• Gemma Corby

You say "Bury St. Edmunds"; I say "Beodericsworth"

Recently I met up with my brother in the Suffolk town of Bury St. Edmunds. Originally it was known by the less catchy name of Beodericsworth (try pronouncing that to a taxi driver after enjoying a few too many Greene Kings).

Bury St Edmunds
The Angel Hotel in Bury St. Edmunds

The name of the town was changed in honour of St. Edmund, the former King of the Angles. The story goes that King Edmund was murdered by Vikings (they were always up to no good) in 869AD, after refusing to renounce his Christianity. Apparently, he was shot with so many arrows he ended up resembling a giant hedgehog. And just to be extra sure that Edmund got the message that these particular Danes were no fan of Sunday School or Christingles, they chopped his head off for good measure.

Legend has it that his decapitated bonce was thrown into the forest. Fortunately, it was found by a search party after they were alerted to its presence by a Latin-speaking wolf. Which just goes to show, wolves were much better educated in those days. Whatever has become of the British education system in the intervening years?

Edmund was eventually venerated as a saint and martyr and his shrine in Bury St. Edmunds put the town on the medieval pilgrimage map. King Canute even took some time out of his busy shoreline duties to pay homage to Edmund, visiting his shrine in Bury (his remains were temporarily moved to London in 1010). During the Middle Ages, Edmund was viewed as the patron saint of England, meaning that skinhead thugs during that period were left confused every 23rd April.

St Edmundsbury Cathedral
The magnificent St. Edmundsbury Cathedral

If you get to visit Bury, I thoroughly recommend lunch at The Angel Hotel. It is located in the centre of town, just opposite the cathedral. After lunch you can walk around the beautiful Abbey Gardens and check out the remains of the former monastery – which was magnificent, until Henry VIII messed things up. Fortunately, he did manage to have the remains of his favourite sister, Mary Tudor Queen of France removed from the abbey and interred at the nearby St. Mary’s church, which was thoughtful of him. This splendid church is also worth a visit.

Bury St Edmunds
The ruins of the former monastery in the Abbey Gardens