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Abbey Gardens tennis courts gone but hunt for saint’s remains on hold

PUBLISHED: 16:49 17 February 2020 | UPDATED: 08:43 18 February 2020

Work is due to start on digging up the old tennis courts in Abbey Gardens, Bury. The excavation work is reputedly the burial place of St Emund  Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Work is due to start on digging up the old tennis courts in Abbey Gardens, Bury. The excavation work is reputedly the burial place of St Emund Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Charlotte Bond

Excavation work to try to answer an age-old question over the resting place of Suffolk’s saint in Bury St Edmunds can begin - as soon as someone can be found to pay for it.

Work is due to start on digging up the old tennis courts in Abbey Gardens, Bury. The excavation work is reputedly the burial place of St Emund  Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDWork is due to start on digging up the old tennis courts in Abbey Gardens, Bury. The excavation work is reputedly the burial place of St Emund Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

St Edmund - a former king of East Anglia martyred by the Vikings - is reputedly buried beneath the old tennis courts in the town's Abbey Gardens.

Now, the tarmac courts have been removed ahead of the area being grassed over for the year-long Abbey 1000 celebrations and archaeological scans can take place of the ground to see whether they contain human remains.

However a spokesman for West Suffolk Council, part of the Abbey 1000 group behind the commemorations, said plans for geophysical surveying of the ground were on hold.

MORE: Is there a saint below Bury St Edmunds old tennis courts?

The Reverend Canon Matthew Vernon, chairman of the St Edmund Heritage Partnership, in the grounds of the Abbey Gardens, in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCILSThe Reverend Canon Matthew Vernon, chairman of the St Edmund Heritage Partnership, in the grounds of the Abbey Gardens, in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCILS

"The plan has always been to take the tarmac back to grass for the celebration," he said.

"As for the scan, we are not yet sure who will do it and it has not yet been confirmed where the funding will be coming from."

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This year marks a millennium since the foundation of the Abbey of St Edmund by King Canute and the year is expected to be filled with various events celebrating that history.

The gardens are home to the remains of the once-magnificent abbey which was sacked in the Reformation of King Henry VIII.

The Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership is hoping to fund a scan with a grant, and chairman Reverend Canon Matthew Vernon of St Edmundsbury Cathedral said it was hoped to develop people's understanding of the heritage of the site.

"We want to find out more about the archaeology and history of the Abbey of St Edmund to help us tell more of the story of St Edmund and the Abbey to local people and visitors," he said.

"There has been lots of speculation and excitement about the possibility that St Edmund, the martyred King of East Anglia and first patron saint of England, may be buried within the abbey grounds.

"It has captured the hearts and imaginations of local residents and the thousands of visitors who come to the Abbey each year."

But while the theory about St Edmund's resting place persists, the answer may never be conclusively proved. Reverend Canon Matthew said: "The simple answer is that none of us knows about that with any certainty."

To find out more about the Abbey 1000 celebrations click here.

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