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Suffolk campaigners hope listed monument to St Edmund will deter developers

PUBLISHED: 05:30 09 January 2019

The St Edmund monument in Hoxne Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The St Edmund monument in Hoxne Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A tight-knit community determined to protect their village's history have pulled together to protest an unwanted housing development on what they consider to be sacred ground.

On the outskirts of the ancient village of Hoxne, just north of Eye in Mid Suffolk, lies a precious stone monument in the shape of a cross – erected on the spot where, legend has it, the former patron saint of England, St Edmund, was slain by vicious invaders.

It is this memorial, set in an otherwise ordinary field near to Abbey Hill, that a group of campaigners hope will deter developers from building a series of new homes – a move which they claim would be an insult to St Edmund’s memory.

Gill O’Connor, along with a group of local residents, has been campaigning to protect the greenfield site since Roberts the planning application was submitted to Mid Suffolk District Council (MSDC) in May 2017.

Now, having lodged a complaint with the ombudsman and successfully appealed for the site to be listed by Historic England, she hopes officials will reconsider.

The Goldbrook Bridge, under which St Edmund is thought to have hidden from the Danes Picture: ALISON CONNORS/CITIZENSIDE.COMThe Goldbrook Bridge, under which St Edmund is thought to have hidden from the Danes Picture: ALISON CONNORS/CITIZENSIDE.COM

“The reason for the listing originally was because a developer put in a planning application to build up to four dwellings there – which was passed by the Mid Suffolk planning department,” she said.

“We wanted to make sure that the monument was given due consideration.”

Following their appeal, the memorial was granted Grade II status on Christmas Eve, 2018 – recognised by Historic England for its commemorative, locational and architectural significance.

While the consultation period is closed, this could impact the final decision if planners are forced to resubmit the application.

The statue of St Edmund in front of the Abbey West Front in Bury St Edmunds  Picture: ANDY ABBOTTThe statue of St Edmund in front of the Abbey West Front in Bury St Edmunds Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

“A group of us decided to take it further because we thought the planning department should have given the monument more regard,” Mrs O’Connor explained.

“It has taken a long time because we had to go through the Mid Suffolk complaints procedure.

“We weren’t happy with the response. We then filed our complaints to the ombudsman and he has agreed to take it forward.”

The legend goes that King Edward, then the King of East Anglia, was caught by Danish attackers while hiding under Hoxne’s Goldbrook Bridge in 869.

The statue of St Edmund in front of the Abbey West Front in Bury St Edmunds  Picture: ANDY ABBOTTThe statue of St Edmund in front of the Abbey West Front in Bury St Edmunds Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

Having spotted the King’s golden spurs glinting in the water, a group of honeymooners hurried to inform the Danes of his whereabouts and the King was promptly captured, tortured and later beheaded.

“They wanted him to renounce his Christianity, and he wouldn’t do that,” Mrs O’Connor said.

“His faith was with the church and he was going to die with the church.”

But before he was killed Edmund angrily spat out a curse directed at any couples who henceforth crossed the bridge in question, wishing them a lifetime of bitter regret and unhappiness.

The statue of St Edmund in front of the Abbey West Front in Bury St Edmunds  Picture: ANDY ABBOTTThe statue of St Edmund in front of the Abbey West Front in Bury St Edmunds Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

“Even now if there is a wedding in Hoxne, the wedding party don’t go up the path (over the bridge) towards the church,” Mrs O’Connor added.

“They go the long way round.”

When he still refused to betray God, the Danes tied Edmund to an oak tree – in the spot where the monument now stands – and shot arrows at him in such multitudes that his body was covered with their missiles.

Mrs O’Connor said to sacrifice the site where the monument stands would strip Hoxne of its heritage – something which draws tourists from all over the world.

The statue of St Edmund in front of the Abbey West Front in Bury St Edmunds  Picture: ANDY ABBOTTThe statue of St Edmund in front of the Abbey West Front in Bury St Edmunds Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

“We didn’t want it to lose its history,” Mrs O’Connor explained.

“I don’t think we can allow that to disappear.”

For now, it’s a waiting game for the campaigners while the ombudsman considers their appeal.

In the meantime, Mrs O’Connor said she was gearing up for the next challenge..

“Some of us want to talk about reinstating King Edmund as the patron saint of England,” she said.

“Now I have got the bit between my teeth I won’t be letting go.

“I am still up for more adventures.”



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