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The Canon of John Lydgate Project

The Lives of Ss. Edmund and Fremund: Introduction

The Town of Bury St. Edmunds
Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk (National Grid reference: TL8564), on the A45 about midway between Cambridge and Ipswich. This was an Anglian homestead originally called Beodericsworth, and it became an important ecclesiastical site when Sigeberht, the first Christian king of the East Angles, founded a monastery there in 633 (the story of Sigeberht and his monastery is told by Bede in his History of the English Church and People).

While the village predated the monastery, the privileges granted to the monastery effectively put the fate of the town into the hands of the abbot. The growth of the town was especially promoted by Abbot Baldwin, the first Norman abbot of Bury in the late eleventh century, who rebuilt the town with new defences, including five gates, each with a chapel and a hostel for pilgrims (the wall and gates were demolished in the eighteenth century). The dependency of town on monastery also led periodically to significant conflicts, as in 1327 when the townsfolk, frustrated by certain decisions of the abbot, attacked the monastery; the monks replied with armed force, and an all-out battle ensued which culminated in much of the abbey being destroyed, various of its dependent manors burned, and the abbot himself kidnapped. As part of their eventual penance and reparation, the townsfolk were required to rebuild the principal gate into the abbey precinct, and that gate (completed about 1347) remains as the entrance to, and one of the more spectacular parts of, the abbey ruins.

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© 1995 Stephen R. Reimer
English; University of Alberta; Edmonton, Canada
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Last revised: 9 Nov. 1995

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