Abbey Gardens


Now a picturesque ruin in parkland behind the cathedral, Bury's once-mighty abbey still impresses despite the townspeople having made off with much of the stone after the dissolution of the monasteries. The walls are striking (especially on the west side), having crumbled and eroded into a series of fantastical shapes. Other highlights are the decorative Great Gate, the diminutive dovecote and the flower-filled gardens.

You enter the Abbey Gardens via one of two well-preserved old gates: the staunch mid-14th-century Great Gate is intricately decorated and ominously defensive, with battlements, a 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; 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 homes. The houses are still in use and look as if they've been carved out of the stone like caves. Nearby is Samson Tower and in front of it is 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.