Could ground scan take us closer to solving the mystery of where St Edmund’s body is?

The statue of St Edmund in front of the Abbey West Front in Bury St Edmunds
Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

The statue of St Edmund in front of the Abbey West Front in Bury St Edmunds Picture: ANDY ABBOTT - Credit: Archant

A scan which may reveal the subterranean secrets at a ruined Suffolk abbey – including, potentially, the body of Saint Edmund – could begin next year if funding is raised.

Reverend Canon Matthew Vernon Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCIL

Reverend Canon Matthew Vernon Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCIL - Credit: Archant

There has long been speculation that the body of Saint Edmund could be hidden below Bury St Edmunds' Abbey Gardens, the site of the ancient abbey named after the martyred king.

READ MORE: 'Immense amount' of ancient abbey remains undiscovered, studies revealAs part of the celebrations in 2020 to mark 1,000 years since the foundation of the Abbey of St Edmund by King Canute, grant funding is being sought for a geophysical scan, which would not disturb the ground.

If the funding application is successful, the first stage of the scan could take place during next year.

This work would enable a better understanding of the structures, artefacts and other links to the abbey's medieval past that may lie beneath a large part of the abbey site - and could bring us closer to discovering where St Edmund's body may be.

The Dowsing Anglia group believes St Edmund's remains are located beneath the tennis courts. Picture

The Dowsing Anglia group believes St Edmund's remains are located beneath the tennis courts. Picture: DOWSING ANGLIA - Credit: Dowsing Anglia

One theory is that he may be buried under the tennis courts and work is progressing to move the courts to a different location in the Abbey Gardens.

READ MORE: Could the remains of St Edmund finally be found?The Reverend Canon Matthew Vernon, chairman of the Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership, said: "We want to find out more about the archaeology and history of the Abbey of St Edmund to help us tell more of the story of St Edmund and the abbey to local people and visitors.

"There has been lots of speculation and excitement about the possibility that St Edmund, the martyred King of East Anglia and first patron saint of England, may be buried within the abbey grounds.

"It has captured the hearts and imaginations of local residents and the thousands of visitors who come to the abbey each year. The simple answer is that none of us knows about that with any certainty."

The gateway into the site of the Abbey of St Edmund Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCIL

The gateway into the site of the Abbey of St Edmund Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCIL - Credit: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCIL

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He said a first stage scan of the former Abbey of St Edmund would focus around the site of King Canute's rotunda, which was built just after the foundation of the of the abbey in 1020.

While it would also include the site of the former tennis courts, he said its purpose was wider and would in turn "help develop people's understanding of this internationally-significant heritage".

In the meantime, work is underway on new tennis courts at the former Eastgate Nurseries within the Abbey Gardens and they should be open in the summer. Tarmac on the old, redundant courts will be removed in late January.

READ MORE: Year of celebrations to mark abbey's 1000th anniversaryThe Abbey Gardens represents just a third of the former Abbey of St Edmund site, which stretches across as far as St Mary's Church, the Vinefields and the water meadows.

There is speculation St Edmund's body may lie under the abbey site in Bury St Edmunds
Picture: AND

There is speculation St Edmund's body may lie under the abbey site in Bury St Edmunds Picture: ANDY ABBOTT - Credit: Archant

The Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership was set up to help protect and conserve the entire Abbey of St Edmund area and to develop greater public understanding of its archaeological, historical, architectural and religious significance.

Joanna Rayner, West Suffolk Council cabinet member for leisure and culture, said: "We and our communities are immensely proud of our history and heritage in West Suffolk and 2020 offers the potential opportunity not just to celebrate 1000 years of the abbey, but also to gain even more of an understanding of the Abbey of St Edmund area.

"We already know that the abbey played a key role in establishing Magna Carta and the shaping of modern democracy - who knows what we will discover in 2020."

The heritage partnership is led by St Edmundsbury Cathedral in collaboration with West Suffolk Council and representatives of Suffolk County Council, Bury St Edmunds Town Council, Historic England, English Heritage, the University of East Anglia, the University of Suffolk, the Bury Society and several local community groups as well as specialist planners, architects, historians and archaeologists.

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