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Moyses Hall Museum, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

(52°14′47″N, 0°42′46″E)
Bury St Edmunds
TL 853 644
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Suffolk
now Suffolk
  • Ron Baxter
19 February 2017

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Moyses Hall is a late-12thc secular building in the centre of Bury St Edmunds, facing the former Corn Market (now Cornhill) to the S and the Beast Market, or Hog Hill to the E. The main S front has 2 gables; the E with the flat buttresses typical of 12thc work. Construction is of flint rubble with Barnack ashlar dressings; the same expensive materials as were used in the contemporary abbey works, and it has thus been suggested (see Sandon 1977) that it was originally an abbey building. In 1804 the E wall collapsed and was rebuilt. It is now plain but formerly had flat buttresses and round-headed windows (shown in a print of 1748). In 1858 it was restored by G. G. Scott, who added the clock and bell turret to the E gable.

The original plan was a 2 compartment structure on 2 storeys, with a hall (E side) and solar (W side) above unusually tall vaulted undercrofts at ground level. The E undercroft, 2 bays wide and 3 deep, is groin vaulted with cylindrical piers as described below, while the W undercroft has a single row of 3 bays.

In addition to the fabric of Moyses Hall itself, this report includes the Romanesque stone sculpture held by the museum. Most of the objects described here are demonstrably from Bury St Edmunds Abbey, which has its own report. The abbey was in the possession of the Marquises of Bristol from 1806-1953, and the name of the 3rd Marquis, Frederick William John Hervey (1834-1907), is recorded as the donor of several pieces in the collection.


Whatever the Hall's original use, it certainly passed into domestic use later, and was a merchant’s house between 1514 and 1626, when it was sold to the Guildhall Feoffment Trust, effectively a municipal charitable foundation. It was used as the town gaol and workhouse, then by 1812 a police station. The police moved out in 1892, and Moyse’s Hall became a railway parcels office. Since 1899 it has been a Borough Museum.


Exterior Features


Interior Features

Vaulting/Roof Supports

Interior Decoration


Loose Sculpture


J. Bettley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England, Suffolk: West, New Haven and London 2015, 145-46.

Historic England Listed Building 466766

J. Meredith, The Impact of Italy on The Romanesque Architectural Sculpture of England. Doctoral dissertation, Yale University 1980.

E. Sandon, Suffolk Houses: A Study of Domestic Architecture, Woodbridge 1977, 37-38.

Suffolk Historic Environment Record BSE 024

M. Wood, The English Medieval House, London 1965 (reprinted 1983), 5-6, 9, 19, 83.

M. E. Wood and H. J. M. Maltby, 'Moyses Hall: A Description of the Building', Archaeological Journal , CVIII: 1 (1952), 165-67.

R. Yates, An Illustration of the Monastic History and Antiquities of the Town and Abbey of St. Edmunds', Bury, London 1805. Also published as Part II of History and Antiquities of Bury St Edmunds, 2nd Edition, London 1843 .

G. Zarnecki, 'Romanesque Objects at Bury St. Edmunds', Apollo, LXXXV (1967), 407-13.

  1. G. Zarnecki, J. Holt and T. Holland (ed.), English Romanesque Art 1066-1200. Exhibition catalogue London (Arts Council / Hayward Gallery) 1984, 181-82.

G. Zarnecki, Romanesque Lincoln: the Sculpture of the Cathedral, Lincoln 1988.

G. Zarnecki, 'A Newly Discovered Head from Bury St Edmunds Abbey', in Arte d'Occidente: studi in onore di Angiola Maria Romanini, Rome 1999, 319-26.