Video: Fears voiced as iconic gate crumbles

AN historic Grade-I listed Abbey Gate in Bury St Edmunds has been closed off for safety reasons after chunks of brick and debris crumbled to the ground.

Engineers have today sealed off the medieval gatehouse entirely after concerns grew for the safety of passers by.

Fencing was yesterday put up around fallen debris and rocks after chunks of stone and mortar almost one-foot wide were caught in nets which hang above the walkway through the ornate gateway.

A spokeswoman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which manages the structure, said the crumbling monument could have been hit by the recent cold weather.

“The damage is weather-related,” she said. “Because some bits came away from the wall, we have fenced the area off.”

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Precautionary measures were first taken to protect passers-by from falling debris around two weeks ago.

But as the damage has worsened, the borough council has sealed off the entire building, which is a scheduled monument, until at least the new year.

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Destroyed in 1327 when the townspeople of Bury rebelled against the power of the monastery, the gate was rebuilt around 20 years later and has played a vital role in the town’s history.

The Abbey Gate, which used to open onto the Great Courtyard of the Abbey of St Edmund, was the secular entrance used by the abbey’s servants.

The building, which is a scheduled monument, is part of the identity of Bury itself.

Sue Sollohub, a member of The Bury Society, said she hoped work to remedy the damage would begin as soon as possible.

“The Abbey Gate is very important as a town landmark,” she said. “Historically, it is very important to Bury.

“It brings people into the Abbey Gardens which are also an amazing flagship for the town.”

English Heritage, which has guardianship of the Abbey Gate, has already been out to inspect the damage.

But a question mark still hangs over the issue of who will carry out and, importantly, fund the repair work.

A spokeswoman for English Heritage said work would be carried out by the borough council as it was a maintenance issue, not a structural one.

“After a prolonged period of cold, we normally find some material falling off because it is susceptible to the cold,” she said.

“It is not to do with the structural safety of the wall itself. We just have to see what happens.”

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