at the Abbey of St Edmund (1020-1044) came from St Benet’s accompanied by 20 monks, believed to be 13 from St Benet’s and seven from Ely.

Abiding Wisdom and procession of Benedictines (14-15 May 2022) 

One hundred Benedictine monks and nuns from communities across Britain, and possibly abroad, will gather in Bury St Edmunds for the first time in 500 years since the dissolution of the monasteries. They will be joined by 400 other people and Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, who will also be attending. The gathering will take part in a procession into the ruins of the Abbey Church; there will also be talks and workshops in the Cathedral and Ecumenical Vespers with monastic chanting. 

Abbey Crypt Sculptures exhibition (May – November 2022) 

A monthly changing display of sculptures will be installed between May and November in the crypt within the Abbey ruins, where the shrine of St Edmund would have stood. The first sculpture to be installed will be a giant monk (7ft 6ins tall), made from 2mm thick steel and weighing some 250kg, designed by Nigel Kaines and made by blacksmith Kevin Baldwin from Designs on Metal (see photo above). 

Moyse’s Hall Museum exhibition (1 July – 30 September 2022) 

Helping to tell the story of St Edmund and the Abbey, The Abbey of St Edmund: Artisan and Pilgrimage exhibition will include new and original stained glass and original pilgrims’ badges. There will also be touch screen displays plus family workshops and master classes in medieval craft skills. 

Community Celebrations for All (16 July 2022)

A ‘Celebrations for All’ community picnic in the Abbey Gardens will be accessible allowing hundreds of people with mobility issues to take part. 

Travelling Exhibition and online presentation (from December 2020) 

A travelling exhibition will tour heritage attractions, cultural venues, local schools, West Suffolk College and the  town centre during the Millennium Celebrations and again in future years.  It will explain the heritage of the Abbey of St Edmund and encourage people to visit the Abbey ruins to understand the history of the last 1000 years.  It will also be available online.

St Edmunds’ Day Spectacle of Light (17 – 20 November 2022) 

A three evening Spectacle of Light show projecting images of illuminated manuscripts from the Abbey onto historic buildings plus a light trail through the Abbey ruins in partnership with West Suffolk College. 

St Edmund Lecture (19 November 2022) 

Details and guest lecturer to be announced.

Other event highlights

The Millennium Celebrations will boost the momentum for the various improvements to the Abbey of St Edmund that the Heritage Partnership aims to progress during the next ten years.  Some of these events have been brought forward from 2020, when they were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, others are new for 2022.

In addition to the nine events supported by The Heritage Fund, the Abbey 1000 year of celebrations will begin with the St Edmund’s Day mass on 20 November. Other highlights include a concert by the Suffolk Philharmonic Orchestra on 28 May which will include a new work, Into The Light, by composer Paul Carr for soloists, a large choir and full symphony orchestra, commissioned especially for the Abbey’s anniversary year. 

There will also be a new Heritage Trail around the town centre created by Our Bury St Edmunds BID and historian author Martyn Taylor (see photo above) running from 21 May until 20 November. Bury in Bloom and the Cathedral Flower Exhibition (20-29 June) will focus on displays to mark the Millennium Celebrations, while a fly through video of the Abbey ruins showing how the great Abbey Church and the Shrine of St Edmund would have looked during its heyday is being produced using cutting edge CGI. 

New events for 2022 include an invitation to nature lovers from Bury Water Meadows Group to join BioBlitz, a hunt for as many species of plant, insect and animal that can be found in the Abbey Gardens and water meadows on May 20 and 21, and an Education Heritage project led by Community Artist and Educator, Louise Gridley culminating in a Schools Celebration event in the Abbey Gardens on 29 June. 

Sponsors for the Abbey 1000 celebrations will be announced soon.

For all Abbey 1000 events as they are announced visit www.abbeyofstedmund1000.co.uk.

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