Welcome to the Abbey of St Edmund.
The Abbey was founded in 1020 by King Canute and includes: the Abbey Gardens; the Cathedral; St Mary’s Church; the Great Churchyard; the Water Meadows and the former Vinefields of the Abbey. Few of the medieval buildings remain but, along with the ruins and the beautiful setting, they talk to us of the past. We treasure and love them, and we hope you will too.
Here are some of the main points of interest, marked on the map.
1 The Abbey Gate was built in the mid -14th century. It replaced the original gate which was destroyed by rioting townsfolk in 1327.
2 The Flower Gardens follow the layout of the botanic garden established by Nathaniel Hodson in 1831.
3 The Dovecote stands in what used to be the Abbot’s garden.
4 The Precinct Wall and Abbott’s Bridge The wall surrounded the abbey precinct and the best surviving part runs along Mustow Street and continues across the Abbot’s Bridge.
5 The Abbey Model shows what the abbey would have looked like in 1200 AD.
6 The Abbey Outbuildings include the Chapter House, the Dormitory, the Refectory, the Buttery and Pantry, the Prior’s House and the Infirmary. The Chapter House was where the Abbot and the monks met daily. Inside the Chapter House is a row of stone coffins of five abbots which was found in 1903. They include Abbot Samson who built much of the abbey church.
7 The Abbey Church was built in the 12th Century and became one of the largest buildings in Europe. The body of St Edmund was moved into the Presbytery in 1095. The interior was lavishly decorated. The abbey was dissolved in 1539 and stripped of its stonework.
7a The Crypt and the Presbytery was built in the 11th Century. The presbytery had a semi-circular eastern end which housed the high altar and the shrine of St Edmund. The fate of St Edmund’s body remains a mystery.
7b The Crossing is marked by four large columns, which supported the central tower. Here is a record of the meeting in 1214 which led to the Magna Carta for common people’s rights.
7c The Nave was twelve bays long. The rubble cores of the columns from the north arcade still survive. The southern half remains buried.
7d The West Front had a central tower and it was flanked by two octagonal towers. Houses were later built into the ruined arches and are a distinctive feature today.
8 The U.S. Air Force Rose Garden is a memorial to American servicemen. It is named after John Appleby who served with the 487th Bombardment Group at Lavenham.
9 The Deanery, formerly Clopton’s Asylum was built as alms houses with money left by Dr Poley Clopton. It is now the Deanery of the Cathedral.
10 The Crankles lie between the confluence of the rivers Lark and Linnet within the Abbey precinct. Historic maps show it with a zig zag of channels which are believed to have been the remnants of monastic fish ponds.
11 The Great Churchyard and Charnel Chapel served the abbey and several other churches and chapels.
12 St. Mary’s Church was founded in the early 12th century. It contains the grave of Mary Tudor, the sister of Henry VIII.
13 The Norman Tower built in the early 12th century as the main gateway to the abbey church. It indicates what the rest of the abbey church would have looked like.
14 The Cathedral was built as the parish church of St James in the early 12th century. It became St Edmundsbury Cathedral in 1914.