Cathedral celebrates record figures

St Edmundsbury Cathedral, in Bury St Edmunds, is celebrating record visitor figures, which is helping to boost trade in the town.

A cathedral is celebrating record visitor figures, which is helping to boost trade in a west Suffolk town.

Seventy thousand people walked through the doors of St Edmundsbury Cathedral, in Bury St Edmunds, last year, with staff taking a further 82 bookings for group tours.

And the rise in visitor numbers is having a knock-on effect on the town and its business community, which is benefiting from the tourism boost.

The cathedral's visitor co-ordinator Sarah Friswell said she was thrilled with the response from the public, following the unveiling of the Millennium Tower, which finally crowned the magnificent building in 2005. "We saw a massive increase of around 20,000 people visiting the cathedral last year and I feared numbers might start to decline once the novelty of the tower wore off. But we have managed to maintain those figures which we are very pleased about," she said.

Mrs Friswell said group bookings, which have become a priority for the cathedral in recent months, were up by around 15pc on 2005. "On Boxing day and New Year's Day, we had 40 people arrive for tours, which was a great end to the year," she said.

Chrissy Harrod, president of the Bury Chamber of Commerce, said the cathedral was part of the whole package on offer to visitors to the town. "Anything that generates extra tourism in the town has got to be a good thing, and the work the cathedral is doing to encourage visitors is very positive, because most of them walk into town afterward, for lunch, a drink, or to do some shopping," she said.