Bury St Edmunds in 50 Buildings: Which ones do you love? Which do you loathe?
PUBLISHED: 17:45 14 September 2018 | UPDATED: 17:53 14 September 2018
Debenhams, The Apex, Cafe Rouge, Boots, West Suffolk Hospital, The Fox, The Nutshell - they're all in a new book by Martyn Taylor. But has he forgotten anything?
You learn something every day, and what I have just become aware of is that an East Anglian monk-cum-poet is credited with inventing a famous phrase. It’s “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”
Take a bow John Lydgate. (Abraham Lincoln was one person who later uttered it.)
I know this (and the information is tucked away for a quiz around the Christmas Day table once the crackers have been pulled) thanks to Martyn Taylor’s new book.
The author and historian has published many over the years and done much to promote his native Bury St Edmunds. Which is what “Bury St Edmunds in 50 Buildings” does – in words of both praise and, sometimes, scepticism.
In his introduction he mentions traveller Celia Fiennes’s verdict after her visit in 1698: “Though there is a great deal of gentry here, there are no good houses but only what are old and rambling.” To be fair, she did appreciate newish Cupola House, in the Traverse.
“Many of the properties she was commenting on were likely survivors from the great fire of Bury in 1608, which were later ‘Georgianised’,” Martyn explains. “We were to have many fine buildings here, including churches and chapels. After all, Bury was a hotbed of Nonconformism after the dissolution.”
He acknowledges that with “an absolute wealth of properties to choose from” – from the Middle Ages, when the market town grew because of the wool industry, to the present – it was hard for him to pick just 50. (The captions to the pictures on this page are his.)
The book, he says, “sets out to stimulate opinions of what should have been included – or not, as the case may be”. And he’s as good as his word, as he begins his tour at the arc Shopping Centre.
“As a traditional market town and not always ready to accept change, the loss of the Cattle Market prompted the building of a very modern development on its site, the arc, described by some as ‘Not very Bury St Edmunds’.”
The unique Debenhams store is like something out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (my analogy, not his) – a curvy silvery-grey structure clad in 2,805 cast-aluminium panels.
“It is unlike any other building in Bury St Edmunds, with ‘alien-like’ and ‘contentious’ being some of the unkindest descriptions used…” writes Martyn.
That’s something new. For something old, how about the famous Abbeygate on Angel Hill? We see it so often that it’s easy to take for granted. So here’s another Christmas Day quiz question: What does the pig carving symbolise? (Gold star if you said the greed of Man).
Martyn gives us lots of similar nuggets in his “vignettes” of text about the 50. Such as: The Fox inn in Eastgate Street, dating from the 15th Century and one of the town’s oldest, used to have a ducking stool that dipped victims in the River Lark. It’s long-gone, but was “used for scolds and cheats and was a form of entertainment for onlookers”.
The not-easily-pleased Celia Fiennes wasn’t the only traveller to note Cupola House. Maybe. “Another famous visitor, supposedly, was Daniel Defoe. (Author of Robinson Crusoe.) A plaque was put up to him in 1907 that recorded his visit, but it never occurred; the erroneous plaque is now inside.”
That’s another pub-quiz poser, then – as is this: Who would you say is the most wicked person to die in Bury St Edmunds? It “must be that of the Moors Murderer Myra Hindley, who died aged sixty at the West Suffolk Hospital in 2002 after being taken there from Highpoint Prison”.
That’s a heavy note to end on, isn’t it? I’ll find something to smile about. How about this: the first till receipt issued in 2012 after pub chain JD Wetherspoon moved into the Corn Exchange in Abbeygate Street managed to move Bury St Edmunds to Norfolk…
Bury St Edmunds in 50 Buildings is from Amberley Publishing at £14.99. Copies should be available in Bury from The Cathedral Shop, Moyses Hall, Waterstones and The Apex.
Martyn will be signing books at Waterstones in Buttermarket on September 22 (11am to 1pm) and The Cathedral Shop on September 29 (11am to1pm).
The 50 that made the cut
Has Martyn got it right? What are your favourite Bury buildings? And what makes you despair? Do write to me, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Debenhams, Charter Square; The Abbeygate, Angel Hill; Savings Bank House, Crown Street; The Fox, Eastgate Street; Westgate House, Westgate Street; The Fennell Homes, St Andrews Street North; Northgate Railway Station; The Norman Tower, Great Churchyard; Boots, Cornhill; Crown Post Office, Cornhill; The Athenaeum, Angel Hill; Crystal Palace, Friars Lane; St Peter’s Church, Hospital Road; St Mary’s Parish Church, Crown Street; Gibraltar Barracks Keep, Out Risbygate; Notice to Quit Cottages, 22–23 Victoria Street; St Edmunds Roman Catholic Church, Westgate Street; West Suffolk Hospital, Hardwick; St John’s Church, St John’s Street; Leonard Makin Building, Long Brackland; Old Police Station, St John’s Street; Moyses Hall, Cornhill; Goodfellows, Kings Road; Bury Gaol, Sicklesmere Road; The Guildhall, Guildhall Street; Cupola House, Traverse; The Water Tower, West Road; The Apex, Charter Square; Market Cross, Cornhill; The Nutshell, Traverse; Second Corn Exchange, Cornhill; The Corn Exchange, Abbeygate Street; Café Rouge, Abbeygate Street; Everards Hotel, Cornhill; Suffolk Hotel, Buttermarket; Priory Hotel, Mildenhall Road; Angel Hotel, Angel Hill; Railway Mission Hall, Fornham Road; Unitarian Meeting House, Churchgate Street; The Cathedral, Angel Hill; Bristol Annexe, Hospital Road; Theatre Royal, Westgate Street; Greene King Brewhouse, Westgate Street; Northgate House, Northgate Street; Telephone Exchange, Whiting Street; Grammar School, Eastgate Street; Cloptons Asylum, Great Churchyard; The Manor House, Honey Hill; St Denys, Honey Hill; Chapel of the Charnel, Great Churchyard