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Latitude: 52.2437 / 52°14'37"N
Longitude: 0.7178 / 0°43'3"E
OS Eastings: 585646
OS Northings: 264094
OS Grid: TL856640
Mapcode National: GBR QF0.89D
Mapcode Global: VHKD4.DV9V
Entry Name: Numbers 1, 1a, 2 and 3 West Front and Sampsons Tower
Listing Date: 7 August 1952
Last Amended: 30 October 1997
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1375539
English Heritage Legacy ID: 466440
Location: Bury St. Edmunds, West Suffolk, Suffolk, IP33
District: St. Edmundsbury
Civil Parish: Bury St Edmunds
Built-Up Area: Bury St Edmunds
Traditional County: Suffolk
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Suffolk
Church of England Parish: Bury St Edmunds St Mary
Church of England Diocese: St.Edmundsbury and Ipswich
BURY ST EDMUNDS
TL8564SE ABBEY PRECINCTS
639-1/8/3 Nos.1, 1A, 2 and 3 West Front and
07/08/52 Sampson's Tower
(Formerly Listed as:
Nos 1, 2 and 3 Churchyard and Abbot
Formerly known as: Nos 1, 2 & 3 Abbey Ruins and No.3b Abbey
Ruins (Samson's Tower) ABBEY PRECINCTS.
Remains of the West Front of the Abbey of St Edmund. Begun
under Abbot Anselm (1120-1148); completed under Abbot Samson
(1182-1211) and his Sacrist, Walter de Banham (c1200-1211).
Coursed flint with traces of the original stone facing.
EXTERIOR: 3 tall deeply recessed entrance arches in the centre
of the front were originally surmounted by a high central
tower and spire; remains of the arches are still visible,
infilled with later walling. As completed by Abbot Samson,
with an octagonal tower and spire at each end, the front was
246 feet across, the widest in Britain: the north end is now
missing and the ground level has risen between 4 and 8 feet.
Behind the 3 central arches was the west transept with apsidal
chapels on 2 storeys to each side of it. 2- and 3-storey
houses inserted into the ruinous remains of the arches and the
west transept from the later C17, were altered in the C18 and
altered again and extended during the C19.
The West Front today shows evidence of all these changes. At
the south end, Samson's Tower, used as a stable in the C17 and
C18 and subsequently as a dye works, was converted into the
town's Probate Registry in 1863 to designs by the architect
William Rednall. At the same time the adjoining part on the
north was made into the registrar's residence (No.3). Both
office and house have details in a heavy Victorian Romanesque
The octagonal tower has a conical tiled roof; tall
round-headed windows to the high ground storey; roll-moulded
arches and flanking shafts with cushion capitals to the
surrounds; small-paned cast-iron windows. Circular windows to
the 1st storey have radiating cast-iron glazing bars. Linked
windows with a central shaft and paired outer shafts above the
The former registrar's house (No.3) has 2 similar but smaller
windows to each storey and a narrow window above the door.
Both doorways are of similar design with rounded arches. The
chimney-stack to No.3 has decorative arches on each face of
the shaft. No.2 occupies both the former south and central
arches of the Front, both of which are infilled with later
walling in a mixture of flint and stone. 2-light windows in
Victorian Romanesque style and a door in a plain wood surround
were inserted into the south arch in the later C19. The upper
windows are in 2 tiers, set into a rendered rectangular frame.
The central arch is the only part of the Front which retains
C18 features externally: two 12-pane sash windows in cased
frames with shallow reveals to the ground and 1st storeys and
a 2-light small-paned casement window to the 2nd storey. A
6-panel door with raised fielded panels has a rectangular
fanlight and a moulded wood surround with a flat cornice hood
Between Nos 1 and 2 are the remains of the original north
stair turret with 3 openings above: the stair gave access to
the northern upper chapel and to the gallery above the west
transept. No.1, which occupies the north arch of the Front,
was refaced in the later C19. A large canted bay window rising
through 2 storeys has heavy rendered surrounds, 3
square-headed lights on the ground storey and 5 round-headed
lights above. Above it is a small early C19 sash window.
Entrance door with a projecting round-headed canopy. No.1 has
a complex series of C19 alterations and rear extensions in
conjunction with the creation in the early-to-mid C19 of a
further house, No.1A, at the north end with a wide entrance
arch between them. No.1A has a front wall of monastic flint
rubble and features in Victorian Gothic style: above the
entrance arch are 2 small-paned sash windows within pointed
arches formed by intersecting Y-tracery. A moulded timber
surround to the door incorporates a single narrow shaft with
bell capitals at either side and a quatrefoil with lozenge and
flower motif in each spandrel. A large rectangular fanlight
has 3 lights with pointed heads.
INTERIORS: from south to north. Samson's Tower, divided into 2
rooms on the ground storey when it became the Probate
Registry, has a single large octagonal upper room with deep
splays to the circular windows. Winder stair with cast-iron
balusters. The former registrar's house (No.3) is the most
ruinous part of the group: none of the 1st-storey flooring
survives. No.2 retains some C17 and C18 features but was
considerably refurbished in the late C19. A small cellar below
the central arch descends to the original ground level of the
West Front. In the south wall of the south arch are the stone
remains of the roll-moulding and abaci of the Norman arch
which led to the ground storey chapel to the south of the west
One very fine 6-panel door on the ground storey. The ground
storey sash windows have internal pull-up shutters. The gabled
roof behind the central arch has side purlins and dates from
the C17. No.1, set within the north arch, has features
principally of the C19, but the cellar has one wall of C17
brick and the long rear roof-slope may be of the same date. 2
ceiling beams have chamfers and ogee stops.
Between Nos 1 and 1A runs a length of C12 wall approximately
20 metres long containing 2 original arches: this wall marks
the junction of the west transept with the apsidal chapel to
the north of it and corresponds stylistically with the
surviving arch in the south wall of No.2. Fragmentary remains
of the groined chapel vaulting also survive.
The Abbey remains are a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
(BOE: Pevsner N: Radcliffe E: Suffolk: London: 1974-: 139;
Official Guidebook: Whittingham AB: Bury St Edmunds Abbey:
London, HMSO: 1971-: 19 & 20).
Listing NGR: TL8564664094
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