Northgate Street | Hazells’ Histories

Northgate Street

We are very pleased to announce our newly launched collaboration with well-known local historian Martyn Taylor. We will be reproducing  sections from Martyn’s book A-Z of Bury St Edmunds in our monthly newsletter and we hope that as a result subscribers will enjoy the historical reflections of so many parts of this wonderful town in which we live and work.

From early times this street was known as The High Street and ran from the Northgate across the west front of the abbey to Sparhawk Street. The Northgate, where the roundabout is today, was pulled down in the 1760s to allow for easier access.  The interchange/roundabout for the A14 completed by 1974 meant several old shops were pulled down, Hobsons Game Dealers, Stebbings Bakery, Northgate Street PO and the former Three Horseshoes PH which had its last pint pulled in 1934. These were a major loss to the town for the sake of the town’s expansion.

Stebbing's bakery at No.73 Northgate Street

Stebbing’s bakery at No.73

Another loss in 1997 was the New Inn, so called because it was at one time the first purpose built pub in Bury when it opened in 1863. Another inn no longer with us is The Globe, it was on the corner with Angel Hill.  As The Cock & Pye this dilapidated inn was purchased by Francis Clark in 1836 and renamed. He also did an exchange with some property he owned in Northgate Street with the executors of the Jacob Johnson Charity which owned two houses in Looms Lane at the rear of The Globe. His intention to make this a well-used coaching inn, unfortunately for him the railways came to Bury in 1846 and he was declared bankrupt two years later. The Globe was demolished, a new property built by Henry Reed of Reeds Buildings fame, just off Northgate Street. The corner of Looms Lane near to where Clark was to have his stabling had an Independent Chapel built becoming a Congregational Church after a re-vamp in 1866 and a Primitive Methodist Chapel 1902-34.  During part of the 20thC it was known as The Victory Chapel and has been used for several commercial purposes since.

A car-free Northgate Street!

A car-free street!

Bury Grammar School was founded in 1550 in Eastgate Street but in 1665 it moved to Northgate Street the building todays St Michaels Close. There is an inscription here in Latin telling of the move plus a niche which once supposedly held a statue of the Grammar School founder Edward VI. In 1883 the school moved to The Vinefields and St Michaels Close became The High School for Girls for a period of time; it is now divided into flats. Two other schools had their origins in Northgate Street, the East Anglian Wesleyan Methodist School which opened in January 1881, later moving to an eleven-acre site in Northgate Avenue and in 1935 the boys only school moved to Culford. In a large red brick building, what had been for a short period the Falconbury School, the West Suffolk County School was founded in 1904; an extension was added in 1907. This school moved in 1964 to Beetons Way and became the County Upper School. In 1915 a Zeppelin attacked Bury dropping a bomb on the Anchor Inn which then stood opposite Looms Lane. The roof was fire damaged and it would seem that this was the final nail in the coffin of this beer house. Rather dreary flats are now here but this street has a fair selection of quality buildings, St Olaves and Manson House residential home along with Victorian villas. Though not of the same architectural merit the eight alms houses called Long Row built in 1912 for The Guildhall Feoffment Trust do have a community feel about them.

On the corner of Looms Lane, a jettied house was demolished in the road widening scheme of the 1960’s which went a long way to alleviating congestion. The fine restoration of the neighbouring no.7 uncovered medieval wall paintings relating to angels and an undertaker’s bier in the cellar! But it is no.8, Northgate House that rightly lays claim to one of the finest houses in Bury. Parts of the interior harkens back to medieval times when it was two houses. With the coming of the 18thC it was owned by Major Richardson Pack who was notoriously responsible for pulling down the Abbot’s palace in the Abbey Gardens. Thomas Evans, Recorder at Bury also lived at Northgate House; the Evans family owning it between 1745 and 1811, carrying out improvements and retaining the Jacobean ceilings, early Georgian features and creating the façade we know today. Banker, Algernon Beckford Bevan lived here in 1900, he was manager and a director of The Capital and Counties bank in Buttermarket to become Lloyds bank in 1919. However, the most famous owner of Northgate House from 1955 until her death in 1983, was undoubtedly that of celebrated author Norah Lofts. She wrote mostly historical novels, some loosely based on Bury St Edmunds and adored her home which has seen a Blue Plaque to her memory put on in 2012.

Northgate House, Northgate Street

Northgate House

Another fine house is no.10, The Farmers Club from 1947. The house has medieval origins going right back to the 14thC when it was possibly three houses. During the period of 1662-1689 the Hearth Tax returns show the house is listed as having seventeen hearths! The Gages of Hengrave Hall were prominent owners of this house at one time when it was used as their town residence. In the mists of time it was also known as The Panels. The Leathes family included among their tribe one MP and lived here from 1761 until 1823. It is possible during their period of occupation, as happened to many timber framed properties in the town, a brick skin was put on. During the middle of the 19thC onwards members of the Greene dynasty owned number ten. It was John Wollaston Greene who sold the house in 1947.  The family law firm of Greene & Greene is still in existence today as is The Farmers Club whose membership now extends beyond the farming community.

The Victoria Laundry carnival float outside No.112 Northgate Street

The Victoria Laundry carnival float outside No.112


A-Z of Bury St Edmunds | Places – People – History | By Martyn Taylor

A-Z of Bury St Edmunds, Places - People - History, By Martyn TaylorThe text on this page is taken from pages 54 to 57 of the book written by Martyn Taylor, published by Amberly Publishing 2016.

If you wish to continue the journey through the streets A to Z of Bury St Edmunds, or indeed read more about the history of Bury St Edmunds, you can purchase Martyn’s book from St Edmundsbury Cathedral shop, Waterstones and Moyses Hall.

Look out for the next instalment next month, or subscribe to our newsletter to be notified when Hazells’ Histories returns!