Market town in Suffolk, eastern England, on the River Lark, 43 km/27 mi east of Cambridge; population (2001) 36,200. Industries include engineering, brewing, sugar-beet refining, printing, and the manufacture of agricultural machinery, electronic equipment, and confectionery.
The town was named after St Edmund, last Saxon king of East Anglia, and there are remains of a large Benedictine abbey. Bury St Edmunds was the first planned town in Norman Britain, laid out on a grid pattern by Abbot Baldwin in the 11th century. On 14 November 1214 (St Edmund's Day) Stephen Langton, archbishop of Canterbury, and the barons swore at the high altar of the abbey church to force King John to sign the Magna Carta.
Features A large collection of watches and clocks are housed at the Manor House Museum, an 18th-century mansion. English architect William Wilkins, built the town's Regency Theatre Royal in 1819. Moyse's Hall, a 12th-century dwelling which is now a museum, was possibly a Jewish merchant's house, and may be the oldest domestic building in East Anglia. The Angel Hotel (1452) was originally a coaching inn and features in English novelist Charles Dickens's Pickwick Papers (1836). It is also home to the Greene King Brewery (1799), which has a museum that charts the 200-year history of beer in the town, and the biggest street market in East Anglia.
Religious foundations Sigebert, king of the East Angles, founded a monastery at Beodericsworth in about 537, and the remains of St Edmund, killed by the Danes in 869 and canonized as a martyr in 870, were interred there. An abbey established on the site in 945 was renamed St Edmundsbury in the early 11th century, and given abbey status in 1020. It was rebuilt by the Normans in the 11th and 12th centuries, and became an important site of pilgrimage. Before its dissolution in 1539, the abbey was one of the richest in England. Remains include part of the west front of the abbey church, into which a number of Georgian houses have been incorporated, the chapter-house, two gateways, and a 13th-century abbot's bridge.
Other foundations include the large 15th-century church of St Mary, which has a hammerbeam roof and contains the tomb of Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII; and the church of St James, slightly smaller than St Mary's, which became the cathedral of the diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, established in 1914.
Educational institutions A grammar school was founded in the town in 1550 by Edward VI. Culford School, 8 km/5 mi to the north, is a private school for boys established in 1881, and transferred here in 1935.
Famous people English priest and politician Bishop Stephen Gardiner, and the English politician Nicholas Bacon, privy councillor to Elizabeth I, were born in the town.