A. D Bayne.

Royal illustrated history of eastern England, civil, military, political, and ecclesiastical .. (Volume 1) online

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the patience of the townsmen was exhausted. Irritated by repeated
breaches of promise on the part of the abbot, they seized hiin at his manor
of Chevington, robbed, bound, and shaved him, sent him to London, and
hurried him from place to place, from fear of detection, till opportunity



offered of shipping him off to Brabant. The Archbishop of Canterbury and
the Pope himself excommunicated the perpetrators of this daring outrage,
in vain ; but at last the abbot was released and brought home. The les-
son, however, seemed to have done good. In 1332, the damages, assessed
by the justiciaries at £140,000 — an enormous sum then — were remitted, the
outlawry annulled, and the prisoners released. On the other hand the
deeds were again restored, and the charters extracted from the trem-
bling monks were formally cancelled. In other words, the old course of
legal monkish oppression was to go on, and did continue for some time.

Fifty years afterwards the abbacy became vacant. Prior John of Cam-
bridge had charge of the house. He was described as an admirable
musician and still more admirable lawyer, skilled in all the arts of the
time, and his monastic eulogist says he employed his abilities " faithfully
in striving for the rights of his house.^^ His subtlety and industry found
scope in suit after suit with the farmers and burgesses around. The
townsmen he knew were his foes, and the rustics proved how intense was
their hatred. It was a perilous time in which to win men's hate. England
was racked with despair, and suffering, and wrong ; with the collapse of
the French war, with the ruinous taxation, with the frightful pestilence
that swept away half the population, with the iniquitous labour laws that
in the face of such a reduction kept down the rate of wages in the inte-
rests of the landlords, with the frightful law of settlement, that, to enforce
this wrong, again reduced the free labourer at a stroke to a state of
serfage, from which he was yet to emerge. That terrible revolution of
social sentiment had begun which was to turn law into the basest interests
of a class, viz., the statute of labourers and the successive labour regula-
tions which followed to create pauperism, and with it that hatred of class
to class, which still hangs over society. Round Prior John the first
manifestation of such a hatred was gathering. While at his manor of
Mildenhall he touched his lute and played soft Lydian airs, suddenly
armed bands rose around him. The howl of the great multitude broke
roughly in on the delicate chaunting of Prior John. He turned to fly, but
his own serfs betrayed him, judged him in rude mockery of the law that
had wronged them, condemned him, and killed him. Five days the body
lay in the open field, while the mob thronged into Bury bearing the prior's
head before them on a stick. Another victim was John Lackenheath,
warden of the abbey, whose head was knocked from his shoulders at
the foot of the gallows. Then the crowd retired from the abbey, and
summoned the monks before them, and ordered them to surrender their
bonds and charters. Some the monks brought forth, but others they
swore they could not find, and the iron had entered too . deeply into
the townsmen, for not even in this hour of triumph could they shake


off their fear of tlieir black-robed masters who stood trembling before
them; and so a compromise was patched up that the charters should be
surrendered till confirmed by the popular claimant to the abbey. A
hundred years after, the town again sought freedom in the law courts,
and sought it in vain. The abbey charters told fatally against mere
traditional customs. The royal council of Edward IV. decided that the
" abbot was lord of the whole town of Bury, the sole head and captain
within the town.^' All municipal appointments were at his pleasure, all
justice in his hands. The townsmen had no communal union, no coii)orate
existence. Their leaders, Walter Thurston and William Sygo, paid for
riot and insult by long imprisonment and fine. The dim, dull lawsuit
was almost the last incident in the long struggle, the last and darkest
in the town.

But it was the darkness that precedes the day. Fifty years more, and
abbot and abbey were swept away. The burghers were building their
houses afresh with the carved ashlar and the stately pillars of their lords'
house. Whatever other aspects the Reformation may present, it gave,
at any rate, emancipation to that class of English towns where freedom
had been denied, the towns that lay in " the dead hand of the Church,^'
None more heartily echoed the jest of the Protector, " we must pull do^vn
the rooks' nests, lest the rooks should come back again." The complete-
ness of the demolitions at Bury hangs on the long serfdom of the people
and the shapeless masses of rubble, that alone recall the peaceful cloister
and the long-drawn aisle, find their explanation in the terrible struggles o
the town.

The monastery was 505 feet long and 212 wide, and contained twelve
chapels. The privilege of coining was granted to the abbey by Edward
the Confessor, and both Edward I. and Edward II. had mints here. The
" Church gate," one of the finest specimens of Gothic architecture in the
kingdom, and the western gate, erected about the middle of the fourteenth
century, with a small portion of the walls, are all that now remain of that
magnificent structure, which continued in the possession of abbots and
monks for 519 years till they were all expelled at the dissolution.

The Norman tower was erected during the time of Abbot Baldwin,
about 1090, as the principal entrance to the cemetery of St. Edmund,
and fronted the west entrance of the Abbey Church. Monastic writers
mention it by the names of the "great gate of the Church of St.
Edmund," or " the great gate of the churchyard." At the dissolution of
the monastery, if not before, it became a parcel of the parish Church of
St. James. In a rental of Thomas Gnatsall, sacrist, in the eighteenth of
Henry VII., it is called the Church gate of St. James, and in the deed of
feoffment of the Guildhall feoffees, it is mentioned as the gate and bell


tower^ called St. James's Steeple. It is eighty-six feet in height and
thirty-six feet square. The walls, which are nearly six feet in thickness,
are faced with an ashlaring of Barnack stone. The general design of
each front is the same, except that a few of the mouldings are different,
and that the eastern archway is plain. The elegant porch on the western
side is a unique specimen of Norman architecture. The great arch was
formerly filled up with a sculpture representing our Saviour, in an elliptic
aureole. It was removed in 1789 to provide a freer access for '^oads of
hay and straw." The square-headed doorway in the centre of the south
wall was the postern or porter's gate. The old iron hooks on which the
door was hung are still in the eastward jamb ; a mortice for the bolt of a
lock is in the opposite jamb ; the door opened outwards in the thickness
of the wall. The small doorways on the north and south sides in the
western buttresses communicated with the wall that was connected with
it on each side, and surrounded the entire grounds of the abbey.

Various other ruins connected with the abbey and its early history are
visible ; many minor institutions were dependent on it, of which there
are not now any remains. Among these may be noticed a college of
priests, dedicated to the holy name of Jesus, founded in the reign of
Edward IV., and suppressed in that of Edward VI. ; a hospital, dedicated
to St. John, founded by one of the abbots in the reign of Edward I. ; a
hospital, dedicated to St. Nicholas, founded also by an abbot of St.
Edmund's ; and St. Peter's Hospital, founded in the reign of Henry I.,
the revenue of which at the dissolution was £10 18s. lid., or about £100
of our present money.

About the year 1256, a fraternity of the Franciscan order came to
Bury, but they were compelled to remove beyond the precincts of the
town, where the establishment continued till the dissolution. Henry I.,
on his return from Chartres, repaired to the shrine of St. Edmund, where
he presented a rich ofiering in gratitude for his safe return to his dominions.
In 1173 Henry II., having assembled a large army at this place to oppose
his rebellious sons, caused the sacred standard of St. Edmund to be
borne in front of his troops, and to its great influence was ascribed the
victory that he obtained over them in the battle in October in the same

In 1215 the rebellious barons met at Bury St. Edmund's, and when
they had assembled in the Abbey Church they joined in an oath to obtain
the ratification of Magna Charta from King John. The ruins of the old
Church are carefully preserved, and are well worth preserving, for as we
read on a stone tablet fixed below the tall climbing ivy : " Near this spot,
on the 20th November, A.D. 1215, Cardinal Langton and the Barons swore
at St. Edmund's a.ltor that they wonld obtain froW' King John the 7'atifioation


of Magna Gliaiia.'' Another tablet cimuieratus the twenty-tivc Barons who
took part m the oath, in three columns, one givmg the name, the second
the title, the third that of the present representatives.

Henry III. held a Parliament here in 1272, which may be regarded as
the outline of the British House of Commons, which has now existed
600 years. In 1296, Edward I. visited this town, where he also held a
Parliament, when Norwich, Yarmouth, and Lynn returned representatives.
The next Parliament was held here in 1446 in the reign of Henry VI.
The last time Parliament was held here was in 1448. Afterwards the
Parliament met regularly at Westminster. This town has returned repre-
sentatives since the first Parliament.

In 1526, the Dukes of Norfolk and Sulfolk assembled their forces in
this town to quell a dangerous insurrection that had broken out at Laven-
ham in Suffolk. Subsequent local events are not of general interest.

The Grammar School, founded by King Edward IV., is open to the
sons of inhabitants upon the payment of two guineas entrance, and
two guineas per annum. It has four exhibitions of the value of £18 15s.
each per annum to either of the universities, a scholarship at Corpus
Christi College, and another at Jesus College, Cambridge. There are
110 scholars on the foundation. A new schoolhouse was built by public
contributions ; over the entrance is a bust of the founder, with an appro-
priate inscription, and adjoining the school there is a good house for the
master. The institution has long occupied a high position among the
schools in the county, and several distinguished individuals have received
instruction in it.

There are several benevolent institutions in the town. The almshouses,
ninety-eight in number, were founded by Mr. Edmund King, Mrs. M.
Drury, and others, and are under the superintendence of trustees, in
whom funds have been invested to the amount of £2000. Clopton^s
Hospital was founded for the support of six aged widowers, and the same
number of widows, being decayed housekeepers, by Boley Clopton, M.D.,
who endowed it with property producing £300 per annum. The General
Hospital, established in 1825, and supported by subscription, contains
accommodation for forty patients. An additional Infirmary was founded
in 1836.

The government by charter of incorporation granted in the 4th of
James I., and extended in the 6th and 12th of the same reign, and in the
20th of Charles II., was vested in an alderman, six assistants, twelve
• capital burgesses, twenty -four common councillors, a recorder, town
clerk, four sergeants-at-mace, and subordinate ofiicers ; but by the Act of
the 5th and 6th William IV., c 70, the Corporation now consists of a
Mayor, six aldermen, and eighteen councillors. The borough first re^


c'oived a precept to return representatives to Parliament in the oOtli of
Edward I., but made no subsequent return till the 4th of James I., since
which it has continued to send two members. By the Reform Act of
1832, the right of voting was granted to £10 householders, and by the
Act of 1867, to all householders.

Bury comprises the parishes of St. Mary and St. James ; the living of
each is a donative, the former in the patronage of the Corporation, the
latter was in dispute between them and the Bishop of Ely. The Church,
dedicated to St. Mary, is a spacious and elegant structure, completed
about the year 1433, and is in the later English style, with a low massive
tower ; the north door is in the decorated style, and the porch, the roof
of which is very beautiful, is of later date. The Church of St. James is
a large and handsome edifice, in the later style of English architecture^
of which the western end is a rich specimen. The Church gate, leading
to the precinct of the abbey, is surmounted by a fine Norman tower.

The town is delightfully situated on a gentle eminence, on the western
bank of the river Larke, also called the Bourne, in the centre of an open
and richly-cultivated tract of country ; the streets are spacious, well-paved
and lighted with gas. The houses are in general uniform and handsomely
built, and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water. The air is
salubrious, the environs present interesting scenery, and the peculiar
cleanliness of the town, besides the number and variety of its public in-
stitutions, render it desirable as a place of residence. Near the North-
gate, on the high road to Thetford, are the remains of St. Saviour's
Hospital, founded in the reign of King John with an income of 153
marks, where the " good " Duke of Gloucester is supposed to have been
murdered. Little beyond it stood St. Thomas' Hospital and Chapel, now
a private dwelling, and at half a-mile distant may be traced the site of the
old Priory. The Methodists, Baptists, Independents, Roman Catholics,
Society of Friends, and Unitarians have Chapels in this town. The
Athenasum is a literary institution, the house of which is situated on the
Angel Hill, containing library, reading-rooms, concert-rooms, &c.

The Abbey grounds have been converted into Botanic Gardens, to
which the Abbey gate forms the principal entrance. No better use could
have been made of these grounds, which are an agreeable promenade,
supported by annual subscriptions of two guineas each member. There
agricultural and horticultural exhibitions have been frequently held,
attractmg thousands of visitors, who have been highly delighted by the
magnificent displays of floral beauty, more especially when the Royal
Society visited the town in 1867. The Abbey grounds then presented
the appearance of a great industrial camp, for a whole week. Contempo-
raneously with the show of the Royal Agricultural Society, the Royal


Horticultural Society held an exliibition of great merit and beauty on
grounds adjoining the Botanic Gardens, The display was magnificent,
far surpassing any ever held before. In 1872, the local society held a
grand show on the archery ground in the Botanic Gardens, affording a
great treat to the visitors, especially to the ladies.

If the tourist takes a stroll through the town, he will find many things
worthy of note. St. John's Street has not yet lost its old name. Long
Brackland, the Brakeland whence Jocelin the chronicler takes his
surname. Moyse's Hall, or the Jews' House, is an example of an old
Norman dwelling-house, with massive walls and vaulted ground floor. It
is now used as a police-station. In Abbey gate Street^ Daniel Defoe,
author of " Robinson Crusoe," while a resident here, used to attend the
preaching of Samuel Bury, the Nonconformist. And near the Angel
Hotel is a house in which the boy Louis Philippe lodged while under the
care of Madame de Genlis.

The Lark, or Burn, is a tributary of the Greater Ouse, flowing through
an open part of the county. This small river has its sources in the
district south of Bury, and the stream, as it flows towards that town, is
skirted on the right by the park of Rushbrooke, and on the left by that
of Hardwicke. The river Linnet, from the great park of IckAvorth, here
joins the Lark, which about a mile beloAv Bury becomes a navigable
stream, and then flows near the little village of Fornham St. Genevieve,
celebrated in history as the spot where in 1 1 73 the peaceable retention
of the English Crown in the person of Henry II. was decided by a
bloody battle, in which 10,000 Flemings were slain.

The environs of Bury offer some pleasant drives to the visitor, and
many objects of interest to the lover of nature, the artist, the architect,
and the antiquary. The numerous noble and elegant seats are delight-
fully situated; the Churches are large, and exhibit many beauties of
ecclesiastical architecture, particularly of the fifteenth century ; and
perhaps no district can boast of so many striking examples of the
manorial halls of the reign of Elizabeth. The most prominent places
of interest and the most delightful are the drives through the two
parks of Ampton and Livermere, about five miles north of Bury, which
are separated by a fine serpentine piece of water. The gardens at Ampton
are kept up with much taste, and the grounds afford many charming views.

The grounds around Barton House, two miles from Bury, were laid
out agreeably to the refined taste and excellent judgment of the late Sir
Henry E. Bunbury, Bart. The house contains some of the choicest
productions of the best painters, and an unequalled collection of the
humoui' and abilities of the pencil of Mr. Bunbury, the celebrated cari-
caturist. A visit to Barton was a happy incident in the life of OHver


Goldsmith. The "Jessamy Bride" celebrated by him was the beautiful
Mary Horneck, sister of Mrs. Buubury. Sir Thomas Charles Bunbury,
Bart., was descended from Thomas Bunbury, Esq., who was created a
baronet in 1681. He married Sarah, daughter of Charles, second Duke
of Richmond, for whom George III. formed an early attachment. She
■was distinguished for beauty ; the marriage was dissolved by Act of
Parliament in 1776. Sir Charles, as he was usually called, was for many
years representative for the County of Suffolk, and was devoted to the
turf. He died without issue, and was succeeded by his brother^s son.
Sir Henry Edward, who inherited his title and estates, and was father of
the present owner, Sir Charles Bunbury.


A parish in the Hundred of Blackbourn, near Thetford, comprising 1222
acres with about 300 inhabitants. The living is a discharged rectory in
the patronage of the Crown ; the tithes were commuted for a rent-charge
of £336, and the glebe consists of thirty acres, valued at

Online LibraryA. D BayneRoyal illustrated history of eastern England, civil, military, political, and ecclesiastical .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 43 of 70)