Out Risbygate means outside of the Risbygate which stood where The Grapes Inn is. Today it starts at number 1, St Georges Terrace where a private school was run in the 1920/30s by three sisters Florrie, Gurtie and Nellie Smith, the entrance was via a doorway in Victoria Street now bricked up. Opposite but not far away is a large crater known as St Peters Pit where chalk was mined for lime hundreds of years ago, it now makes for wonderful tobogganing in winter.
Overlooking this is the West Suffolk College part of University Campus Suffolk, originating as a Technical College at the Silver Jubilee School and moving here in 1959. Over the years ‘the Tech’ has expanded and now runs a huge variety of successful courses. The rather dreary façade had an impressive makeover in 2014 with the architects Pick Everard picking up an award. On the frontage of the College sits the ‘Plague Stone’. This much moved base of one of the town’s boundary crosses is now utilised as a planter but was once thought to have been used by people as a receptacle to sterilise money by soaking coins in vinegar before entering the town. Opposite here in the abbacy of Abbot Anselm 1121-1148 a hospice known as St Peters Hospital was founded for the care of ill and infirm priests. It would go on to house and care for lepers or lazars as they were known in medieval times. With the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in 1539 all religious houses were subject to examination by Henry’s commissioners even if they carried out good works as St Peters did, it did not survive. Later a stone barn was built here called St Peter Barn; a farm by that name was acquired by the trustees of the Grammar School. At different times when building work was carried out, vestiges of the old hospital have been discovered including occupied graves, possibly of past inmates. The site appropriately has now a residential care home on it.
Bury St Edmunds was once a garrison town; people can still remember the rivalry between ‘the squaddies’ and locals. The barracks was the home of The Suffolk Regiment until 1959 when they became part of the Royal Anglian Regt. It was built in 1878 on a twenty-acre site, the St Peters Barn Farm purchased by the War Department from its owners the trustees of the King Edward VI Grammar School. The architect was Major Seddon of the Royal Engineers who designed accommodation for 250 men and some married quarters. There were up to date facilities for the time, canteen, gym, reading room and a hospital for the care of the men. The most outstanding feature is the impressive keep. It is now grade II listed and houses the regimental museum which was founded in 1935 three years before this military site was renamed The Gibraltar Barracks in honour of the Suffolk’s heroic defence of the rock from 1779-1783. What is left of the parade ground still hosts the annual Battle of Minden Day, the Suffolk’s major honour. Some of the curtain walls remain although breached in places for access to the adjacent college ancillary departments. A pair of red brick cottages now known as The Suffolk Regiment Cottage Homes were built opposite the barracks by subscription in memory of the officers and men of the Suffolk Regiment who lost their lives in South Africa 1899-1902. They also commemorate Prince Christian Victor of Schleswig-Holstein, a favourite grandson of Queen Victoria who died aged 33 in South Africa in 1900 from typhoid whilst in the army. The building was completed in 1903 and was officially opened on 12th April 1904 by HRH Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, third daughter of Queen Victoria and founder in 1907, of the Princess Christian’s Army Nursing Reserves. The cottages were taken over by Haig Homes a housing association in 2002.
The text on this page is taken from pages 58 to 59 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!