Bury St Edmunds: Norman Tower

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Bury St Edmunds Abbey, Norman Tower © David Gill

The Norman Tower was constructed in the period 1120 to 1148 under Abbot Anselm. It stands opposite the end of Churchgate Street, and in front of the west end of the abbey church. It served as a gateway to the abbey (completed in 1095) and the bell tower to the adjacent church of St James (now St Edmundsbury Cathedral).

Abbot Anselm was also responsible for the construction of the precinct wall, the church of St James, and the church of St Mary (at the south-west corner of the precinct).

The present ground level is well over the original street level. The tympanum over the western entrance was removed in 1789, and the battlements on the tower in 1842-46.

The Norman Tower, along with other parts of the abbey remains, is in the care of English Heritage.

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Bury St Edmunds Abbey, Norman Tower © David Gill

Rendlesham Conference

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Rendlesham Conference © David Gill

Some 450 delegates attended a conference at the Apex in Bury St Edmunds to hear about the results of the survey and excavations (2008-14) at the vicus regius of Rendlesham in Suffolk. One of the themes explored was the relationship between this apparent elite site on the Deben with the ship-burial site at Sutton Hoo. A further discussion was on the place of the former Saxon Shore fort at Walton Castle (near Felixstowe).

Papers were:

  • Sir Michael Bunbury, The landowner’s perspective
  • Faye Minter, How Rendlesham has been investigated
  • Jude Plouviez, Results: the Roman period
  • Christopher Scull, Results: the Anglo-Saxon period
  • Andrew Woods, Interpreting the early medieval coins
  • Charlotte Scull, Beasts and feasts: the animal resources
  • Kelly Kilpatrick, The place-names of a royal Anglo-Saxon landscape: a toponymic survey of Rendlesham and the Deben valley
  • Tom Williamson, Rendlesham in context: the changing geographies of early medieval England
  • Andrew Rogerson, Not always a backwater, the northern half of the East Anglian Kingdom in the 5th-9th centuries
  • Christopher Scull, Suffolk, East Anglia and the North Sea: the importance of Rendelsham in the 5th to 8th centuries AD

Martin Carver chaired the final session and emphasised the international significance of the discoveries. Christopher Scull outlined plans for publication (including an article in Antiquity) and future grant applications.

The conference was organised by Suffolk County Council with support from the Sutton Hoo Society, Council for British Archaeology East, and University of Suffolk.

The conference was sponsored by Suffolk Archaeology, Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB, Suffolk County Council, British Sugar and the National Trust.

Byland Abbey: Rood Screen

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Byland Abbey © David Gill

The rood screen separated the lay brothers’ choir (at the west end of the abbey church) from the retrochoir. The nave altar stood at this point.

Note the square ends to the columns in the lay brothers’ choir.

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Byland Abbey, Lay Brothers’ Choir looking eastwards © David Gill

Tours of Border Abbeys

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1963

I have noted before the souvenir guide for the Border Abbeys, published in 1964: Dryburgh, Kelso, Jedburgh and Melrose. A small card guide (with colour printing) to Melrose Abbey was issued by MPBW in 1963. On the reverse was a tour of the abbey, ending at the ‘attractive museum’. The cost was 4d (with the adult entry to the site at 1s). The suggested station was Melrose.

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1968

The MPBW card guide (monochrome on blue card) to Jedburgh Abbey is less elaborate with the tour inside with small sketches to illustrate the key features. The cost of this guide was 2d (with the adult entry to the site at 1s).

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A further leaflet was available for Kelso Abbey.

Lincluden Collegiate Church: Princess Margaret

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Lincluden, tomb of Princess Margaret © David Gill

Lincluden Collegiate Church lies on the northern side of Dumfries and is in the care of Historic Scotland (HES). The tomb of princess Margaret (b. before 1373; d. 1450/51) [ODNB], daughter of king Robert III (d. 1406) [ODNB] and widow of Archibald, 4th Earl of Douglas (c. 1369-1424) [ODNB], is located in the choir of the church. Her brother was king James I of Scotland (1394-1437) [ODNB].

The Abbey of Bury St Edmunds: Crypt

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Abbey of Bury St Edmunds © David Gill

The crypt of the abbey at Bury St Edmunds lies at the east end of the abbey church. The new stone church was constructed during the time of Abbot Baldwin. A comparable crypt can also be seen at St Augustine’s Abbey at Canterbury.

The shrine of St Edmund was located behind the high altar, immediately above the crypt.

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Abbey of Bury St Edmunds © David Gill

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Abbey of Bury St Edmunds © David Gill

At the east end of the crypt were three chapels. In the centre was the chapel of St Mary in the crypt, and to its north the chapel of St Anne.

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Abbey of Bury St Edmunds © David Gill

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Abbey of Bury St Edmunds © David Gill

On the south side was the chapel of St Robert, with the altar of Edward the Confessor.

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Bury St Edmunds Abbey © David Gill

 

Walking the walk

The best way to explore heritage close up is, of course, on foot.  Heritage explorers typically spend more time looking up at the buildings, sites and features around them than looking down at the ground, but a new site recently launched in the US, and featured on the architectural design newsletter Curbed, is encouraging us to consider the history which our feet are padding across.

 

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“Plan of the City of Toronto,” 1909, using color and hatching to show different types of pavement.  (Toronto Reference Library)

Historic Pavement, developed by Robin B. Williams, Ph.D., Chairman, Architectural History department, Savannah College of Art and Design is setting out to document the remarkable diversity of historic street and sidewalk pavement design in America. It’s quirky and great – and in the About section, I am particularly thrilled that a fellow heritage fanatic was inspired by oddities when young. (I should admit that I spent hours, aged 6 or 7, creating a primary school project on the varied design of lamp-posts in my home town).

Here in the UK, Historic England (then English Heritage) ran a campaign over a decade ago, entitled Streets for All, which looked on a regional level at the management of streets holistically to make the most of the historic features and design which ‘modern’ highway management often made a mess of.  Pavement design and materials were considered in this work, along with wider street furniture (benches, signs, barriers) – and it is interesting or depressing (depending on your point of view) to see which bits of advice and guidance have been followed or ignored in the period since.

 

street-furnitureThe formalities of street design and management is all well and good (see the English Government’s current Department for Transport guidance), but aesthetics of the places we spend time wandering along are important – this is reflected in the more recent guidance produced to support Listing criteria, on Street Furniture.

 

I am reminded again, therefore, to spend time looking up and down.