Is St Edmund buried in Bury St Edmunds?

Archaeologists believe remains of Saxon king could lie under tennis courts in the Suffolk town

Bury St Edmunds
Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds

Archaeologists are hoping to dig up tennis courts in Bury St Edmunds to see if the remains of Saxon king St Edmund are hidden underneath.

After the bones of Richard III were found buried under a Leicester car park in 2012, historians believe they might have located the final resting place of another monarch.

Edmund was a 9th-century king of the East Angles, who is thought to have been killed by Vikings in either Suffolk or Norfolk.

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His remains were kept in a shrine in the Abbey in Bury St Edmunds but were lost during Henry VIII's widescale dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century.

Historian Francis Young told The Daily Telegraph, "The commissioners who dissolved the Abbey on 4 November 1539 mentioned nothing about the body, and given St Edmund's royal status it is likely they would have quietly allowed the monks to remove the body from the shrine and relocate it.

"According to a third-hand account from 1697, St Edmund was placed in an iron chest by a few monks but sadly the account doesn't give the location within the Abbey precincts where he was buried. On balance, however, the monks' cemetery is the most likely location."

The monks' cemetery is now a tennis court in the town's Abbey Gardens.

The local council, with the backing of St Edmundsbury Cathedral, wants to allow archaeologists to dig there.

It might seem common sense that with a name like Bury St Edmunds, the town is likely to be the final burial place of St Edmund. But it was formerly called St Edmundsbury, and the "bury" suffix is the same as "burgh", meaning "settlement".

This new archeological proposal comes after the discovery of the skeleton of Richard III beneath a car park in Leicester, which gave the city a welcome tourism boost. It has since been reported that the grave of Henry I may be located beneath a car park on the site of Reading prison in Berkshire. Henry I's remains have not yet been unearthed but local news site Get Reading has said that finding the grave might give the town a "20 per cent rise in tourism".

In Scotland meanwhile, an effort is being made to find the tomb of James I, "as part of a wider plan to creating a new tourist offering", says the Daily Record.

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