Piecing together the Bury St Edmunds Round House

The re-erection of the old Round House that stood in Bury St Edmunds Cattle Market is an intriguing component of the current redevelopment at MEAL. Built in 1864 and sometimes referred to as the Settling House, the building was used to settle accounts between farmers and a merchants on market day. The building also had a licence to sell ‘ buns and ginger beer’. The building was dismantled in 2007 to make way for the ARC a modern shopping centre.

The Round House was delivered to MEAL in a packing crate in 2009 having been meticulously dismantled by the works department of St Edmundsbury Borough Council. Last week, our builders Haymills began to unpack the building to check that all the pieces are there, they are relishing the challenge of fitting the jigsaw together.

Deciding upon the final resting place for the Round House was not without conjecture. Many people wanted it to remain in Bury, re-located on another site in town. Both cost and lack of appropriate location precluded St Edmundsbury Borough Council from resiting the building. The museum will treat the building with the care and attention it deserves as its placed near to the Robert Boby building an 1860s workshop from Bury St Edmunds.

The Round House was a connector of rural life and the market town a place where town and country came together to do business and renew friendships. Its demise, long after the Cattle Market in Bury St Edmunds ceased to be, signifies the passing of the Market Town as a hub for local trading. The local economy and society of towns like Bury and Stowmarket is no longer based on agriculture or land based industry, but on services, light industry and tourism. Few of the members of the very nice Bury Farmers Club are farmers. The Settling House is as much a remnant of the past as the museum’s obsolete traction engines and threshing machines. However rather than it be seen as a curious little building, the Round House should remind us of the days when our market towns were more than just glorified shopping centres.

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4 Responses to Piecing together the Bury St Edmunds Round House

  1. Laura Graham says:

    Hi Tony,

    Were there any particular conservation related challenges with this building? The early photos show the structure as quite tatty in the car park, was that just aesthetic and solved by a coat of paint or were there any further issues? Were there any portions or materials that needed to be completely replaced?

    Did you see it before it went into storage? Where was the container it was stored in housed? Inside/outside?

    Very best,
    Laura

    • tonybutler1 says:

      The building was not listed. Most of the timber frame was re-used but at least half of the facing had to be replaced. Around half of the eaves we fabricated new. Probably half the building is new. We did inspect the building in the old cattle market and it wasn’t in great shape. That said what was left of the building was very carefully dismantled by St Edmundsbury Council. The container was stored on our site and we inspected the dismantled building regularly to check for deterioration. Most of the damage had been done by neglect in the preceding 15 years.

      The one sadness was that the counter which ran across the centre of the building was not salvaged by the council before it came to the museum

      • Laura Graham says:

        HI Tony,

        I hope you don’t mind – a few more questions!

        1. What was the original floor made out of in Bury St Edmunds, and why did you choose to go with a what appears to be a modern concrete base?

        2. I have been told the roof has been victim to several bouts of vandalism whilst at the museum. How different does the current roof look from how it was when it was first reconstructed – as I understand it, it was initially reconstructed as it would have been originally in Bury cattle market, but after the lead (?) was stolen repeatedly, you replaced the ridges with tiles.

        Many thanks for you help
        Laura

      • Laura Graham says:

        Hi Tony,

        One final question – thank you for your patience!

        The white paint on the external surfaces, what type is it? Did the museum colour match with the original paint, or actually use paint made from a 19th Century recipe to conform to the age of the building?

        Many thanks
        Laura

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