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Newsletter, January 2010 (Issue 178)

Bury St Edmunds


A mixture of sun, greenery, ripe harvest and anticipation made even the A14100k quite exotic on our coach journey to Bury. Once there we had a splendid morning walk with our Bury Society guides. A recent visit by the Minnesota Chamber of Morticians had stated that Bury St Edmunds was a beautiful name for a town, which augured well for our tour. On the Market Hill we were reminded that the Angel Inn featured in Charles Dickens's Pickwick Papers (must read that again!) and were told that the green dome on top of the Athenaeum housed a little, or never used, observatory complete with telescope.

The Abbey Gardens were our next treat. The Herb Garden reminded us that the 800-year old Bury Herbal manuscript is now in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. More up to date was the world's first Internet Bench which for a while 'allowed' free telephone calls to anywhere in the world (that was soon stopped!). The ruins of the Abbey were then seen, accompanied by the sounds of a choir practising in the adjacent cathedral. The Appleby Rose Garden \vas next visited; it was established from royalties from Suffolk Summer by American serviceman John Appleby (the book contains a wonderful piece about searching for heel-ball in Ipswich). The houses built into the west front of the Abbey also attracted much comment.

The Cathedral's new tower was then admired (we were told that an earlier - not used - design resembled a Belgian railway station!), its completion being marked by the also admired St Edmund Rose. Although the Bishop's cathedral is in Bury, he actually lives in Park Road in Ipswich.

Two White Marias outside the Shire Hall reminded us of where the trial of Maria Marten took place. We soon had a good view of the chimneys (designed by Michael Hopkins) at the brewery - one in use, one in reserve and one being cleaned. Another view, over the roof tops from Church Walks, reminded us that Bury still has a sugar beet factory. A number of Bury St Edmunds Society awards plaques were seen in this area, including Old Dairy Yard (2009 award) and one (1987) for Harewood House in Whiting Street where the green painted bricks had been turned around in order to show their original pale colour. We then repaired for lunch stops of our choosing. Personal exploration then found more delight including in the cathedral treasury silver cups, flagons and dish from St Clement's Church in Ipswich.

The afternoon session started with a very welcome drink of ice cold water at the National Trust's unique Regency Theatre Royal (opened 1819). Our guided tour taught us how to turn the fore-stage into an orchestra pit and how to simulate waves for Swan Lake, whilst the visit was made more lively by a summer school working on Treasure Island.

Then to the Unitarian Meeting House (built 1711) in Churchgate Street where the Bury Society plied us with tea and cake, simply confirming our positive impression of them! Some of our members climbed the two-tier pulpit whilst others were fascinated to learn that the Meeting House is used for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and for sessions for blood donors as well as by the Unitarians.

Then with slightly aching feet but intellectually and visually stimulated at the other end of the body we caught our coach back to Ipswich. Splendid day out - many thanks John (Ireland).

BOB MARKHAM

    Front cover of issue 178 Cover, issue 178

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