Talks planned online to mark 1000th year of the Abbey of St Edmunds

It’s a site of ruin and wonder that once attracted international pilgrimage on an enormous scale: now in this strange 1000th year of the Abbey of St Edmund, a series of free online talks is to be held to help understand more of our past.

It is 1000 years since King Cnut founded the Abbey in honour of St Edmund. While Covid-19 has meant celebrations have had to be put on hold, four Facebook talks have been organised, the first of which takes place later this month.

Dr Richard Hoggett, who has studied the abbey of St Edmund area, will open the talks when he speaks on “The Abbey, the Antiquaries and the Archaeologists: Discovering the Abbey of St Edmund” from 2pm, on Saturday, November 28. Dr Hoggett carried out a Heritage Assessment of the former Abbey in 2018 on behalf of the Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership.

“In many ways it is about understanding what was there and what has, over time, been lost, so that people can fully appreciate its importance,” he said. “We have a vast body of research since the abbey was closed down (dissolved) in 1539, which helps understand its splendour.

“So for instance, from the 1770s we have this engraving which even though it’s drawn 200 years after the dissolution, still shows that much of the Abbey church and the cloisters were still standing. Gradually since then the ruins have been robbed, leaving the ruins that we see today. Through my talk I hope to fill in some of these gaps in our understanding.

“We also have many discoveries such as the early 20th century dig inspired by the work of ghost writer M R James and the discovery of the bodies of six of the abbots. But there’s still enormous potential to discover so much more and further our archaeological understanding of this site.

For people in and around Bury St Edmunds, it is a very important part of the development of the town. It is absolutely crucial to understanding Bury St Edmunds, our history and their town. I hope people will join me and further their appreciation of this wonderful place.”

Further talks in the “From Rise to Ruins” series, will take place next year:

January 23 – Dr Abby Antrobus will discuss “The Relationship between the Abbey and the Town.”

February 27 – Professor Sarah Foot, will speak on “Patrons and Benefactors of St Edmund’s Abbey, c. 900-1086.”

March 27 – Professor Mark Bailey will talk about “The Abbey of Bury St Edmunds and the History of Suffolk.”

All take place at 2pm at www.facebook.com/stedscathedral

The talks are being promoted by the Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership and the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History. The talks are supported by the Heritage Fund.

For more information visit www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/Visitors/Heritage/abbeyofstedmund.cfm

Dr. Hoggett’s Heritage Assessment can also be downloaded free of charge from this website.

Pictured above is Richard Godfrey’s 1779 print of the abbey ruins. Credit: West Suffolk Council Heritage Service

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