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Community events to celebrate millennium of Bury St Edmunds’ historic abbey

The Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership
The Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership

A series of community events are being lined up to celebrate the millennium of Bury St Edmunds’ historic abbey.

The celebrations in 2020 will mark 1,000 years since the foundation of the Benedictine Monastery which went on to become the Abbey of St Edmund.

The Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership wants to set up a steering group to include Bury St Edmunds Town Council, West Suffolk College and schools as well as other groups to discuss ideas and plan events.

The Reverend Canon Matthew Vernon, from St Edmundsbury Cathedral, who is chairman of the heritage partnership, said: “One of the main reasons why the partnership has been set up is to help the public’s understanding and enjoyment of the ruins of buildings that once played such a prominent role in everyday life in the town.

“We want to work with schools and other local groups to organise a series of community based events which will celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of the Abbey of St Edmund.”

They have cited pageants in 1907, 1959 and 1970 involving residents and school pupils which celebrated St Edmund and the Magna Carta.

However, a spokesman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said it is ‘too early to say what events will be held for the celebrations’.

Cllr Joanna Rayner, the council’s cabinet member for leisure and culture said: “The idea is to tell the story of the abbey in a way that involves and engages the local community.

“We know that local people love where they live, and that our heritage captures the imaginations of tourists who enjoy returning to West Suffolk time and again.

“I’m sure that these celebrations will live long in the memory.”

Last month, the heritage partnership launched two studies which will run until autumn 2018.

They include a heritage assessment which will bring together the historical and archaeological information about the Abbey of St Edmund.

Meanwhile, a conservation plan will help direct future work to conserve the existing abbey ruins, and interpret more of the abbey story.

Historian Martyn Taylor, chairman of the Bury Society and a member of the partnership, said: “The foundation of the Benedictine Monastery in 1020 AD, alongside the historical accounts and the legends of King Edmund, are linked to the gathering of the Barons in the Abbey in 1214 when they swore to force King John to sign the Magna Carta.

“These are three pinnacle points not just in the rich heritage of Bury St Edmunds but in the town’s wider importance in English and indeed in international history.”

The Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership is led by the cathedral in collaboration with the borough council and representatives of Suffolk County Council, Historic England, English Heritage, the University of East Anglia, the University of Suffolk, the Bury Society and several community groups as well as specialist architects, historians and archaeologists.

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