BURY ST. EDMUNDS (Suffolk) © Stanbury&Raguin/MMK

Abbey and Church of St. Mary

Bury St. Edmunds A hallowed monastic site. The abbey was the richest in England before the Dissolution and now lies in ruins. St. Edmund was an important royal martyr saint, slain by the Danes by being shot with arrows.

Extant is the parish church of St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds. The church was built within the monastery precinct, except for the western facade. This served as the entrance for the townsfolk, allowing them to interface with the monks without violating monastic space. The monks of the Abbey appointed the priests and chaplains and had their own separate entrance to the church. The chancel shows an elaborate decorated vault constructed around 1290-1350. The nave and aisles were widened between 1425 and 1433. The hammerbeam roof over the nave was built 1445. Wills of laypersons of the city show donations to complete this work.

1. St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, 13-15th century, view from south west.

2. St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, view from south west, drawn by N. J. Cottingham Jr. 1845, after Samuel Tymms, F.S.A., The Church of St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, (Bury St. Edmunds and London, 1854).

3. Plan of The Church of St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, drawn by N. J. Cottingham Jr.
1845, after Samuel Tymms, F.S.A., The Church of St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, (Bury St. Edmunds and London, 1854).

4. Western doorway and niches St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, as restored in 1844, drawn by N. J. Cottingham Jr., after Samuel Tymms, F.S.A., The Church of St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, (Bury St. Edmunds and London, 1854).

5. Handle of western door St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, drawn by N. J. Cottingham Jr. 1845, after Samuel Tymms, F.S.A., The Church of St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, (Bury St. Edmunds and London, 1854).

6. North porch, ca. 1437, St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, drawn by N. J. Cottingham Jr. 1845, after Samuel Tymms, F.S.A., The Church of St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, (Bury St. Edmunds and London, 1854). The north porch was built though funding from the will of John Nottingham, grocer, dated 20 May 1437. An inscription above the doorway on the cornice reads Orate pro animabus Johannis Notingham et Isabelle uxoris suae (Pray for the soul of John Nottingham and Isabelle his wife).

6a. Interior view of church from west, St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds,

7. St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, interior

Angel Roof
The elaborate hammerbeam roof with images showing angels vested for a High Mass was given about 1445, apparently by the layman John Baret, who in his will speaks of "alle the werk of the aungellys on lofte wiche I haue do maad for a rememberaunce of me & my frendys & nevir to put the paryssh to no cost" (Tymms, p. 48). Inscriptions on the braces of the angels nearest the chancel have the mottoes God me gyde and Grace me governe, used by Baret. The angels presumably depict the heavenly procession of angels to honor the Coronation of the Virgin by Christ. J. Tolhurst suggests further that the imagery may also resonate with references to the 1444 betrothal of King Henry VI to Margaret of Anjou. See John Lydgateís pageant verses "Queen Margaretís Entry into London" of 1445 linking the coronation of Queen Margaret with the crowning of the Virgin.

8. St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, hammerbeam roof, about 1445.

9. St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, hammerbeam roof, details of angels.

10. St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, details of statues of Apostles, Prophets, and Saints set under the ribs of the hammer beam roof: Drawn by J. Johnson, after Samuel Tymms, F.S.A., The Church of St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, (Bury St. Edmunds and London, 1854).
St. James the Greater
St.. Peter
St. Matthias
St. Edward the Confessor
Old Testament Prophet

11. St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, Chancel, seen from east.

12. St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, Chancel, interior, looking south west.

13. Chancel bosses St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds,

 
Chantry Tomb, 1467, of John Baret, wealthy clothier, friend, and probably patron of the monk-poet John Lydgate. Baretís relationship with the Abbey was profound; as a gentleman of the Abbotís household, he had his own room at the Abbotís house at Elmswell. He was a recipient of the SS collar given by the Lancanstrian kings in recognition of great personal service. The roof of the chantry shows Baretís motto, Grace me governe, as a diagonal motif, with the SS collar surrounding the letters IB for John Baret. An inset system of curved small mirrors works with the lattice pattern. Baretís will is explicit about the decoration: "iij merours of glas to be sette in the mydds of ye iij waytes [vaults] above my grave, wiche be redy with my other glasys & dyuers rolles with scripture, as Henry Peyntour [an executor] can sette hem there they shalle stonde" (Tymms, p. 39).  For analysis of the ambiguous issues in the last will and testament and tomb imagery see Margaret Aston , "Death" in Horrox, Rosemary, ed. Fifteenth-Century Attitudes: Perceptions of Society in Late Medieval England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

14. St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, Tomb sculpture of John Baret as a skeleton "gisant", 1467.

15. St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, Monogram of John Baret and Collar of SS from roof of the lady chapel; mirrors indicated at corners. After Samuel Tymms, F.S.A., The Church of St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, (Bury St. Edmunds and London, 1854).

16. St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, Motto "grace me governe" of John Baret from tomb. After Samuel Tymms, F.S.A., The Church of St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, (Bury St. Edmunds and London, 1854).

17. Shield of John Baret. After Samuel Tymms, F.S.A., The Church of St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, (Bury St. Edmunds and London, 1854).

18. St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, Brass of John Finers, archdeacon of Sudbury, 1497. East end of the north aisle, After Samuel Tymms, F.S.A., The Church of St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, (Bury St. Edmunds and London, 1854).

19. St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, Tomb of Sir William (+ 1501) and Lady Margaret (+ 1525) Carew, north side of chancel. William is in armor with feet resting on a lion. Margaret is richly dressed with feet resting on two dogs, a talbot and greyhound. After Samuel Tymms, F.S.A., The Church of St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, (Bury St. Edmunds and London, 1854).

20. Medal of "Our Ladye of Pitye," 15th century? Found in St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds. The Virginís chapel was in the south aisle of the chancel. A picture of "Le Pite of oure Lady" received a donation of 20s in 1459 from John Laverok and the image was mentioned in 1514 as receiving a gift of wax for candles from Robert Hatman. After Samuel Tymms, F.S.A., The Church of St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, (Bury St. Edmunds and London, 1854).

21. Medals showing image of St. Nicholas and inscriptions ORA PRO NOBIS BATE NICHOLAE EPI, and SANCTA NICHOLAE ORA. Found in St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds. Possibly pilgrimage or ceremonial souvenirs (see the Bishop of the Innocents, a ceremony electing a boy from the choir to preside as bishop for a short symbolic reign). After Samuel Tymms, F.S.A., The Church of St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, (Bury St. Edmunds and London, 1854).

22. Title Page: History of The Church of St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, by Samuel Tymms. The illustrations from original drawings by Cottinham and Son, Architects. 1845. Published by Jackson and Front, Bury St. Edmunds.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Samuel Tymms, F.S.A., The Church of St. Mary, Bury St. Edmunds, (Bury St. Edmunds and London, 1854).