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BURY ST EDMUNDS: SHRINE OF A KING, CRADLE OF THE LAW - AND NOW HOME OF THE WORLD'S FIRST INTERNET BENCH

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The world's first 'internet bench' has been unveiled in the birthplace of the Magna Carta - the Abbey Gardens in Bu...
The world's first 'internet bench' has been unveiled in the birthplace of the Magna Carta - the Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds.

Website MSN.co.uk chose St Edmundsbury for the pilot 'cyber seat' from applications from local authorities around the UK. The borough council's parks manager, Jean English, entered a brief poem which caught the eye of MSN for its enthusiasm and vision, and the decision was made when they saw the Abbey Gardens for themselves.

To launch the free-to-use seat, the mayor of St Edmundsbury, Brian Bagnall,

sent the first email from the internet bench.

Working in partnership with the council, MSN has converted a standard park bench to

create the unique internet bench, which allows up to four people to log on to the web with their laptops at the same time.

Stuart Anderson, marketing manager at MSN, said: 'We're grateful to St Edmundsbury BC for helping us offer an attractive outdoor environment from which to access the internet. The internet bench supports our vision of making the web relevant and indispensable to our daily lives, and we'll be interested to see how people react to it.'

Cllr Bagnall, said: 'People might be surprised that we've located a 21st century cyber seat in the grounds of an 11th century Abbey, but Bury St Edmunds is proud to be the only town in the world that can offer this unique opportunity to use the web outdoors. With its Nations in Bloom wins as 'best small town in the world', Bury St Edmunds is no shrinking violet and I'm delighted that local people and tourists can now email - or even beam pictures of our beautiful borough - anywhere in the world.'

Following its second Britain in Bloom title in 1999, Bury St Edmunds won two 'Green

Oscars' in the international Nations in Bloom competition in 1999 and 2000.

Georgian essayist and traveller William Cobbett called Bury St Edmunds 'the nicest town in the world', while Robinson Crusoe author Daniel Defoe described it as 'a town famed for its pleasant situation and wholesome air'. In Pickwick Papers, Victorian author Charles Dickens described it as 'a handsome little town, of thriving and cleanly appearance', a description which could still apply today.

The town has a long and distinguished history, having grown around the shrine of Edmund, the 9th century king of the East Angles, which was transformed into the great abbey of St Edmund. It became a centre of holy pilgrimage and one of the most powerful abbeys in mediaeval Europe. The abbey was dissolved in 1539 under King Henry VIII, whose sister, Mary Tudor, is buried in St Mary's Church. St Edmundsbury Cathedral, built around 1500, is the last unfinished cathedral in England: a four-year project is now under way to add a long-awaited tower.

It is said that, in 1214, twenty-five barons met at the Abbey and, one by one, swore an oath at the high altar to force King John to accept the Charter of Liberties - which would become known as the Magna Carta. The motto of Bury St Edmunds translates as 'Shrine of a King, Cradle of the Law'.

The spectacular Abbey Gardens, the jewel in Bury St Edmunds crown, cover the Abbey's

Great Court with 64 island flower beds, riverside walk, herb garden, aviaries, tea room, rose garden, trees dating back to the 1830s, children's playground, the ruins of the once mighty mediaeval Abbey - and now, the world's first 'internet bench'.

Mr Bagnall added: 'The Abbey Gardens are the perfect location for the internet bench. The Bury Bible, a hand illuminated 12th century document, is believed to have been created here at the Abbey of St Edmund. Surfing the web is the 21st century equivalent of reading a book, and a beautiful park is the ideal place for it this summer.'

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