The History of St Edmundsbury Cathedral


Originally dedicated to St Denys, the Parish Church of St James has grown and developed over the centuries. It became the Cathedral of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich in 1914. At the turn of this century, the Millennium Project saw the completion of the building with the addition of a tower, new cloisters and chapels.


In the video below, Dean Joe Hawes shares more about our Cathedral, St Edmund and the links with the Abbey and town of Bury St Edmunds.

Historical timeline of the Cathedral

1020: – Foundation of the Benedictine Abbey
1065 – 97: Abbot Baldwin builds St Denys’ Church – Abbot Anselm replaces St Denys’ with a church dedicated to St James
1400s: New chancel built
1503 – 51: New nave built, designed by John Wastell, Master Mason and resident of Bury St Edmunds
1711: Medieval chancel replaced
1860 – 70: New chancel built, work of Sir Gilbert Scott. Pitched roof added to the Nave
1914: Creation of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich (previously West Suffolk was in the Diocese of Ely and East Suffolk in the Diocese of Norwich) – St James’ Church becomes a Cathedral
1943: Stephen Dykes Bower appointed as Architect for the Cathedral
1959 – 61: West Porch and cloisters added

1963 – 70: New Quire, a Lady Chapel, St Edmund’s Chapel and the crossing added
: Stephen Dykes Bower retires – Alan Rome succeeds as Cathedral Architect
1988 – 90: Cathedral Centre and Song School built
1994: Stephen Dykes Bower dies and leaves £2 million to a Trust for the completion of the Cathedral
1997: Millennium Commission grants £5.15 million for the completion of the Cathedral to the design of Hugh Mathew
1998: Appeal launched to raise the remaining funds for the Project
1999: Work starts on the North Transept
2005: Millennium Tower completed
2008: East Cloisters opened
2009: Consecration of the Chapel of the Transfiguration, Crypt and Cloisters
2010: Completion of vaulted ceiling under the Tower

The Abbey of St Edmund


The Abbey of St Edmund is the jewel in the heart of Bury St Edmunds. It was established in 1020 AD in honour of the Anglo Saxon King Edmund who was martyred in 869 AD. It is three times the size of the popular Abbey Gardens.


St Edmund and the Abbey are central to our understanding of the religious and historical importance of Bury St Edmunds. Not just nationally, but internationally, including its role as the birthplace of Magna Carta in establishing the freedoms that are now ingrained in modern democracy.


A Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership was set up in 2016 and is led by St Edmundsbury Cathedral and West Suffolk Council in collaboration with nearly 20 other public, private and voluntary organisations. It held a ‘Past, present and future’ conference on 26 January 2019.


The Heritage Partnership commissioned two consultancy studies in 2017 with funding from Historic England and the Borough Council. The heritage assessment assembled all the historical and archaeological information for the first time and the conservation plan identified policies and potential projects for the future.


We have more information about the Abbey of St Edmund and its future together with the heritage assessment, conservation plan, recent news releases and other interesting information including the conference programme, feedback forms and a contact form, for comments about potential projects for the future.