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St. Edmundsbury has a pivotal role in the history of Magna Carta. One chronicler, Roger of Wendover a monk from St. Albans, describes a meeting at Bury St. Edmunds in 1214.  The most likely date for this meeting is November 20, 2014 because that was St Edmund’s day. A group of Barons met in St. Edmunds Abbey Church and swore an oath to compel King John to accept The Charter of Liberties, a proclamation of Henry I. It was the direct precursor to Magna Carta a year later.  Some historians contest whether this account is reliable but the people of Bury St. Edmunds have always celebrated their role in the Magna Carta story.  In 1849 two commemorative plaques were erected in the ruins of the Abbey Church.  The Borough’s motto Sacrarium Regis, Cunabula Legis (Shrine of the King, Cradle of the Law) seems to date from this time. Pageants have been held in Bury St. Edmunds in 1907 and 1959 and these have celebrated the Magna Carta link; other celebrations have also been held since then.

The Lincoln Magna Carta will come to Bury St Edmunds in May 2014 as part of the plans by the town’s Magna Carta 800 committee.  This important document will be housed in the Cathedral for one month and be able to be viewed by schools and pubic alike as part of an educational programme. The Magna Carta will provide an initial stimulus to prompt work in schools which will be integrated within the Light and Sound event in the town in October.

The colourful sound and light experience will be a Magna Carta theme, based around the town and involving key locations and historic buildings.  This inclusive event is designed to celebrate the town’s role in the Magna Carta story and develop awareness ahead of the 2015 commemoration. Other activities include involvement in the Magna Carta tapestry, producing a commemorative stone for the town and working with other organisations to try to arrange the display of one of the original copies of the Magna Carta document.

You can find more details about Bury St Edmunds’ plans by clicking here.

For more details contact the chair of the Magna Carta 800 committee, Margaret Charlesworth at:

In addition on 20th September 2014 we will host a Bury St Edmunds Study Day with eminent professors of medieval history at the Apex, Bury St Edmunds. Further information contact Sharon Fairweather, Tourism Officer

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