Gallery: Original copy of Magna Carta arrives in Bury St Edmunds

A copy of the Magna Carta at St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds.

A copy of the Magna Carta at St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds. - Credit: Archant

An original 1215 copy of the Magna Carta has now been installed at St Edmundsbury Cathedral ahead of an exhibition which will give people from the area a rare opportunity to see it.

This priceless document, which has helped ensure we have some of the freedoms and rights we enjoy today, is actually an 18-inch square piece of parchment made from sheepskin with text in Latin.

Today, Chris Woods, director of the National Conservation Service, carefully transported the historic charter with two escorts from Lincoln Cathedral to the cathedral in Bury St Edmunds.

The Magna Carta will be on display in St Edmundsbury Cathedral’s treasury - protected by security - throughout next month as part of Bury’s celebrations to mark the town’s significant link with the document.

This year marks the 800th anniversary of when a group of barons and the Archbishop of Canterbury reputably met at the abbey in 1214 to take an oath to force King John to put his seal to the charter, which happened at Runnymede the following year.


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It has taken more than two years’ work by the local Magna Carta 800 Committee to bring the copy to the town.

Margaret Charlesworth, who chairs the committee, which is part of the Bury Society, said: “I am absolutely delighted to see the Lincoln Magna Carta here in Bury St Edmunds and very excited about the exhibition that opens on May 1.

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“I’ve been involved in the plans to commemorate the 800th anniversary nationally since they started and it’s wonderful to see all the hard work come to fruition. Our project manager Alan Baxter and the cathedral’s Sub-Dean Matthew Vernon have worked tirelessly – it’s been a fantastic team effort.”

Mr Baxter said the significance of the Magna Carta had become far greater today than people thought it would be at the time.

He said: “It’s become strangely more relevant through time because people’s perception of rights are so different to what they were in Medieval times.”

Mr Woods, who is the only person allowed to handle the charter, said the idea of trial by jury was in the Magna Carta and it laid down the principle of the protection of indigenous peoples.

The document at St Edmundsbury Cathedral is one of four remaining copies out of probably 40 that were written, Mr Woods said.

The Lincoln copy, which is owned by Lincoln Cathedral, is kept in a humidity and temperature-controlled case and there have to be low light levels.

Mr Woods said the document was “a national treasure” which historically speaking was priceless, but for insurance purposes had a valuation in the 10s of millions. “It needs to be extremely secure,” he said.

More than 2,000 people have already booked their place to see the exhibition. The first few days are already full, but tickets, which are free, can be booked by visiting www.burymagnacarta.org

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