Abbey & Park

sights / Historic

Abbey & Park information

Opening hours
dawn-dusk
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Lonely Planet review

Now a picturesque ruin residing in beautiful gardens behind the cathedral, the once all-powerful abbey still impresses despite the townspeople having made off with much of the stone after the Dissolution. The Reformation also meant an end to the veneration of relics, and St Edmund's grave and bones have long since disappeared.

You enter the park via one of two well- preserved old gates: opposite the tourist office, the staunch mid-14th-century Great Gate is intricately decorated and ominously defensive, with battlements, portcullis and arrow slits. The other entrance sits further up Angel Hill, where a gargoyle-studded early 12th-century Norman Tower looms.

Just beyond the Great Gate is a peaceful garden where the Great Court was once a hive of activity, and further on a dovecote marks the only remains of the Abbot's Palace . Most impressive, however, are the remains of the western front , where the original abbey walls were burrowed into in the 18th century to make way for houses. The houses are still in use and look as if they have been carved out of the stone like caves. Nearby is Samson Tower and in front of it a beautiful statue of St Edmund by Dame Elisabeth Frink (1976). The rest of the abbey spreads eastward like a ragged skeleton, with various lumps and pillars hinting at its immense size.