Bury St Edmunds: Evidence points to Magna Carta link

Abbey Gardens with the cathedral overlooking on a warm summers day

Abbey Gardens with the cathedral overlooking on a warm summers day - Credit: citizenside.com

New evidence has been revealed which not only finds the Magna Carta barons’ meeting did take place in Bury St Edmunds, but also that it was a month earlier than previously thought.

Professor David Carpenter, from King’s College in London, was speaking at a conference at the Apex in Bury on Saturday which was organised as part of the town’s Magna Carta celebrations.

He is part of a group of university professors who have been working on a landmark investigation known as the Magna Carta Project, which has Heritage Lottery funding.

Professor Carpenter’s talk asked whether the meeting in 1214, believed to be on November 20 – St Edmund’s Day, actually took place.

He told the audience that the abbey was a pilgrimage destination throughout the year and the meeting of the barons took place around October 19, 1214, adding this is likely to have been the reason King John made a hurried visit to the town on November 4 that year.

October 19 also happens to be the date the sound and light trail kicks off in the town to further mark the 800th anniversary of this significant gathering.

King John put his seal to the charter, which formed the foundations of democracy, in 1215 at Runnymede in Surrey.

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Margaret Charlesworth, chair of Bury’s Magna Carta 800 Committee, said: “To hear Professor Carpenter tell the audience that this meeting was a key event for Magna Carta and fully justifies Bury’s status as a Magna Carta town is incredibly exciting.

“With our wonderful sound and light trail opening on the very day that the highly-significant meeting of barons happened, it will, I hope, really give people a sense of history as they follow in their very footsteps to the Abbey Gardens.”

The Our Liberty sound and light trail will take place on six nights between October 19 and 24. Tickets are free but places must be booked in advance by visiting www.burymagnacarta.org

The Magna Carta 800 Committee project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, is being spearheaded by the Bury Society, which has been working with St Edmundsbury Cathedral and the borough council to deliver the trail and the chance to see an original 1215 copy of the historic document earlier this year.

The sound and light trail was awarded a grant of £20,000 in June by the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Commemoration Committee.

Professor Carpenter’s commentary on the Magna Carta will be published by Penguin in January as part of the Magna Carta Project research. The website is www.magnacartaresearch.org