The earliest settlement in Bury St Edmunds dates back to early Saxon times, but it was not until the ninth century that events of national significance first took place here.
There were frequent invasions by the Vikings, and when a young Anglo-Saxon King Edmund led his troops against them in 869 AD it was to be a turning point in English history.
Edmund’s forces were defeated, and he was martyred for refusing to renounce his Christian faith. He soon became a saint, and his shrine in Bury St Edmunds attracted thousands of pilgrims from all over Europe.
The wealth of the abbey which housed his shrine also helped the town to flourish, but conflict between the abbey and town led to riots, rebellions, even massacres.
Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries saw the destruction of the abbey but left us with the wonderful ruins of a once great religious house. And the town itself is rich in architecture from every era since Norman times.
After the abbey’s destruction much of Bury’s wealth came from the wool trade, but the Bury Fair, the 1,000-year-old market, numerous inns and its unique Regency theatre also boosted the economy of the town.
How well do you know Bury St Edmunds?
- Why is a wolf on symbols all over the town?
- Why did William the Conqueror’s doctor design the town centre layout?
- Why was the Abbeygate moved from its original position?
- Who was Jankyn Smyth, and why was he so important?
- Which queen’s tomb is in a town centre church?
- Where was there a secret World War Two operations room?
These and many more questions will be answered on your guided tour of the town!