Friday, March 9, 2012

Bury St. Edmunds--a Little Jewel of a Town

The second day of our trip through some of the wool towns of Suffolk found us in the town of Bury St. Edmunds, where it was market day. A market has been held on this site for 945 years--imagine that!  In addition to the fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers, 

you could find all sorts of trinkets, especially if you were looking for memorabilia for the upcoming Queen's Jubilee celebrations. 

We hit the market about lunch time, so when we spied that hog roasting in the pit,

we knew a pork/stuffing/applesauce sandwich was our gourmet treat for the day.

And just in case, you are in need of some pigs' ears,

or some postman's legs, I can surely direct you to them at several booths there in town.

Our exploring began at the Abbeygate that leads to the picturesque ruins of the 11th century Benedictine abbey,

which was one of the most famous and wealthy in the country at its time. Beautiful gardens for a stroll back through time.

Suffering the fate of all the other abbeys under the reign of Henry VIII, the monastery and abbey were disbanded and all of its assets collected. Over 800 religious communities suffered the same fate during 1536-1541, when Henry VIII broke off relations with the Catholic church and established his own Church of England. 

The current St. Edmundsbury Cathedral remains from the days of the abbey's peak of popularity, when pilgrims would come to view the relics of the martyred King Edmund.

Fascinating to me were the houses built right into the remaining western walls of the abbey property--

that's an amazing form of recycling and repurposing.

Also remaining from the days of the abbey is St. Mary's Church of the 15th century.

This church is the final resting place of Mary Tudor, the favorite sister of Henry VIII, who was married off for political gain to Louis XII, the King of France. At the time of their union, he was 34 years older than Mary, known as one of the most attractive women of her time.

Mary was firmly opposed to marrying him, so she probably felt great relief when he died just three months after the marriage. After secluding her for 6 weeks to make sure she was not pregnant with the heir of France, she was finally released

and allowed to return to England when she married her true love, and good friend of her brother the king--Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk.

Beautiful stained glass windows, given by Queen Victoria, depict the story of Mary Tudor's betrothal and wedding to the King of France and her subsequent return to England.

The pews were all decorated with carved finials, which I assumed were fleurs de lis, but I discovered later they are referred to as poppy-heads.

 The gates outside the church were ornamented with what I think resembled fleurs de lis,

as well as the boot scrapers at the door. I'm quite drawn to the fleur de lis symbol, so it's a bit of a treasure hunt looking for them throughout Europe.

And even if I had been on an extensive treasure hunt throughout the region, I doubt I would have ever, ever guessed I would find one of these:

A car with a Texas license plate, right smack in the Chequer Square across from the church! 

Just a few miles away from its home....


  1. Thanks for the history lesson on Mary! Love the way you captured the "French" influence around town!

  2. Looks like a destination I should add to my list!

  3. Wonderful, Debi! I love the fleur de lis too and love to see the way it is incorporated into architecture. love your blog, Debi!

  4. Enjoyed the tidbit about Mary Tudor

  5. I think my postman's legs look like that sometimes. Ha!
    Great pictures and history lesson to go with them!

  6. I enjoyed so much the tour and history lesson. This is how I like my history, in small doses with a bit of humor sprinkled in for good measure. The photos are divine.
    New follower,