The Foxearth and District Local History Society

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Meetings, announcements and notices for the Foxearth and District Local History Society, and associated organisations. For details of our activities, and for more information on recent events and current programme, please contact Clare Mathieson 01787 311337 or Lynda Rumble 01787 281434.

Cupola House at Bury St Edmunds Tuesday 10th September 2019


The District Society met on Tuesday 10th September to hear Dr Pat Murrell talk about the history of one of Bury St Edmunds most historic buildings - Cupola House. Dr Murrell briefly explained her own background as an historian working mostly in adult education and with a particular interest in the Stuart era. Influenced by the enthusiasm of an architect friend who was keen to restore the building she became involved in researching the building in about 2003 and was particularly fascinated to delve into the families that lived there. At this time the building was deemed to be "at risk" but restorative work removed it from this register in 6 months.

The two timber-framed buildings from which the house was developed were constructed in the early 17th century and came into the ownership of a prosperous apothecary, Thomas Macro (born 1616). Thomas became a significant figure in local society serving on the "elite"body of 37 men who governed the city and elected the Member of Parliament. His son - also Thomas - followed his father into the profession and he married Susan Cox in 1679 whereupon the building came to him. He amalgamated the two buildings inro one adding numerous baroque features including a wrought iron balcony and the cupola. This work was completed in 1693 and the result must have looked extremely impressive.. The cupola added considerable height and was an obvious landmark intended to command attention as a sign of prestige as well as providing a viewing chamber for visitors. The noted traveller, Celia Fiennes recorded the splendour of the construction as an example of"the new mode of building". The house remained the property of the Macro family until the mid 18th century by which time the apothecary's business had long eased to exist. Thomas (jnr) had moved on to higher things being three-times mayor of the borough and High Sheriff. After a short occupancy by one Thomas Moyle it was sold to Robert Hockley in 1757 where it was used for his grocery business; Hockley established a liquor trade which was extended by subsequent owners and leasees with the premises eventually passing to the Clarkes brewery (later Greene King). In 2002 the building became privately owned and was used - after some restoration -as a bar and restaurant. Its styling as Cupola House occurred in Victorian times and when listing came in it was accorded Grade 1 status.

In 2012 - to the great distress of local folk - Cupola house was considerably damaged by a fire and a further restoration project was organised. This consisted of a steel framework to support the structure but the 18th century facade was able to be saved preserving the building's external appearance and justifying its new Grade 2 listing.It reopened a a restaurant in 2017. On behalf of about 25 members and guests Dr Murrell was warmly thanked by Secretary Clare Mathieson for her contribution to an interesting evening.

Next meeting Tuesday 15th October 7.30pm when Ian Mcmillan will speak about the history of Liston Hall

Ken Nice

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