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Bury St Edmunds’ famous statue of St Edmund, by Dame Elizabeth Frink, was once described as looking like an ‘archbishop in his underpants’





This sculpture was commissioned in 1974 by the then West Suffolk Council to mark the end of its administration. In effect, Bury St Edmunds would no longer be the county town of West Suffolk as it amalgamated with East Suffolk, becoming Suffolk.

The St Edmund statue was unveiled on July 16, 1976, by the Earl of Stradbroke, Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, the cost of the casting a bargain £2,000.

Elizabeth Frink's statue of St Edmund stand adjacent to St Edmundsbury Cathedral. Picture: Martyn Taylor
Elizabeth Frink's statue of St Edmund stand adjacent to St Edmundsbury Cathedral. Picture: Martyn Taylor

The generous sculptor of this amazing work of art was someone with local roots, Dame Elizabeth Frink, born in 1930 at Great Thurlow just 16 miles from Bury.

After attending the Guildford School of Art and the Chelsea School of Art her avant-garde bronze works of art designed for external viewing came to the notice of several public institutions. To acknowledge her contribution to her craft she was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1971 and made a Dame in 1982.

One of her most famous sculptures, and her last, the titanic statue of ‘Risen Christ’ for Liverpool Cathedral was installed on April 18, 1993, a week before she sadly died from cancer, aged 62.

As for St Edmund, it has been cruelly described as an ‘archbishop in his underpants’, by a local cleric and, ‘a figure of sexless quality, with a suggestion of prudery’ in the Bury Free Press letters page. Suffice to say its proposed siting somewhere in the town centre did not proceed but fittingly now stands on a sward at the Abbey’s West Front with the sobriquet, St Edmunds Green.

A Crucifixion by Frink was purchased in 1995 by the Cathedral Friends and is in the Cathedral’s Chapel of Transfiguration.

Martyn Taylor
Martyn Taylor

- Martyn Taylor is a local historian, author and Bury Tour Guide. His latest book, Going Underground: Bury St Edmunds, is widely available.