BURY ST EDMUNDS: ‘Close Angel Hill to protect Abbey Gate’

AN HISTORIC street in a Suffolk market town should be closed to traffic to protect an iconic building which is crumbling, a councillor has claimed.

The Abbey Gate, in Bury St Edmunds, was sealed off for safety reasons after chunks of masonry began to tumble from the medieval building’s walls.

David Nettleton, St Edmundsbury Borough councillor for Risbygate Ward, fears passing vehicles may be responsible for the damage, which has closed the landmark building to the public. Mr Nettleton is now calling for Bury’s Angel Hill, which runs outside the 14th century gate house to be closed to traffic, to protect it from further damage.

“There is a lot of traffic which goes past the Abbey Gate which could be a contributing factor,” he said. “It must be making some sort of impact.

“I would like to see Angel Hill to Churchgate Street closed except for emergency vehicles.”

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Angel Hill is one of Bury’s most picturesque squares, captured by Charles Dickens who stayed at the town’s Angel Hotel which he included in his first novel, The Pickwick Papers.

Mr Nettleton fears heavy traffic flow outside the Abbey Gate could be damaging Bury’s famous landmark and wants to see Angel Hill pedestrianised.

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“I am concerned about the Abbey Gate for it’s iconic status,” he said. “It is a symbol of Bury and special to the town. From the 14th century, there hasn’t been a problem with the Abbey Gate. Why is it a problem now?”

Damien Parker, parks manager for the borough council, said there was a weight restriction on vehicles weighing more than 7.5 tones on Angel Hill.

“The information we have is it is simply frost shattering the masonry on the inside of the Abbey Gate,” he said. “It’s nothing more than that. If there were heavy frosts in the past, it probably happened then. It’s just this winter has been particularly harsh.”

A scaffolding tunnel will be fitted inside the iconic structure this month to allow pedestrians to walk through it safely while inspection of the damage begins.

Mr Parker said English Heritage, which is responsible for the fabric of the Abbey Gate, were not calling for the closure of Angel Hill.

“It would appear it is uncalled for,” he said. “If it were structural problems caused by traffic, it would have happened sooner.”

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