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'Immense amount' of ancient abbey remains undiscovered, studies reveal

PUBLISHED: 16:00 26 January 2019 | UPDATED: 06:16 27 January 2019

Crowds gather at St Edmundsbury Catherdral to hear the results of two studies which have taken place on the Abbey of St Edmund. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Crowds gather at St Edmundsbury Catherdral to hear the results of two studies which have taken place on the Abbey of St Edmund. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Archant

Further research at the site of Bury St Edmunds' ancient abbey will need to be undertaken before the mystery of whether St Edmund's remains are buried in the grounds can be solved.

Delegates at the Abbey of St Edmund: Past, Present and Future conference heard on Saturday that despite the historical and archaeological investigations carried out at the site to date, a huge amount remains undiscovered.

The results of two studies which capture the significance of the abbey’s past and will help shape its future were shared for the first time at the conference, which was held at St Edmundsbury Cathedral.

Around 170 people attended to hear the results of a heritage assessment and conservation plan, which were commissioned by the Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership with grant support from Historic England and St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

MORE: Could the remains of St Edmund finally be found?

It has long been believed that St Edmund – the first patron saint of England – could be located in the historic Abbey Gardens, with speculation that he may be buried under the tennis courts.

The abbey ruins in Bury St Edmunds Picture: ANDREW MUTIMERThe abbey ruins in Bury St Edmunds Picture: ANDREW MUTIMER

Consent was granted last year to move the courts, which sit on top of a former monks’ graveyard, to a different location in the gardens.

Next year will mark 1,000 years since the abbey was founded and a number of community events are being planned to celebrate the special anniversary.

Robert Everitt, cabinet member for families and communities at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “This has been an exciting opening phase to the work of the Heritage Partnership.

“Of course, further statutory permissions and scans of the whole site will need to be undertaken before we can answer the big question of whether St Edmund is buried under the tennis courts.

Crowds gather at St Edmundsbury Catherdral to hear the results of two studies which have taken place on the Abbey of St Edmund. Picture: Ella WilkinsonCrowds gather at St Edmundsbury Catherdral to hear the results of two studies which have taken place on the Abbey of St Edmund. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

“Whether he is or he isn’t, one thing is for sure – next year will mark 1,000 years since the abbey was founded, and we can look forward to a series of community events to celebrate our wonderful heritage here in the heart of west Suffolk.”

The heritage study was carried out by Richard Hoggett and found “an immense amount” still remains to be discovered, St Edmundsbury Borough Council said.

Purcell, an architectural and heritage consultancy, prepared the conservation plan which suggests projects for the future care and interpretation of the Abbey of St Edmund.

The abbey area covers 60 acres, including the Abbey Gardens, St Edmundsbury Cathedral, the Great Churchyard, St Mary’s Church, the former Eastgate Nursery, the former Abbey Vineyards, the Crankles and No Man’s Meadow.

The Reverend Canon Matthew Vernon, chairman of the St Edmund Heritage Partnership, in the grounds of the Abbey Gardens, in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCILSThe Reverend Canon Matthew Vernon, chairman of the St Edmund Heritage Partnership, in the grounds of the Abbey Gardens, in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCILS

MORE: Could Saint Edmund’s remains lie in St Mary’s Church?

Reverend Canon Matthew Vernon, chairman of the Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership, said: “The heritage partnership exists to explore how we can all understand the abbey’s cultural, historical and spiritual significance much better.

“It also aims to conserve it for generations to come, for both local people and visitors to appreciate and enjoy.

“It was great to be able to present the results of these two studies which are a key part of our work and to invite public feedback that will help shape the future direction of our work.”

Both studies will be published online on Monday January 28 at www.stedscathedral.org.uk/abbeyofstedmund and www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/abbeyofstedmund

A summary of the two studies is also available online and paper copies will be available from Friday, February 1, at the cathedral tourist information point, Bury St Edmunds Library, Moyse’s Hall Museum, The Apex and West Suffolk House.

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