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Restoration of neglected Bury St Edmunds town centre house reveals its 'fascinating' long-hidden secrets

‘Fascinating’ secrets and layers of history long-hidden in a derelict town centre house are being revealed in an extensive restoration.

Builders began work on the neglected and semi-derelict 11 High Baxter Street, in Bury St Edmunds , at the start of this month to bring it back to life as a three-bedroom house.

Bury St Edmunds Town Trust, which bought the Grade II listed property last year, is overseeing the project – expected to be completed by June 2021 – and early work by Seamans has already uncovered secrets that were in danger of being lost.

11 High Baxter Street in Bury St Edmunds
11 High Baxter Street in Bury St Edmunds

Discoveries in the property, built around 1590/1600, have included small animal bones, most likely a cat, in a crevice by a fireplace, which in the 1600s was seen as a defence against witchcraft and bad luck. The oldest piece of wallpaper found is from 1790 and the floorboards have 16th century limewash.

Peter Riddington, chairman of the trust, said: “We always expected that this house would reveal secrets about how the fabric has changed over time, those that lived and worked in the house and how this part of the town centre evolved.”

The property, the sole survivor of a terrace demolished in the 1960s to make way for offices, also features Tudor brick and stone work, likely to have been salvaged from the town’s Abbey.

Paul Rynsard, project manager, said there were still some unsolved mysteries including why the building survived.

“We suspect there was a long-term tenant there who didn’t want to move so the building was saved and they knocked all the other ones down,” he said.

The trust has been researching those who lived in the house, which would have been occupied by trades or craftspeople. It was later used as staff accommodation for the old Suffolk Hotel and a house in multiple occupancy.

It hopes to publish a booklet of the information. A video tour of the building, available on the trust’s website, has been produced for construction students at West Suffolk College.

Ed Thuell, a partner at Whitworth’s Architects, added: “You never stop learning new and fascinating details because it has so many different forms of construction and building history.”

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