Bury St Edmunds is a town with a rich, varied and infamous history. In the 9th century, the king of East Anglia, Edmund was martyred in Bury St Edmunds and the town has proudly remained a memorial to and inextricably linked with him to this day.
Among many other historical and medieval trivia, Bury St Edmunds also played a role in the Magna Carta and is the final resting place for a French Tudor Queen. Because of its rich social and historical background, the town offers an unparalleled opportunity for people to appreciate some amazing historic buildings and attractions in or nearby the town. Whether you are a history buff or a parent looking to excite their child about the history of the town, Bury St Edmunds has something for everybody.
The town is known and envied nationally and beyond for its historic buildings and fabulous period architecture, attracting people from all over the world to visit the thriving, bustling market town.
We’ve put together this list of seven historical attractions worth visiting. However, if you are decide to make the trip to any on our list, try and allow some extra time to find more, since Bury St Edmunds has hundreds more buildings, museums, churches that you can find easily enough and are guaranteed to draw enjoyment and inspiration from.
Moyse's Hall Museum
Moyse’s Hall Museum is situated in the heart of Bury St Edmunds where it has overlooked the historic marketplace for almost 900 years! The building has ranged in use from workhouse to the town’s Bridewell to even a police station before becoming a museum in 1899.
The diverse collection of artefacts ranges from witchcraft and murder to railways and Suffolk regiments. This year, they have exhibitions about Marilyn Monroe, Star Wars and Sci-Fi, Saints of Suffolk and plenty more.
Tickets are £4 for adults and £2 for concessions and children with family tickets and annual passes available at fantastic value.
The museum is open 7 days a week 10am-5pm except Sundays 12-4pm.
Abbey Gardens, Bury St Edmunds
St Edmunds’s Abbey Gardens are
unlike any other public or historic garden one could imagine, with impressive
grounds containing the remains of Bury St Edmunds Abbey; one of the wealthiest
Benedictine monasteries in history.
The award-winning Gardens sprawl across 14 acres and contains a park, formal gardens, sports facilities, an aviary, children’s play area and wildlife feeding area and a café, showcasing every time-period across the grounds, with the remains including the intact 14th century Great Gate and Norman Tower, the fascinating ruins and west front of the church.
Visitors enter the abbey precinct - as they have since the 14th century, through the impressive Great Gate which is the abbey’s best surviving feature and gives an idea of the quality of the stonework along the rest of the site.
Suffolk Regiment Museum
opened in 1935 within the Regimental Depot site in Bury St Edmunds, which
included the Sergeants’ Mess and Officers’ Mess, the Suffolk Regiment Museum was
moved in 1968, to its current venue which is based within the former Suffolk
The museum displays the history of the regiment which covers all battalions; from regular to volunteer battalions, war-time and militia. It also has artefacts and exhibits about the foundation in the late 1600s of the experience of individual soldiers which concentrates on various ephemera and collectibles such as weapons, equipment, uniforms, medals and photographs.
The museum is free to visit and is open on Wednesdays between 9.30am and 3.30pm as well as the first Sunday of each month. Appointments can be arranged to visit at other times, including for group visits.
National Horse Racing Museum, Newmarket
The National Horse Racing Museum is a beautiful family-friendly museum, art gallery and much more in the centre of Newmarket.
The Palace House Estate is a 5-acre site in the heart of Newmarket. It comprises three complementary attractions; National Horseracing Museum in the Trainer’s House and King’s Yard Galleries, Packard Galleries of British Sporting Art in Palace House, and a chance to meet former racehorses in the flagship home of Retraining of Racehorses.
They have a fabulous restaurant and gift shop onsite and visits can take from 3 hours to a full day, and sometimes even more…!
However, don’t worry if you can’t fit it all in in one day – upgrade your ticket to an annual pass for FREE to return as many times as you like for 12 months after purchase.
The Athenaeum in Bury St Edmunds is a Grade I listed building built in the early 18th century, purpose-built at the time as the Assembly Rooms and comprises a number of indulgently sized rooms available for hire.
Chief among them is the ornate, romantic and palatial Georgian Ballroom, with its chandeliered ceiling and grand décor calling to mind scenes from Pride and Prejudice. The building was originally constructed as somewhere for local residents to gather to enjoy social events and pastimes, which included playing cards, reading books, attending parties and generally having a good time.
The Athenaeum is currently owned and managed by St Edmundsbury Borough Council who say that the intention is still the same, “a place for local people and visitors to come and enjoy”.
The building offers regular chances for members of the public to attend, from Christmas events to wedding fayres and more and with its unrivalled period features, sweeping staircase and beautiful location, you’re bound to feel like you’re on a film set, so dress sophisticated!
St Peter and St Paul's Church, Lavenham
Lavenham, nearby to Bury St Edmunds, stands quietly away
from major roads yet manages to achieve visitors by the thousands. It is a
beautiful town which seems to have been untouched by time or modern building
methods. To visit, you would be forgiven for imagining you were an extra on the
set of a period drama, or one of the Harry Potter films! The village's wonky
buildings were the inspiration for 'Godric's Hollow', and feature as the
backdrop to scenes in 'The Deathly Hallows Part 1'.
Lavenham saw its growth and economy boom due to the wool trade in the decades following the Black Death, at one point being among the twenty wealthiest towns in the country… and a wealthy town needs an appropriately grandiose church.
A wooden church existed on the site of the current one since around the 5th century and was rebuilt in stone in the 14th century to become St Peter and St Paul's Church which dominates the western approach to the town. It is a Grade I listed parish church, regarded as one of the finest examples of late Perpendicular Gothic architecture in England and the remarkable parish church attracts many thousands of visitors each year. Whether visiting during the week or at the weekend, the ministry and volunteers at the church make sure any visitors know they are welcome to attend one of the two Sunday worship meetings or communion on a Wednesday morning.
Bury St Edmunds Guildhall
Last on our last is The Bury St Edmunds Guildhall, the oldest surviving civic building in the Country having been placed within the heart of Bury St Edmunds for over 800 years.
It has undergone a massive Heritage Lottery Fund redevelopment project which will see it reopen to the public in July, 2018 and will offer an immersive concept which will bring alive the history of both Bury St. Edmunds and the Guildhall.
The Guildhall will feature the history of the Tudor Kitchen, the external courtyards and open gardens, the Court Room and Banqueting Hall, the RAF’s WWII Royal Observer Corps Operations Centre Headquarters room, all through interactive displays, artefacts and collections. The interactive attraction will offer heritage and cultural experiences for residents, visitors, families and community groups, including education programmes, sensory experience, workshops and exhibitions which will all contribute to tell the story of Bury St Edmunds.
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