Great Gate to the Abbey
Abbey 1000
Celebrating 1000 years since
the Foundation of the Abbey of St Edmund in 1020

2020 By 2020 a new worldwide disease known as Covid 19 was causing alarm and calls for action around the globe. An emergency Coronavirus Bill published on 19th March, 2020, gave the UK Government the power to close down premises and stop people entering the country, as well as to detain people to be tested for the virus, then force them to isolate for 14 days or face a £1,000 fine. A process known as "Lockdown" was invoked within a few days.

The year 2020 was the 1,000th anniversary of the founding of the Benedictine Abbey of St Edmund at Bury St Edmunds. A programme of celebrations had been planned to mark the event. However, along with every other public event planned for Spring and Summer 2020, these were cancelled because of the CoronaVirus.

St Edmund's church interior
blank In April, 2020, the Roman Catholic St Edmund's Church History Group published an update to their 2018 story of Catholicism (The Present from our Past) and its survival under persecution after the Reformation. It was updated to acknowledge the Abbey 1000 celebrations. The new publication, entitled "Years of Faith", was made as an online PDF and you can read it by clicking on this link:-

Years of Faith PDF

Dr Francis Young's Lecture
blank In early May, 2020, it was announced in the Bury Free Press that, "celebrations to mark 1,000 years since the founding of the Abbey of St Edmund by King Canute will continue online this month. Historian Francis Young will speak about Monastic Bury St Edmunds in a Facebook Live event on Sunday, May 24, starting at 7pm."

Dr Young's talk, entitled "Monastic Bury St Edmunds", may be seen by clicking on this link:-
Dr Francis Young's lecture

All over the country event organisers were attempting to replace open air events by online gatherings using social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and conferences by Zoom. The online meeting software Zoom became well known to large numbers of the public at this time.

Dr Rik Hoggett's Lecture
blank On 28th November, 2020, Dr Richard (Rik) Hoggett gave the first lecture in a series of four talks, collectively launched under the title of "From Rise to Ruin", prepared under the auspices of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History. These talks were all by Zoom, and recorded and hosted by St Edmundsbury Cathedral on YouTube.

This video is introduced by Dr Nick Amor, who is Chair of the Suffolk Institute.
Dr Hoggett's talk, entitled "The Abbey, The Antiquaries and the Archaeologists", may be seen by clicking on this link:-
Dr Rik Hoggett's lecture

Dr Abby Antrobus Lecture
2021 From January 1st, 2021, the UK was no longer part of the European Union or the Customs Union. The fishing industry complained that they were disappointed by the final exit agreement, and the financial services industry noted that their requirements for continued working in the EU had been largely ignored. The extra paperwork required by the new border controls was worrying the haulage industry as well. However, these woes were completely eclipsed by greater worries about the impact of the growing threat of rapidly rising new Covid infections.

On January 4th, 2021 the welcome news arrived that the first doses of the Oxford - Astrazeneca vaccine were being given to the over 80s.

On 23rd January, 2021, Dr Abby Antrobus gave the second talk in the SIAH series "From Rise to Ruin". Dr Antrobus chose the title, "The Relationship between the Abbey and the Town".

Abby's talk can be viewed by clicking on this link:-
The Abbey and Town by Dr Abby Antrobus

Prof Sarah Foot's Lecture
blank On 27th February, 2021, Professor Sarah Foot gave the third lecture in the SIAH series entitled "Bury Patrons and Benefactors". This video is introduced by Dr Nick Amor, who is Chair of the Suffolk Institute.
Bury Patrons and Benefactors

Prof Mark Bailey's Lecture
blank A month later, on 27th March, 2021 Professor Mark Bailey presented the fourth in the "From Rise to Ruin" series of online lectures. This was entitled the "Abbey of Bury St Edmunds and the History of Suffolk". Introduced by Dr Nick Amor, this lecture may be viewed by clicking on the link shown here:-
The Abbey and the History of Suffolk

November 2021 also saw the start of a "new" year of celebrations with a St Edmund Civic Mass held at St Edmund's Roman Catholic Church in Westgate Street.

Kevin Baldwin's statue of a monk
blank On 19th November, 2021, a steel monk was placed in the crypt in the abbey ruins in Bury St Edmunds, in Suffolk, where the shrine of St Edmund would have stood.
The 2.3m (7ft 6in) tall sculpture was designed by Nigel Kaines and made by blacksmith Kevin Baldwin. The 2mm thick steel monk, weighing 250kg (550lb), was "certainly the most unusual project I have worked on" and "quite tricky", Mr Baldwin said.
The monk was only on public display for a few days, to mark St Edmund's Day on 20th November. It was back on show in May, 2022 as part of the Abbey 1000 sculpture exhibition in the Crypt.

Abbey 1000 logo
2022 Coronavirus continued to head the news, with Omicron now on everybody's lips. In the first week of January, management at the West Suffolk Hospital have declared an "internal critical incident" due to the number of staff who have been forced off with sickness.

On 24th February, 2022, all legal requirements for self isolation etc were lifted and people were asked to take personal responsibility for their own safety.

It was clear that the face-to-face arrangements for the celebration of the Abbey's 1000 years could now start to go ahead, and a formal management group known as Abbey 1000 was launched as a Charitable Incorporated Company or C.I.C..

In February 2022 there was a Sponsors Thank You Reception held in Bury St Edmunds Guildhall.

April 2022 saw the following events:-

  • Abbey 1000 Walking Tours (which continued from April to October)
  • Also held was an Abbey 1000 Short Story Competition
  • Also in April was a Pilgrimage Day, and
  • The Ely Pilgrimage.

Manuscript exhibition
blank On May 2nd, 2022 the Cathedral opened its exhibition of seven manuscripts produced in the abbey scriptorium some 500 years ago. This collection was assembled to go on public display as part of the 1000 years abbey celebrations, and entitled "Secrets of the Abbey". It was one part of many events to mark the millennium of the Abbey of St Edmund's foundation in 1020 AD. That the celebrations had to be held in 2022 was due to the two year hiatus in public events caused by the Covid 19 pandemic. The exhibition was open until June 8th, 2022.

Mosaics adorn sculpture plinth
blank In May, 2022, the Suffolk News reported that, "Mosaics telling the legend of Saint Edmund as told through the eyes of schoolchildren have gone on display in the Abbey Gardens, in Bury St Edmunds. The project, which is part of the Abbey 1000 celebrations, involved schools, community groups and nursing homes.

Michelle Freeman, of the Crafty Foxes, visited nine locations to make nine pictures, which were then transferred into mosaic form and attached to a plinth displaying sculptures created for Abbey 1000. The plinth is in the crypt of the Abbey Ruins from now until November.....
The project is jointly funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and locality budgets from West Suffolk Councillors Richard Rout and Robert Everitt."

Events held in May 2022 were as follows:-

  • Childrens Mosaics of the Legend of St Edmund in the Abbey gardens. (Described above)
  • Abbey 1000 Heritage Trail (May continuing to November)
  • Abbey 1000 Sculpture Exhibition (May through to November) in the Abbey Gardens. A monthly changing display of sculptures will be on display between May and November in the crypt within the Abbey ruins, where the shrine of St Edmund would have stood, organised by Melanie Lesser.
  • Secrets of The Abbey: Monastic manuscripts exhibition held at St Edmundsbury Cathedral, (described above)
  • St Benet's Abbey Pilgrimage
  • A Pilgrimage of Song
  • Abiding Wisdom
  • Bury St Edmunds Bioblitz
  • Bury Bach Choir sang Bach & Vivaldi at St Edmundsbury Cathedral
  • M R James on The Abbey Church at Bury. His talk re-given in period dress at The Athenaeum
  • Rachmaninov Vespers at St Edmundsbury Cathedral
  • Into The Light was an event in celebration of 1000 Years of The Abbey of St Edmund held at St Edmundsbury Cathedral
  • Martyn Taylor's "Abbey 1000" Book Launch took place at Waterstones and The Apex

Abbey 1000 by Martyn Taylor
blank Martyn Taylor's first book to be published since Covid lockdowns halted all new books was "Abbey 1000", a celebration of 1000 years since the founding of the Benedictine Abbey in the town. It supports the Abbey 1000 Millenium Project which was also long delayed by that virus pandemic.

The Pilgrims by John Williams
blank The first sculpture on display in the Crypt was the Monk by Kevin Baldwin. The second Abbey 1000 sculpture to be displayed on the plinth in the crypt of the ruins of the Abbey of St Edmund was called "The Pilgrims", by Suffolk wood Carver John Williams. It shows a variety of Medieval pilgrims who came through the centuries to visit the shrine of St Edmund. Many residents and visitors were able to see John carving the sculpture (from pine donated by Nowton Park) outside opposite the aviary in the Abbey Gardens over six months in 2021 during the covid pandemic.

Other events through June 2022 were as follows:-

  • Abbey 1000 Talks – Bury St Edmunds Guildhall
  • ORA Singers – St Edmundsbury Cathedral
  • Premiere of St Edmund – From King to Legend Film by Christian Horsnell at Abbeygate Cinema
  • Through The Centuries Flower Exhibition – St Edmundsbury Cathedral
  • The Churches Together Summer Celebration 2022
  • School Celebrations
  • Abbey 1000 Sponsors Midsummer Party
July 2022 included these events:-
  • Walk Draw Explore
  • Picnic in The Park

New Abbey exhibition
blank A new exhibition was launched in July at Moyse's Hall Museum entitled "The Abbey of St Edmund: Artisan and Pilgrimage in the Liberty of St Edmund." It aimed to show the importance of the Abbey in Medieval times, highlighting its role as a Pilgrimage Centre. It was scheduled to run from 1st July to 30th September, 2022.

New Abbey Interpretation Panels
blank In July, 2022, a new set of information panels to explain the Abbey layout to the public were installed in the Abbey Gardens by English heritage as part of the celebrations of the millennium of the founding of the Benedictine Abbey. The new Heritage Interpretation Panels have been produced in collaboration between English Heritage and the Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership. They were installed in the Abbey Ruins just in time for the Picnic in the Park, another celebratory event and part of Abbey 1000. The 13 panels have been funded by English Heritage but an extra grant from Bury St Edmunds Town Council was secured by the Heritage Partnership to maximise the use of the reconstruction drawings in the scheme.

St Edmunds Abbey c1400
blank The new digital reconstruction images of the Abbey were researched by Stephen Brindle and digitally modelled by Carlos Lemos, both of English Heritage. The final images were completed by Bob Marshall a graphic artist, working on this project for English Heritage. One visualisation of the abbey at around the year 1400 is shown here.

There is also an important existing model of the Abbey which has been resited nearer to the ruins, refurbished and new interpretation added as part of the scheme.

August 2022 events included:-

  • Mini Monks I-Spy Trail (August – November)
  • Snot, Blood and Bones Acting Workshop with Hatty Ashton for ages 7-13
  • Brave Edmund & the Bogey Slingers Acting Workshop with Hatty Ashton for Ages 4-6
In September 2022 there was an Open Day at Suffolk Archives Bury St Edmunds for Heritage Open Days – Including The Bury Psalter.

October 2022 included:-

  • Murderous Habits
  • Clint Rose Carving Demonstrations – St Edmund and The Wolf

Weekend Light Show
blank November 2022 was intended to include events to mark the end of a year of celebrations. The grand finale was the St Edmund’s Day Weekend Spectacular between 17th and 22nd November. Over 10,000 people watched as innovative 3D projections by The Projection Studio appeared on the historic Norman Tower and the Cathedral Tower, telling the story of the Abbey and St Edmund, with an enchanting light trail through the Abbey Ruins by students of West Suffolk College :-
  • St Edmund’s Weekend Spectacular
  • St Edmund’s Weekend Spectacular Sponsors Reception

David Gauke's Edmund lecture
blank David Gauke, former Lord Chancellor and Ipswich-born politician was the speaker at the Edmund Lecture in the Cathedral. The Edmund Lecture took place on Saturday 19 November at 4.00 pm and was part of the Abbey 1000 series of events to mark the millennium of the founding of the Abbey of St Edmund. This event was made possible by a Heritage Grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

David writes, " You can watch my Edmund Lecture (1 hour in) on St Edmund, Magna Carta (including the role of Bury St Edmunds in its creation), the rule of law, populism and some recent controversies." Watch the whole video, including Sung Vespers by clicking on this link:-

Sung Vespas followed by David Gauke, (1 hour in)

  • Edmund Lecture with Guest Speaker David Gauke, a former Lord Chancellor, held in St Edmundsbury Cathedral
  • Civic Mass – St Edmund’s RC Church
  • The Abbey 1000 There's a Head in My Bed tour (November-December)

The legacy mosaic mural
blank In December, 2022, the Suffolk News reported that, "Mosaics telling the legend of St Edmund have been given a new place in the Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds.
The nine-piece artwork, now "the Legacy Mosaic Mural" on a wall near to the Abbey gate, was part of a plinth in the historical site used to show off a selection of sculptures for the Abbey 1000 celebrations.
Children from Hardwick, Sebert Wood, Sextons Manor, St Edmunds Catholic, Tollgate, Westley and St Edmunds Primary Schools designed the mosaics under the guidance of Michelle Freeman from The Crafty Foxes.

The project was funded by West Suffolk councillors, Richard Rout and Robert Everitt, together with the National Lottery Heritage Fund and other community groups involved included the 1st Bury St Edmunds Mayors Own Beavers, Cornwallis Court Care Home and Gatehouse Community Wellbeing."

"The children also loved seeing their drawings on the Cathedral tower as part of the Abbey 1000 Light Spectacular."

In addition there were activities and events happening alongside the others, including:-

  • Mosaic Legacy Mural (By the Abbey Gate) – Michelle Freeman at crafty Foxes, children and community groups. (Described above)
  • Legacy Mural (behind The Apex) – Freelance Artist Louise Gridley and students. (Described below)
  • Abbey 1000 Heritage Rides
  • Tree Planting at St Edmundsbury Cathedral
  • Abbey 1000 Travelling Exhibition

  • The second of two murals
    blank Two new, giant low relief murals were unveiled at The Apex entertainment centre in Bury St Edmunds on St Edmund’s Day, Sunday 20 November. "Bury St Edmunds and Beyond" website described the murals as follows:-

    "Created by freelance artist Louise Gridley from Sugi Ceramics, and each measuring 13m square, the sculptural murals were designed to celebrate 1000 years of the Abbey of St Edmund with a ‘Then and Now’ theme. The first panel depicts the story of St Edmund, while the second showcases key landmarks from the town as it is today.

    Funding for the ambitious project was sought from Arts Council England with contributions from Abbey 1000 C.I.C. and Moyses Hall Museum. Other project partners included West Suffolk Council, The Apex, who provided the location for the mural, and Abbeygate Sixth Form College who made the generous space available for Louise to work as artist-in-residence for six months.

    Louise designed the mural and invited local schools with A Level provision to participate. Staff and students from Abbeygate Sixth Form College, St Benedict’s Catholic School, One Sixth Form College and Thurston Community College all contributed to help realise the design.

    As part of the workshop experience students learned about career pathways in the arts, which included life as a freelance artist and prop making in the film industry. Louise and the students worked with revolutionary sculpting material, Pal Tiya Premium, which is also used for prop making."

    Bury Bible close-up
    blank On 3rd December, 2022, The online talk entitled, "The Bury Bible close-up" was hosted by St Edmundsbury Cathedral and recorded on YouTube. Its presenters were Suzanne Reynolds, Edward Cheese and Paola Ricciardi speaking from the Founders Library at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Their analysis includes a forensic examination of the vellum pages, the techniques of preparation and the colours used and the making of inks.

    You can see the recorded lecture by clicking on this link:-
    The Bury Bible Close Up

    Documenting the Abbey 1000 events
    blank At the end of December, a video entitled "Celebrating 1000 Years of the Abbey of St Edmund" was published on YouTube by the organisation Bury St Edmunds and Beyond. This film is a documentary describing all the events of the year of Abbey 1000 celebrations, and was made by local film-maker Misha Panov.

    The video is introduced by Libby Ranzetta, Chair of the Abbey 1000 C.I.C..
    You can view this 22 minute round up of the year by clicking on this link:-
    Celebrating 1000 years of the Abbey of St Edmund

    The celebrations were coordinated by Abbey 1000 C.I.C. (made up of different organisations in the town), alongside The Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership. Grateful thanks to The National Lottery Heritage Fund and National Lottery Players for their support of the Abbey 1000 celebrations and to West Suffolk Council and Bury St Edmunds Town Council for their funding. A big thank you also to all the commercial sponsors including headline sponsors CLAAS UK, Greene King and Treatt.

    The Abbey 1000 celebrations were a part of a much larger project to provide a legacy for the Abbey of St Edmund. The Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership have published an overarching plan which will direct work over the next ten years. It is supported by work with English Heritage, Historic England and The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

    Prepared for this St Edmundsbury local history project
    by David Addy, January 2023

    Grateful thanks for help and advice from the following:-
    Sue Warren Brand and Marketing Manager Bury St Edmunds and Beyond - the official tourism brand for Bury St Edmunds and surrounding area
    John Saunders local author and Official Guide
    Libby Ranzetta, Chair of Abbey 1000 CIC

    Go to Monastic and Religious Home Page Go to Chronicle for 2020 Last Updated on 19th January 2023 Go to Main Home Page