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Part of Abbey ruins crumple

PUBLISHED: 05:38 21 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:18 24 February 2010

SECURITY fencing has been put up around part of the Abbey ruins in Bury St Edmunds after lumps of flint and mortar crashed to the ground.

Two 40ft columns, which would have helped support the original Abbey tower at the heart of the vast building, were sealed off for public safety reasons after the fall was discovered and St Edmundsbury Borough Council bosses say the stone towers will remain out of bounds until experts rule them safe.

SECURITY fencing has been put up around part of the Abbey ruins in Bury St Edmunds after lumps of flint and mortar crashed to the ground.

Two 40ft columns, which would have helped support the original Abbey tower at the heart of the vast building, were sealed off for public safety reasons after the fall was discovered and St Edmundsbury Borough Council bosses say the stone towers will remain out of bounds until experts rule them safe.

Jean English, parks manager for the council, said the collapse of the section of ruin from the top of one of the pillars was believed to have been caused by recent heavy rainfall followed by severe frosts and cold weather.

Mrs English said the fencing was put up immediately the fallen masonry was discovered to keep visitors to the world-renowned ruins in the Abbey Gardens at a safe distance until the high level inspection was completed.

It is not thought the damage is severe enough to threaten the stability of the pillars themselves but Mrs English said it was possible the weather could have weakened other stones and further falls could not be ruled out.

She said: "A reasonable sized lump of flint and mortar has already come away and we have put up large scale fencing around both the main pillars and are in touch with English Heritage to have the situation professionally checked out."

Mrs English said English Heritage, which has guardianship of the Abbey ruins, would be responsible for making the ruin safe but she said it was unclear whether the fallen flints and mortar would be replaced.

She said the borough advises parents not to allow their children to play on the "low-level" ruins of the Abbey which have not been fenced off.

"It's not safe for children to play here because the stones can be sharp and children could fall. They are stable, it's just they are flints and do have rough edges – children would be putting themselves at risk by playing there."

Nick Balaam, assistant regional director for English Heritage in the east, said the pillars were critical to the ruins.

"They indicate the scale of the original Abbey, on which the wealth of Bury and West Suffolk depended," Mr Balaam said.

"During the whole of that period that part of the world was focused on Bury Abbey and we regard it as critically important to preserve the few remains there are. We will be undertaking whatever works we need to do to secure the ruins."

The Abbey at Bury became one of the four or five most powerful and wealthy Benedictine monasteries in England during the medieval period. The relics of St Edmund were moved there in 1095 and Bury became home to one of the most important shrines in the country – attracting pilgrims, including royalty, from far and wide.

By the time the Domesday Book was produced in 1086 the Abbey had vast holdings of land in Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire. The Abbey church created in Bury was both beautiful and enormous according to historians.

And had the building survived it would have eclipsed the present day cathedral, which is currently being transformed with a £10 million Millennium tower.


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