NOSTALGIA: The West Front of the Abbey (around 1860)

The West FRont of the Abbey - around 1860. From the Spanton Jarman collection
The West FRont of the Abbey - around 1860. From the Spanton Jarman collection
Have your say

The west front of the Abbey was begun by Abbot Anselm (1120-41) and completed by Abbot Sampson (1182-1211).

The three central entrance arches were flanked by chapels, with an octagonal tower and spire at each end. Samson’s Tower is the base of the southern corner and was the Will Office at one time. The west front was 246ft across, making it the widest in Britain. In the 18th century the building was used as stables for the Six Bells Inn on the corner of Churchgate Street and Angel Hill, and subsequently as a dye-works. Most of the grave stones were removed from this part of the Great Churchyard in 1958/9. The lady’s dress suggests a date in the 1860s.

-- -- This picture is part of a remarkable collection of 4,000 photographs in the care of Bury St Edmunds Past and Present Society which offers a glimpse into the town’s history.

Taken by two families of professional photographers, the Spantons and the Jarmans, the images span a period from the 1860s through to the outbreak of World War Two. The fragile glass plate negatives were donated to the society in 1997 and in recent years many of these have been ‘digitised’ thanks to a Lottery grant and donations. They can be viewed at where you can also find details about membership and the group’s programme of events and lectures. The Spanton-Jarman collection is held at the Bury St Edmunds branch of the Suffolk Record Office. For more details about the Record Office, including its programme of talks and courses, visit