© 2017 John Lucas

Lydgate  {Info Link}

John Lydgate of Bury (1370 – 1451) was a monk and poet, born in Lidgate, just west of Bury St Edmunds. As he takes his name from the village it can safely be assumed he was from the family of Lidgate Castle which dates from 1100s

St. Edmund, King and Martyr, ca. 840-869; King of the East Angles from about 865. In 869 his kingdom was invaded by Vikings ("Danes") and Edmund himself was captured. He was offered his life if he would consent to share the throne with one of the invaders; he refused to become the vassal king of a pagan, and he was used as an archery target by the invaders before finally being beheaded (20 Nov. 869; the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle gives the year as 870 according to the Chronicler's practice of numbering years as though they began on 24 Sept. instead of the following 1 Jan.). His cult began almost immediately, the first reported miracle being the protection of the lost head by a ferocious wolf; in some accounts the wolf, in other accounts the decapitated head, cried "Here" until it was found by those who were searching for it. Edmund was originally buried near the site of his martyrdom, but sometime before 945 his body was translated to the monastery at Beodericsworth; it quickly became a significant pilgrimage site, and eventually the town changed its name to Bury St. Edmunds.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is the oldest historical record of Edmund's death, having been compiled about 890, but in all versions of the Chronicle it is very short on detail; indeed, the Chronicle account is not clear whether Edmund died in battle or was slain after a battle, but either way it is not entirely consistent with the story of Edmund's death as told by the hagiographers beginning with Abbo and Aelfric.

There is some uncertainty as to the place of Edmund's death and first burial: it has traditionally been identified as Hoxne, but the earliest life of Edmund, by Abbo (in the tenth century) more credibly identified the place as Haegelisdun (modern "Hellesdon"). There is a Hellesdon near Norwich but it seems unlikely that Edmund would have gone in that direction in order to encounter the Danes since they had invaded East Anglia from inland and were wintering at Thetford (12 miles due north of Bury, having marched from the north through Mercia. S. E. West argues that the location could be a field called "Hellesden Ley" [on a tithe map of the 1840s] near Bradfield St. Clare, eight miles SE of Bury St. Edmunds according to Archdeacon Hermann's life of Edmund, written in the late eleventh century, the king was buried at a place called Sutton, and there was a manor called "Sutton Hall" in the parish of Bradfield St. Clare, which may help to confirm Bradfield St. Clare as the site of Edmund's martyrdom.

It can be reasonably established that Edmund succeeded to East Anglia immediately, or very soon, after a king called Æthelweard, and was the king reigning when the Danes arrived in 865; that he fought an unsuccessful battle against the army which was wintering at Thetford, under Hinguar's [Ivar's] leadership, in the autumn of 869, and was cruelly killed by them after the battle on 20 November. It is possibly true that Hinguar was a son of a viking Ragnar Lothbrok about whom a great legend grew up. Edmund's cult was well-established before the century closed. His martyrdom attracted the attention of King Æthelstan, and it may have been in his reign that the translation to Bury occurred.

The tree at which tradition declared Edmund to have been slain stood in the park at Hoxne until 1849, when it fell. In the course of its breaking up an arrow-head was found embedded in the trunk. A clergyman who had a church which was dedicated to St. Eadmund begged a piece of the tree, and it now forms part of his communion-table. Another portion is in the possession of Lady Bateman of Oakley Hall.