St Edmundsbury Cathedral

Coordinates: 52°14′38″N 0°43′00″E / 52.243889°N 0.716667°E / 52.243889; 0.716667
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St Edmundsbury Cathedral
Cathedral Church of St James and St Edmund
Cathedral from the East
St Edmundsbury Cathedral is located in Suffolk
St Edmundsbury Cathedral
St Edmundsbury Cathedral
Shown within Suffolk
52°14′38″N 0°43′00″E / 52.243889°N 0.716667°E / 52.243889; 0.716667
LocationBury St Edmunds, Suffolk
CountryUnited Kingdom
DenominationChurch of England
TraditionLiberal Catholic
Functional statusActive
Heritage designationGrade I
Designated7 August 1952
Architectural typeChurch
StyleRomanesque, Gothic, Gothic Revival
Years built11th–16th centuries, 18th–19th centuries, 21st century
Groundbreaking11th century
Number of towers1
Tenor bell weight27 long cwt 2 qr 5 lb (3,085 lb or 1,399 kg)
DioceseSt Edmundsbury & Ipswich (since 1914)
Bishop(s)Martin Seeley
Vicar(s)vacant; position not in use
DeanJoe Hawes
SubdeanMatthew Vernon (Canon Pastor)
PrecentorPhilip Banks
Canon(s)Mike Robinson (Bishops' Chaplain)
ArchdeaconSally Gaze ("Rural Mission")
Director of musicTimothy Parsons
Organist(s)Richard Cook
The choir, looking east towards the high altar

St Edmundsbury Cathedral (formally entitled the Cathedral Church of St James and St Edmund)[1] is the cathedral for the Church of England's Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich. It is the seat of the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and is in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. Originating in the 11th century, it was rebuilt in the 12th and 16th centuries as a parish church and became a cathedral in 1914; it has been considerably enlarged in recent decades.


A church has stood on the site of the cathedral since at least 1065, when St Denis's Church was built within the precincts of Bury St Edmunds Abbey. In the early 12th century the Abbot, Anselm, had wanted to make a pilgrimage along the Way of St James to Santiago de Compostela. He was unsuccessful and instead rebuilt St Denis's and dedicated the new church to Saint James, which served as the parish church for the north side of Bury St Edmunds.[2] Anselm was also responsible for building the abbey gate tower, known today as the Norman Tower, alongside St James's, which also served as the church's belfry and it continues in this function to the present day.[3] The church is located about 200 yards from St Mary's Church, which is of a similar size.

This church was largely rebuilt, starting in 1503, in the Perpendicular style by John Wastell, a master mason who also worked on King's College, Cambridge.[4] Further alterations to the building were undertaken in the 18th and 19th centuries, notably a new chancel and a hammerbeam roof by George Gilbert Scott.[5] When the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich was created in 1914, St James's Church was made the cathedral. In 1959 Benjamin Britten wrote the Fanfare for St Edmundsbury for a "Pageant of Magna Carta" held in the cathedral grounds.[6]

From 1959 onwards there was renewed building work designed to transform the former parish church into a cathedral building. Between 1959 and 1970, the Victorian chancel was demolished and replaced with a new quire, a cloister was added on the west side; also transepts, a Lady chapel and a side chapel dedicated to St Edmund were built. The cathedral architect from 1943 to 1988 was Stephen Dykes Bower and he left £2 million for the completion of the cathedral. In the cathedral grounds a new choir school and visitor's centre, which were opened in 1990, were built by Dykes Bower's successor, Alan Rome.[2] Work started on a Gothic revival style tower in 2000; funded by the Millennium Commission, the Stephen Dykes Bower Trust and others, the Millennium Tower was designed by Hugh Mathew, an associate of Dykes Bower. The 150 foot (46 metre) structure was built from 600,000 bricks and faced with Barnack and Clipsham stone. Its completion was officially celebrated on 22 July 2005.[5] Further additions are the Chapel of the Transfiguration and the East Cloister, both completed in 2009, and the Crypt Treasury in 2012.[7]


The font was designed in 1870 by George Gilbert Scott, constructed on a medieval shaft, with a cover by Frank Ernest Howard of Oxford. The decoration was added in 1960. A painting, "The Martyrdom of St Edmund" by Brian Whelan hangs in the Lady Chapel.[7] A sculpture by Elisabeth Frink entitled Crucifixion stands by the Treasury steps. Stained glass in the cathedral includes the medieval Susanna Window which has Flemish glass in the lower section and English glass at the top. The west window depicts the Last Judgement and dates from about 1900.[8]

In addition to guided tours of the cathedral itself, visitors can view changing exhibits of art in the Edmund Gallery, and an exhibit of historic and religious regalia and artefacts in the Cathedral Treasures display.

Dean and chapter[edit]

The Dean of St Edmundsbury is the head (primus inter pares — first among equals) and chair of the chapter of canons, the ruling body of the cathedral. Before 2000 the post was designated as a provost, which was then the equivalent of a dean at most English cathedrals. The first provost was John Orpen.

As of 31 January 2023, the clergy are:[9]

  • Dean — Joe Hawes (installed 14 July 2018)[10]
  • Sub-Dean & Canon Pastor — Matthew Vernon (Sub-Dean since 18 November 2012 licensing;[11] Canon Pastor since 8 February 2009)[12]
  • Canon Precentor — Philip Banks (since 19 February 2012 installation)[13]
  • Archdeacon for Rural Mission and Diocesan Canon — Sally Gaze (since 10 February 2019 installation)[14]
  • Canon Theologian and Bishops' Chaplain (Diocesan Canon) — Michael Robinson (since 2 February 2020 installation)[15]
  • Assistant Priest — Sarah Geileskey
  • Curate — Anita Rooney[16]

The cathedral, which is also a parish church, has not filled the position of Vicar since at least 2005.

Organ and organists[edit]


The two organ cases, in the north transept and north choir

The Organ was rebuilt by Harrison and Harrison in 2010; Details of the organ from the National Pipe Organ Register

Directors of Music[edit]


A ring of 12 bells are located in the adjacent Norman Tower. The original ten bells were cast in 1785 by Thomas Osborn of Downham Market. In 1973 the bells were rehung in an iron frame at a lower level in the tower. Following a public appeal, a further two bells were added at Easter 2012. A thirteenth bell was added in 2013 which allows beginners to practice with a full octave, without having to use the three heaviest bells. The bells are rung on Sundays before the morning and evening services, and also for weddings and other special occasions.[19]

Ancient Library[edit]

The Ancient Library is located in a room over the north-west porch.[20] It was founded by Miles Mosse, who was preacher at the St James Church, Bury St Edmunds.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Norman Doe (2017). The Legal Architecture of English Cathedrals. Routledge. ISBN 9781138962699.
  2. ^ a b "History - Building The Church". St Edmundsbury Cathedral. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  3. ^ Gill, Professor David (24 September 2016). "Bury St Edmunds Norman Tower". Profs Ian Baxter & David Gill. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  4. ^ Pepin, David (2016). Cathedrals of Britain. Bloomsbury Shire Publications. p. 194. ISBN 978-1784420499.
  5. ^ a b Harris, Brian L (2006). Harris's Guide to Churches and Cathedrals: Discovering the unique and unusual in over 500 churches and cathedrals. London: Ebury Publishing. p. 58. ISBN 978-0091912512.
  6. ^ "Listening to Britten — Fanfare for St Edmundsbury". Ben Hogwood. 5 December 2016. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  7. ^ a b Pepin p. 196
  8. ^ Harris p. 59
  9. ^ St Edmundsbury Cathedral — Chapter (Accessed 1 January 2021)
  10. ^ St Edmundsbury Cathedral — A New Dean Archived 16 March 2018 at the Wayback Machine (Accessed 15 March 2018)
  11. ^ St Edmundsbury Cathedral — Appointment of Sub-Dean
  12. ^ Emmanuel, Hong Kong — Installation of Canon Vernon
  13. ^ St Edmundsbury & Ipswich — Former Chartered Surveyor to be Canon
  14. ^ [dead link]
  15. ^ "Installation of Canon Theologian and Archdeacon of Suffolk". 29 January 2020.
  16. ^ "Meet the Team". St Edmundsbury Cathedral. Retrieved 31 January 2023.
  17. ^ "Staff list". St Edmundsbury Cathedral. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  18. ^ "Appointment of new Director of Music". St Edmundsbury Cathedral. 10 November 2020. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  19. ^ "Dove".
  20. ^ "Ancient Library". St Edmundsbury Cathedral. Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich. Retrieved 21 September 2023.

External links[edit]