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The Abbey Gardens, home to what was known as one of the largest and most powerful Benedictine Monasteries in Europe.

How the Abbey Gardens came about

The Abbey Gardens, a historical place in the heart of Bury St. Edmunds, is the site of one of the most powerful Benedictine Monasteries in Europe. With that being said, the gardens is often visited by royalty when they have a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Edmund. It is said that these peaceful gardens are once a botanic garden that resembled the Royal Botanic Gardens in Brussels.

As far as the history of the town goes, the Abbey Gardens has been in existence since 1831. In 1936 the concentric circles were replaced by the sixty-four island beds which, together with illuminations, formed part of the Coronation celebrations for George VI in 1937.

Historically, the remains of Saint Edmund [the original Patron Saint of England] were moved to the Anglo-Saxon Settlement of Beodericsworth [now known as Bury St. Edmunds]. It was then transferred to London in 1010 for safekeeping from The Danes when they were still marauding through East Anglia.**

King Canute, in 1020, built a stone church for Saint Edmund’s body when the first abbots arrived. This is the beginning of the Abbey of St. Edmund [will create a separate blog about this].

Through Abbot Baldwin, the great Abbey Church was started and it was thought to last well for the next 100 years. Work started on the Church in 1081 and it was consecrated in 1095. Its final total length was 505 feet (154 metres) and the majestic West Front 246 feet (75 metres).

Get to know more about The Abbey Ruins HERE! 

Top Spots in the Abbey Gardens That Is A MUST VISIT

  • Pilgrim’s Herb Garden – the garden features many traditional medicinal plants believed to cure most ills and also ward off evil spirits. It was inspired by a now famous manuscript written at the Abbey in the 13th century which is housed in the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

    The Pilgrim’s Cafe leading to the Pilgrim’s Herb Garden
  • Appleby Rose Garden – originally an orchard, this is now a beautiful and established rose garden with over 400 rose bushes. The rose garden is named after John Appleby, an American serviceman who served with the 487th Bomb Group in Lavenham. A bench made from the wing of an American ‘Flying Fortress Bomber’ and a memorial stone pays tribute to the many US servicemen and women stationed in Suffolk.
    Roses
    Roses at the Old English Rose garden
    Up close on a full grown rose

  • Sensory garden – The Abbey Gardens first ‘Blind Garden’ was built in 1990 and was designed to provide interest for the visually impaired through scented plants and herbs. The pergola is designed to give the effect of a cloister where the monks would have walked in days gone by.
  • The Garden of Reflection – the garden commemorates the murder of 57 Jews in Bury St Edmunds on Palm Sunday, 19 March 1190 and all victims of genocide. The centre piece of the Peace Garden is a 1.5 metre tall teardrop, it also includes 57 cobble stones – one for each of the victims of the 1190 massacre.
  • The riverside – the beautiful River Lark runs along the eastern side of the Abbey Gardens and provides a picturesque walk whatever the season. The Abbey historically used the river as a power supply and trading route.
  • Abbey Gardens Sundial Fountain – This Victorian drinking fountain, with sundial cube on the top, was gifted to the people of Bury St Edmunds in 1871 by the 3rd Marquess of Bristol. The Abbey Gardens sundial is an extremely early example – quite possibly the earliest in the country – of a sundial that allowed the town clocks to be set to GMT rather than the local mean time.

    Part of the Sundial Fountain
  • The Aviary – The Abbey Gardens has varieties of birds include canaries, budgies, teal ducks, Bengalis and Zebra finches and diamond doves.
  • Water garden – Tranquil and calming, the water garden is a relaxing place to enjoy some shade on sunny summer days.
  • Charter of Liberties Commemorative plaques – Two commemorative plaques erected in 1849 on the ruined piers of the crossing of the Abbey Church to mark the spot where on St Edmund’s Day (November 20th) 1214, a group of barons swore an oath at St Edmund’s Altar to compel King John to accept the Charter of Liberties, a proclamation of Henry I. This act led directly to the Great Charter or the Magna Carta, agreed at Runnymede on June 15 1215.
  • Our Liberty Memorial – The ‘Our Liberty’ memorial, designed by Suffolk artist Nigel Kaines, in the Abbey Gardens includes the spears and banners of the barons who met in Bury St Edmunds in 1214, with bronze scrollwork displaying shields carrying the important commemorative events. The design is supported on original stone from the Abbey – stones which might have been witness to the arrival of the barons all those years ago.

    Our Liberty Memorial
  • The Legend of St Edmund Book – A wonderful oak book by Den Humphrey inscribed with the legend of St Edmund and the wolf can be found in the Abbey Gardens by the café.
  • The world’s first Internet bench – Is right here in Bury St Edmunds on the right as you pass through the Abbey Gate. Installed in 2001 by Microsoft, the computer giant chose the town for the pilot scheme from hundreds of applications made by local authorities around the UK.

Footnotes
**EAST ANGLIA
East Anglia is bordered to the north and east by the North Sea, to the south by the estuary of the River Thames and shares an undefined land border to the west with the rest of England. Much of northern East Anglia is flat, low-lying and marshy (such as the Fens of Cambridgeshire and Norfolk), although the extensive drainage projects of the past centuries actually make this one of the driest areas in the UK. Inland much of the rest of Suffolk and Norfolk is gently undulating, with glacial moraine ridges providing some areas of steeper areas relief. The supposed flatness of the Norfolk landscape is noted in literature, such as Noël Coward’s Private Lives – “Very flat, Norfolk”.

On the north-west corner East Anglia is bordered by a bay known as The Wash, where owing to deposits of sediment and land reclamation, the coastline has altered markedly within historical times; several towns once on the coast of the Wash (notably King’s Lynn) are now some distance inland. Conversely, over to the east on the coast exposed to the North Sea the coastline is subject to rapid erosion and has shifted inland significantly since historic times.

Major rivers include Suffolk’s Stour, running through country beloved of the painter John Constable, and the River Nene. The River Cam is a tributary of the Great Ouse and gives its name to Cambridge, whilst Norwich sits on the River Yare and River Wensum. The River Orwell flows through Ipswich and has its mouth, along with the Stour at Felixstowe. The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads form a network of waterways between Norwich and the coast and are popular for recreational boating. The Ouse flows into the Wash at King’s Lynn.

Major urban areas in East Anglia include the cities of Norwich, Cambridge and Peterborough, and the town of Ipswich. Smaller towns and cities include Bury St Edmunds, Ely, Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn. Much of the area is still rural in nature with many villages surrounded by a mixture of breckland, fens, broads and agricultural land.

[Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Anglia]

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11 Replies to “Rejuvinating Abbey Gardens of Bury St. Edmunds”

  1. This is such a beautiful historical place to discover! I personally love places with serene and peaceful ambiance. Although I think there’s no way for me to visit this place in my lifetime, it feels as though I’m visiting it myself.

  2. Another enticing post of British tourist spots. How I envy you and your travels to these places. Fascinating how they were able to preserve this place even though it was affected by the dissolution of the Catholic Churches.

    1. Yes, it was really amazing. Our county, though small compared to Cambridge and Norfolk, was as historically important too. The very fact that our town (Bury St Edmunds) was able to preserve the spots was amazing. Also, up next, I will be needing to discuss on the Guildhall as the oldest civic building in England in our town 🙂

    1. Come by when the pandemic is over! Im sure you will like it here. Well, I am not sure if Abbey Gardens allow drone flying as there are a lot of no-flying zones in our county. Maybe, if you will ask the Borough Council, they might issue you a permit to fly for a limited time.

  3. Another wonderful Tourist Spot of England and I am so happy to have some virtual tour while reading your blog 🙂

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