17th November 2023

Council to spend £250k protecting and enhancing the Abbey

By Shannon Eustace, BBC News, Suffolk

A council has earmarked £250,000 to protect 1000-year-old abbey ruins and enhance a cathedral and its grounds.

West Suffolk Council has set aside the funds for improvements to the Abbey Gardens in the centre of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. The authority will also help submit a multi-million pound bid for money from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. If successful, it will be used to protect the abbey ruins and make the grounds more accessible. The bid is being prepared in collaboration with St Edmundsbury Cathedral and English Heritage.

Founded in 1020 the abbey, now in ruins, towered over Bury St Edmunds, which it “controlled”. Throughout its history, pilgrims came from around the world to see the shrine of martyred East Anglian king St Edmund.

The funding bid would also improve the surrounding paths, some of which are not currently fully accessible for people with disabilities. According to the council, the bid would protect the abbey ruins from further erosion, enhance the visitor experience and see improvements to interpretation at the former Abbey of St Edmunds.

Councillor Ian Shipp, cabinet member for leisure and culture, said: “We have around 1.3 million visits a year to our Green Flag award winning Abbey Gardens. We want to do more to protect the ruins. We also want to improve the paths so they are more accessible, making it easier for people to enjoy the Abbey Gardens and the wider former Abbey area. We want to improve on the interpretation work that has already taken place so more people, whether local residents or visitors, get a better understanding of the site, what it once was and a sense of the international and national importance to people at the time.”

Joe Hawes, Dean of St Edmundsbury and chair of the Project Working Group, said: “The Cathedral is delighted to be working with all the partner organisations who share our passion for the Abbey of St Edmund site. Heritage, environment and community are crucial issues for us to work on together. A successful project will enhance the wellbeing and lives of us all, as well as attract people from around the country and overseas to engage with the wonderful history of this place.”


Editor’s note: St Edmundsbury Cathedral, West Suffolk Council and English Heritage have come together as members of The Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership (comprising 29 organisations and individuals who care about the Abbey) to develop and deliver this project.  The bid includes repairs to the historic ruins, a new visitor centre and improvements to the access and interpretation of the ruins of the Abbey.

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