18th February 2022

What of the Future?

By Martyn Taylor

Indeed,  what does the future hold for the Abbey and its relevant areas amounting to some sixty acres?  Not only for the beautiful gardens, a tourist hot spot but for the surviving ruins within that need to be conserved and protected in some way. Once a dynamic play area where children could climb till their heart’s content,  these ruins are becoming problematic with the ravages of time, something needs to be done to ensure that what is here now will be here in years to come.

No longer bounded by metal railings the ruins are accessible for all as they should be. As a ‘Bury boy’ I grew up enjoying the ‘park’ as we knew it but was never told about  the history and relevance of it all. Education is the key word, via tour guides and interpretation panels to convey the spiritual and historical context of the abbey site. Whilst there are cast iron and aluminium plaques still dotted around,  these are now woefully inadequate. An accepted important element of the Abbey Church, that of the West Front which includes the historic houses built within, currently has nothing nearby to explain what it is all about.

This and other areas hopefully will be changed in the future soon with coherent and purposeful  interpretation panels backed by the site’s custodians, English Heritage and West Suffolk Council and over the last few years The Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership.  Ably stewarded by Richard Summers this has been setting out a vision as to how with interested parties quote “The mission of the Heritage Partnership is to encourage people to experience the international significance of St Edmund and the historic Abbey.”

It further says, “The ten year vision for the Abbey of St Edmund is that it will inspire all its visitors through excellent conservation, learning and community engagement.” As with all well used historic and heritage sites, a visitors centre is a must, when this will happen is still an unknown factor.  Somewhere close to the cathedral which is now such an important component in the telling of the St Edmund story is an obvious  location.

What is paramount is that our children grow up knowing what Bury St Edmunds is about –  its past and consideration of its future.

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