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Remembering the lost shops and eateries of Abbeygate Street in Bury St Edmunds




Times are forever changing in the world of retail and hospitality in Bury St Edmunds - but for centuries Abbeygate Street has remained a lynchpin of the town's economy.

Over the decades it has played host to numerous shops and eateries - some of which enjoyed a presence in the town for hundreds of years, while others were more short-lived enterprises.

With the help of Bury St Edmunds historian Martyn Taylor, Suffolk News has created an interactive map to chronicle just some of the names which once called the historic street home and explored the backstory of a few of the businesses in greater detail.

11 Abbeygate Street

This year, this eye-catching branch of Greggs gained national attention after being deemed 'the fanciest in the UK' after The Sun highlighted some of the most 'beautiful' outlets of the bakery chain.

The newspaper said fans had dubbed it 'Ye Olde Gregges' with the building's intricate Gothic style window glazing bars dating back to the late 1700s when the premises was Oliver & Son grocers.

Olivers had the first telephone number in the town, Bury St Edmunds One, and continued to trade until the 1960s.

No.11 has since been The Harvest Café, Tookes and Bakers Oven before Greggs.

Martyn reports that staff have seen visions of spectral monks in brown habits in the cellars.

20 Abbeygate Street

Collis & Son
Collis & Son

One of the oldest continuing business names in the town came to a tragic end with the murder of jeweller Peter Avis in 2012 in a botched burglary.

Jewellery business W H Collis & Son began in 1805 when a Mr Collis bought the property and it would continuing trading under his name for more than 200 years.

The shop front was designed in 1897 by London shopfitter Sage of Clerkenwell.

Abbeygate Street pictured pre-1935
Abbeygate Street pictured pre-1935

It was bought in 1921 by William Miles and passed onto his daughter and then her son Peter Avis. It later became SIX menswear and is now hair salon Lipstick and Locks.

28 Abbeygate Street

Once one of two Garrards butchers in Bury St Edmunds - with the other in Out Ribsygate.

Martyn notes that W H Garrard advertised as 'The Hygienic Butcher' with a reputation for high quality.

It finished in August 1985 and was taken over by the Dewhurst chain. The shop became Trotter and Deane in 1991.

25/26 Abbeygate Street

J Bulling Drapers was in business for 80 years after John Bulling bought the premises for £1,400 which included 6 Lower Baxter Street.

In 1961, the block of 25 and 26 Abbeygate Street and 6 Lower Baxter Street was sold to Ridleys Paints Ltd, which moved in from across the road where it shared premises with Thomas Ridley Grocers.

A number of businesses later traded from here including Rack, Stack and Store in 1981.

A view of the Corn Exchange and Abbeygate Street
A view of the Corn Exchange and Abbeygate Street

Martyn said that four years later, with access from Lower Baxter Street to the first floor, The Owl and the Pussycat restaurant opened followed by Fleetwoods Bar with Oddbins off-licence trading from the corner shop. It is currently Phase Eight clothes shop.

35-36 Abbeygate Street

Longstanding grocery shop Ridleys closed in 1996.

Martyn said: "It was the wonderful evocative smells of cheeses, coffee beans and cured meats that met you as you crossed the threshold that many people can remember."

It became different restaurants over the years including Chez Gerard, Café Uno and is currently Prezzo.

Next door at No 34 was Ronald Bates & Co electrical engineers, which is now Neal's Yard Remedies.

43 Abbeygate Street

In 1882 an arson fire destroyed much of Abbeygate Street's south-side and this shop was rebuilt.

It was once home to Stead & Simpson which was the largest footwear manufacturer in the world by 1885.

The company later moved to 19-21 Cornhill and the brand was bought by Shoe Zone in 2008.

It is currently Scrivens Opticians & Hearing Care.

Martyn Taylor is one of Bury’s accredited tour guides – they offer daily and special tours as shown at www.burystedmundstourguides.org.

For our interactive map of Bury St Edmunds' lost pubs, click here.

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