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Fifteen things you'll only know if you grew up in Bury St Edmunds



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Bury St Edmunds may only be a small market town, but it has a rich history.

Many will have some knowledge of Bury's links to the Magna Carta, King Edmund's shrine and the Benedictine Abbey.

Others may know Greene King brewery is based here or be familiar with the sight (and smell) of the British Sugar factory as they drive past the town on the A14.

British Sugar factory....PICTURE: Mecha Morton. (51914117)
British Sugar factory....PICTURE: Mecha Morton. (51914117)

But there are some things you will only know if you're from Bury . . .

1. In the days before McDonald's arrived in town the only fast food chain was Wimpy. Initially located at the bottom of Abbeygate Street, where Hendo's fish and chips is now, the Wimpy bar moved to 43B Cornhill – better known as the Adnams shop – in the 1980s.

Back then, Mr Wimpy was a familiar face on market days as the giant mascot patrolled the town centre.

The Wimpy bar was a popular fast food restaurant in Bury in the 1980s
The Wimpy bar was a popular fast food restaurant in Bury in the 1980s

And no children's party was complete without a visit from the big man. Mr Wimpy was a regular on the restaurant's first floor, where extra seating and a dedicated party area could be found.

2. Opposite the Wimpy bar was Moyse's Hall, the scene of many a school trip. Were you even educated in Bury if you didn't visit Moyse's Hall with your school?

Not quite as exciting as a school outing to Alton Towers or the like, a school visit to Moyse's Hall involved a slow shuffle around its collections which, decades ago, bore no resemblance to the dynamic displays of today.

Saying that, the museum's Red Barn Murder relics were memorable. Who could forget William Corder's death mask or the book bound in his skin? I visited with Beyton Middle School in about 1988 and have never forgotten.

Moyse's Hall Museum (51913251)
Moyse's Hall Museum (51913251)

3. In the 1980s the town only had one cinema: the Cannon, in Hatter Street. Boasting two screens – one tiny and the other not much bigger – a trip to see a blockbuster movie required a high degree of forward planning.

First, you bought the Bury Free Press on the Friday to find out the film times, then you made your best guess at when to start queuing.

With no advance booking you took your chances on whether you would get in: the bigger the film, the longer the queues snaked down Hatter Street.

Long-standing Bury St Edmunds cinema manager Pat Church with his book about his years working in the industry. He used to manage the Hatter Street cinema when it was called the Cannon in the 1980s
Long-standing Bury St Edmunds cinema manager Pat Church with his book about his years working in the industry. He used to manage the Hatter Street cinema when it was called the Cannon in the 1980s

I remember in the winter of 1985 queueing into Churchgate Street, hoping to watch Ghostbusters. When we finally reached the cinema door, manager Pat Church told my dad only two seats were available.

I swear my father actually contemplated leaving me sat outside in the cold January weather while he and my brother watched the film. Instead we went home and returned the following weekend (when we successfully saw the film).

4. Before Station Hill was home to hundreds of apartments, the crest of the hill was lit by a neon red sign spelling Rollerbury, a trip to which was pretty much the highlight of any school holiday.

Nostalgia - Rollerbury. (51913123)
Nostalgia - Rollerbury. (51913123)

Boasting a skating rink, 80s-style cityscape mural, arcade room, restaurant (serving Slush Puppies), bar upstairs and live DJ spinning classics including Sledgehammer and the slightly sinister Get Outta My Dreams (Get into My Car), Rollerbury really was the place to be.

Rollerbury's Friday night disco was regularly crammed with teenagers experiencing their first taste of nightlife, before progressing to the neighbouring nightclub Reflex by the age of about 17.

Reflex, which later became Club Brazilia and then just Brazilia before being unceremoniously demolished, only had the delights of a well-stocked bar, dancefloor and late-night licence to tempt customers (but in the days pubs had to stop serving at 11pm, the draw of a licence until 2am should not be under-estimated).

Club Brazilia, Bury St Edmunds. (51913129)
Club Brazilia, Bury St Edmunds. (51913129)

Queues of customers desperate to pay an entrance fee, another £1 for their coat to hang in a cloakroom and to spend the evening shouting in a sweatbox snaked around the building every weekend.

5. Bury has always been quite well catered for in terms of pubs, but unless you grew up in the town you might not remember some of the previous incarnations of what is now The Tavern on St John's.

Many will be able to think back to the days 88-89 St John's Street was Benson Blakes bar and grill, but over the years it was also Wetherspoon pub The Wolf, a few other pubs in between and a pizza restaurant in the 1980s and early 1990s.

This unit has been various pubs, bars and a pizza restaurant over the decades. Here, it is pictured in 2015 when in was Benson Blakes bar and grill.
This unit has been various pubs, bars and a pizza restaurant over the decades. Here, it is pictured in 2015 when in was Benson Blakes bar and grill.

Furnished with green chairs and red gingham wipe-clean tablecloths, the restaurant (which might have been named Pizzaland, but correct us if we are wrong) boasted a 'spaghetti bolognese pizza' on its menu.

We can't imagine why this did not become a pizza classic: a mountain of spag bol dumped on a dry pizza base, what's not to love?

6. And before The Corn Exchange became a JD Wetherspoon pub and restaurant in 2012, the listed building was a borough council owned venue.

Inside the Corn Exchange before it became a JD Wetherspoon pub
Inside the Corn Exchange before it became a JD Wetherspoon pub

It operated as a weekly corn market on Wednesdays until its popularity dwindled and the market closed in 1997, while it was also the scene of many a sale, conference, school disco and was visited by the odd musical act – notably Mansun and Symposium in the late 1990s.

It's fair to say the building needed investment and bringing up to date before JD Wetherspoon took it on.

7. Every teenager taking their driving test in Bury would have been schooled on the 'double-mini roundabout'.

The former double mini roundabout at the Cullum Road/Parkway junction as it was about to be replaced with a single roundabout
The former double mini roundabout at the Cullum Road/Parkway junction as it was about to be replaced with a single roundabout

Actually, this element of traffic control at the junction of Cullum Road/Westgate Street/Parkway worked rather well, even if it did baffle newcomers to town.

Faced with the double-mini roundabout for the first time, drivers were known to scratch their heads as they figured out how to tackle it. For anyone who grew up here it was a breeze.

Alas, it was replaced in 2017 with a standard roundabout.

New roundabout Cullum Road/Parkway junction ....PICTURE: Mecha Morton. (51914382)
New roundabout Cullum Road/Parkway junction ....PICTURE: Mecha Morton. (51914382)

8. If you drive down Cullum Road, the Greene King access road is now a long-standing feature.

However, you might not realise the controversy the initial plans for the road generated back in 1998.

Environmental protesters were angered by the road proposal, which they feared could destroy the habitat of the water meadows.

Butts Meadow off Cullum Road. (51914591)
Butts Meadow off Cullum Road. (51914591)

For months, activists living in trees and encampments in the Butts were a familiar sight as they attempted to prevent the road being built.

They waged a long and bitter fight against the access road, but eventually lost their battle in 2001 when the proposal was given the go-ahead.

9. Still on the subject of highways, back in the day the town's roads were jammed with livestock trucks on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Cattle Market Development. (52651155)
Cattle Market Development. (52651155)

They were heading to or from the Cattle Market, a noisy and slightly whiffy livestock market held in the centre of Bury.

A family trip into town at the weekend would almost certainly involve parking in the Cattle Market car park and walking past the Cattle Market itself, covering your nose from the smell as your parents lifted you up to peek at the mysterious sales going on inside and listening to the moos and squeals of animals being traded.

The Cattle Market operated for hundreds of years before eventually closing in the late 1990s. The market building was demolished and turned into extra car parking spaces, before eventually being redeveloped into the Arc shopping centre.

Where was the Cattle Market, you might ask? Well, it was probably somewhere around Byron/Pandora/River Island today.

Inside Cornhill Walk shopping centre before it closed for good
Inside Cornhill Walk shopping centre before it closed for good

10. Before the Arc, the white elephant that is Cornhill Walk was the first shopping centre in town.

Now, it is a relic of the 1980s, seriously out of place in its setting and its automatic doors long-closed to customers. But on its opening it introduced some much-needed chainstores into Bury.

Index offered a catalogue shopping experience to a town which did not yet have an Argos, Dash sold snazzy tracksuits and Tammy Girl was the home of every girl's first crop top or bra.

Cornhill Walk Shopping Centre Bury St Edmunds. Picture by Mark Westley. (51913606)
Cornhill Walk Shopping Centre Bury St Edmunds. Picture by Mark Westley. (51913606)

Other shops over the years included poster retailer Athena – who didn't have the 'man and baby' poster on their wall? – New Look, Evans, Principles, Qube, Fopp, Select, JJB Sports and more.

But ultimately Cornhill Walk shopping centre was never big enough and its fortunes declined with the opening of the Arc.

11. On the subject of bras, Strides, in Abbeygate Street, was a serious treasure trove.

The Abbeygate Street shop now occupied by Javelin used to be home to Strides
The Abbeygate Street shop now occupied by Javelin used to be home to Strides

It was a slightly old-fashioned shop in part of the unit now occupied by Javelin, selling 'fashions' at one time before focussing on lingerie.

Strides was the sort of shop the 2021 women of Bury could really use following the closures of Palmers and Debenhams, offering pretty much every major bra brand and size.

It wasn't really the sort of slick retail operation one might expect now – think wonky floors downstairs and fitting rooms upstairs with mis-matched curtains that did not quite stretch the width of the cubicle – but if you needed new underwear, you would definitely find some to fit in Strides.

The Abbey Ruins are a perennial favourite
The Abbey Ruins are a perennial favourite

12. One thing that never changes in Bury is the fact that every year, thousands of children visit the Abbey Gardens and climb on the Abbey Ruins without a clue about their history.

And it's not just children clambering on ruins, it's teenagers picnicking in the rose garden and adults admiring the flora.

Everyone who was educated in Bury probably dimly remembers learning about the Magna Carta, the Benedictine monastery etc etc, but who can blame them for forgetting as at the end of the day the Abbey Gardens is a thoroughly brilliant place to spend time.

The site of the former West Suffolk Greyhound Stadium was developed into the Tayfen Meadows houses and reserve
The site of the former West Suffolk Greyhound Stadium was developed into the Tayfen Meadows houses and reserve

13. Not many people might remember that Bury once had its own greyhound track, hosting racing twice weekly for more than 40 years.

West Suffolk Greyhound Stadium stood off Spring Lane on the site of the housing development now known as Tayfen Meadows from 1949 until it closure in 1996. It was demolished soon afterwards.

14. 'All the colours of the rainbow' is a phrase which will only be familiar to regular visitors to Bury's Wednesday and Saturday street market. It's a cry repeated time and again by the flower sellers as they try to shift their fragrant bunches (how many bunches you get for a fiver depends on what time of day you visit).

Bury St Edmunds Market. Picture by Mark Westley. (51914754)
Bury St Edmunds Market. Picture by Mark Westley. (51914754)

15. And finally, anyone who has grown up in Bury, left, and returned to Bezza town – even years later – will know that while things do change, it always retains enough familiarity to feel like home.

Oh, and you won't be able to walk far without bumping into someone you know.

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Read more: All the latest news from Bury St Edmunds