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Bury St Edmunds Abbey

In the civil parish of Bury St Edmunds.
In the historic county of Suffolk.
Modern Authority of Suffolk.
1974 county of Suffolk.
Medieval County of Suffolk.

OS Map Grid Reference: TL858642
Latitude 52.24358° Longitude 0.71666°

Bury St Edmunds Abbey has been described as a probable Fortified Ecclesiastical site.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


The Abbey Gate at Bury St Edmunds Abbey was built between 1327 and 1353. Built from Barnack stone and two storeys high, the west front of the gate is particularly ornate. The entrance is via a large archway, above which are three gabled niches and a curved gable. Either side of the archway are buttresses with gabled niches in three tiers and to the upper storey are five tall blank niches. The taller, centre niche has a crocketed gable which is flanked by two circles containing six-pointed stars. (Listing Report)

Norman Tower Monastic gate, now used as a belfry for the Cathedral Church of St James. Built under Abbot Anselm between 1120 and 1148; Romanesque. Restored by LN Cottingham in 1846/7. Barnack stone. Rectangular, in 4 stages, with the base now well below the present ground level. Richly ornamented. A large, unvaulted gateway has heavy block capitals to the columns and large roll-mouldings. The west face is the most ornate, with a sculptured inner order and the arch projecting like a porch with a gable and fishscale decoration. To each side of the gateway are 2 tiers of niches with billet decoration; short buttresses above have intersecting arches and pyramid roofs. The 2nd stage has 2 tall blank arches with small 2-light windows within them. The 3rd and 4th stages each have 3 deep window openings, divided by colonnettes and hood-moulds with billet decoration: below the 3rd stage openings are paired blank arches; below the 4th stage blank roundels. The details of the 3 upper stages on the west are repeated on each of the other faces. (Listing Report)

C14 Great Gate and C12 St James Gate of abbey precinct survive but although impressive probably never meant to be defensive. The Abbey was surrounded by a precinct wall, and some slight sections of the precinct wall do survive. The great gate of the Abbey of St Edmund was begun after the riots of 1327 but before 1346; completed after 1353. Built of Barnack stone. Much is made of the defensive features of this tower, but cannot have been seriously defensive since the rest of precinct not really defensible.
The rioters of 1327 deliberately directed their attack at the gatehouse of the Abbey. They could have easily have broken the precinct wall but the Gatehouse was probably the place where the Abbey took rents and possibly where deeds and other legal documents relating to property were housed.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of, the described site.
This record last updated 15/08/2017 15:56:52

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