Time Travel Tourism in Bury St Edmunds


Unfortunately not exactly, but this collection in our 11th November auction provides views of Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages from the late Victorian and Edwardian eras, showing both how things have changed and also remained the same.   Visitors to the town have been enthralled by the same iconic landmarks such as the Abbey ruins, Moyse’s Hall and The Guildhall for many decades (and even centuries), but the finer details reflect the passage of time and use.




Comprising a large single-owner collection of early photographic and printed postcards and ephemera, the images include horse-drawn carts in the Butter Market, steam trains at the station, long-gone shop fronts and closed pubs, the aftermath of a Zeppelin raid in 1915 and a Suffolk Regiment procession through the town amongst other sights. 



Most surrounding villages are represented with pictures of Clare Priory, the main dining room of Culford Hall, a row of bonneted children on the bridge outside the Affleck Arms in Dalham, Ampton Hall in use as a WWI auxiliary rehabiliatation hospital, horse-drawn carriages on Newmarket High Street, a boy delivering a tray of loaves upon his head through Ixworth etc. 

Most of the cards bear local Post Office stamps – a thing of wonder in itself nowadays! 




Also included is an album of photographic carte-de-visite and studio portraits of local people by Bury photographers such as Spanton, Jarman, Aston and Clarke.  Unfortunately, the sitters are unidentified, but I’m sure I’ve seen some familiar facial features around the town… The portraits range from simple head and shoulders images to family shots and many with studio stage props (and possibly cherished personal items such as the young man holding up his bicycle).





Aside from the postcards, there is a large amount of written ephemera such as invoices and letterheads from former Bury St Edmunds businesses including Vale & Richardson watchmakers and jewellers (who made the Moyse’s Hall ‘town’ clock), the 1897 Christmas specialties price list for Thomas Ridley & Son grocers of Abbeygate Street which is still thriving (although no longer based in the town centre), Chas Bullen cabinet maker on the Butter Market, Westgate Brewery (Greene King), Charles William Tozer master plumber of Hatter Street, Catling printers of Lower Baxter Street, Robert Boby ironworks and many more.   



Most of the bills and receipts are for the West Suffolk County Club, which was rebuilt on the corner of Abbeygate Street and Hatter Street in 1893 (after a fire the previous year).  It was described in Kelly’s Directory as having reading and dining rooms, billiard and cards room, a ladies drawing room and a smoking room (hence the rather large receipt from Benjamin Christopher tobacconist and cigar merchant of 10 Abbeygate).  Records for the Club held in the Suffolk archives continue up until 1977 and the building is now Ming’s restaurant.



Another part of the collection contains items pertaining to the legendary 1907 Bury Pageant, which was reported in the national and international press.  This spectacular event included approximately 2000 performers (almost an 1/8th of the town’s population at the time) including local dignitaries playing historical figures ranging from Boudica entering the arena on a chariot through events which put Bury on the map such as the martyrdom of St Edmund and the signing of the Magna Carta.   Local artist Rose Mead designed a set of postcards for the event, several of which are included here, as well as photographic postcards and printed guides, together with a rare complete copy of the script of the pageant.


This is an absolute treasure trove of local history with many aspects for collectors and historians to explore (if you can drag your interest away from the intriguing messages on the backs of the postcards).   These tangible reminders of a bygone era in a very familiar setting provide so much more than an Instagram pout obscuring an important landmark and we hope that interested bidders will come along to the view on Friday 10th November 10am-7pm to see the collection for themselves – and maybe even bid to secure a snapshot of Bury St Edmund’s past. 


The collection can be viewed here and the full catalogue is online here



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