The Market Cross is a building of great historical significance and considerable architectural interest. Standing guard over the market place, it has witnessed centuries of social change as well as commercial and cultural activity. From 1734 to 1818 it was used for the Duke of Grafton's Company of Comedians, which originated in Cambridge (perhaps the forerunners of the 'Cambridge Footlights'?). It was subsequently used as a public room for concerts and recitals and has been home to the Bury St Edmunds Art Gallery Trust since 1971.
Inspired by the 10th and 11th Dukes of Grafton, a sum of £15,000 was raised by public subscription to restore the top floor of the Market Cross to its original Robert Adam splendour and to establish it as a centre for the Arts. The rooms were officially opened in 1972 by Sir John Wolfenden (Director of the British Museum) with a loan exhibition entitled 200 years of Suffolk Art from Gainsborough to Munnings. Prime examples of the work of Gainsborough, George Frost, John Constable, Thomas Churchyard, Edward and Thomas Smythe, John Moore, Alfred Munnings and many others were on view. thus setting the scene for the ensuing years.