History and Heritage

Discover 1000 years of history...

Wherever you are in the beautiful market town of Bury St Edmunds, reminders of the past are just around the corner.

Immerse yourself in 1,000 years of history, exploring picturesque Georgian squares, wonderful medieval architecture and the legend of Saint Edmund and the wolf.

From saints to queens and brewing to Charles Dickens, its impressive historical connections earn Bury St Edmunds its title as 'a jewel in the crown of Suffolk', witnessing intrigue, scandal and greatness in equal measure.

Admire Suffolk’s only Cathedral and stand among the ruins of the 11th Century Benedictine Abbey, once a place of pilgrimage and one of the most important monasteries in medieval Europe, now nestled in the stunning award-winning Abbey Gardens in the historic heart of the town.


Take in the grandeur of The Athenaeum which once played host to performances and readings from such literary legends as Charles Dickens and W M Thackeray.

Experience going to the theatre as it was in pre-Victorian times at the Theatre Royal, the only surviving regency playhouse in Britain.

Enjoy the many walking trails to discover the Lark and Linnet rivers and the Magna Carta, and uncover the legacy of some of the most influential talents to have graced Bury St Edmunds in the town's Blue Plaque Trail which takes you to the homes and haunts of an eclectic mix of historical figures including author Charles Dickens.

Among the many unique features of Bury St Edmunds is that almost every major junction into town has extraordinary modern artworks which mark key moments in its history. From the dramatic steel figure of St Edmund to the uplifting dove of peace - check out Bury St Edmunds roundabout art!

Guided Tours

Take a guided walking tour of Bury St Edmunds and discover the town’s connections to the Magna Carta and Edmund, the first Patron Saint of England, see the final resting place of Mary Tudor, Queen of France and sister of King Henry VIII (after whom the Mary Rose was named) at St Mary’s Church, and marvel at the Norman Tower, the oldest Norman building in England.

See rare views across the town and countryside on a tour of St Edmundsbury Cathedral's Millennium Tower and take a trip back in time and behind the scenes of the last surviving regency theatre in Britain, the Theatre Royal.

Then explore more than 200 years of brewing history with a tour around Greene King’s beautiful and historic working brew house and end your trip with a tasting session in their popular Beer Cafe.

Visit Bury St Edmunds Museums

Take a trip back to the past at Moyse's Hall Museum with collections that document the foundation of the early town – from the creation and dissolution of the Abbey, a world class and rare collection of clocks, fine art, plus changing exhibitions in the Great Hall. This beautiful medieval museum is the second oldest building in England.

Located just outside the town centre, Suffolk Regiment Museum tells the story of the regiment from its foundation in 1685 to amalgamation with the Royal Norfolk Regiment in 1959.

The stories of individual soldiers are told through a wonderful collection of medals, uniforms, photographs, weapons, equipment and personal memorabilia.

Bury St Edmunds Guildhall, which dates back to 1279, is the oldest continuously-used building in Britain and proudly boasts a World War II Royal Observer Corps Control Centre – the only surviving room of its kind in the world.

The control centre was set up in 1939 to monitor all aircraft movements and became crucial in protecting Suffolk by relaying vital messages to the RAF.

The heritage centre offers a fascinating range of interactive displays and collections in the historic Court Room, Banqueting Hall and Tudor Kitchen.

Become immersed in the history of Bury St Edmunds and its townspeople through interaction with costumed interpretors, handling artefacts, digital media, interactive workshops, multi-sensory experiences and more.

Marking the centenary of the end of WWI, the Bury St Edmunds WWI art trail was unveiled on 21st July. The 18 pieces of art will be on display until November 11.

The stories behind the pieces tell of the grim reality of war and of life in England during WWI and serve both to engage and educate as well as take visitors around historic Bury St Edmunds.

One of the most poignant pieces in the Bury St Edmunds WWI Trail is a representation of the Victoria Cross which is on display at the Suffolk Regiment Museum by AJ Joinery Ltd of Cockfield. Standing at nearly 8ft high, it will be positioned in the heart of historic Bury St Edmunds on Angel Hill.

Check out our guide to Bury St Edmunds historical hot spots!

Spooky Bury St Edmunds

Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General, put more women to death for witchcraft in Bury St Edmunds than in any other town... and he got paid 5 shillings per witch!

The trials were probably held at the old shire hall in the great churchyard, now the site of the new Shire Hall; Executions for witches were held on unconsecrated ground outside of the town, Southgate green (where Wyvale garden centre is today ), to west at Tut Hill (now the Bury St Edmunds Golf Club ).

Accused Witches were taken to a building where the Nutshell pub is today and had their nails cut or locks of hair taken, the nails and hair were stored in brown jars in the basement. This practice was such because it was believed that if you were not whole when you died , you wouldn’t be able to come back as a whole witch in the next life..... the things people did!

For ghostly encounters, then pay a visit to the Abbey Ruins, St Saviour’s Hospital ruins, the Priory Hotel, the Theatre Royal, shops on Abbeygate Street, Angel Hill, and the cellars of the 16th century Cupola House on The Traverse, now The Bourgee restaurant, where the town's resident Grey Lady has been spotted! She is also said to appear in St Edmundsbury Cathedral churchyard annually on 24 February at 11pm.

Apparitions of the Abbey’s Benedictine monks are also said to be frequently seen. Individuals and groups have been sighted walking around the Abbey’s grounds and through surrounding buildings.

Visitors to the town in October should keep their eyes peeled for a soldier and a nurse in Victorian dress. The first reports were made in 1935 by two girls and their mother, who felt a chill as a man and a woman rushed past them on Eastgate Street. A gunshot and a scream were then heard.

Click here to learn more about Bury St Edmunds spooky encounters and Ghostly and Macabre Walking Tours.

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