Thursday, 23 May 2019

St Albans Clocktower


Thanks for visiting.

There's a wonderful view from the top of the Clock tower - it's not too high, no wobbly bits, it's very safe although the 93 steps up are really narrow.  There's room for a breather on the way up as the Clock and bells are on display.  Built by 1412, its bell has survived for 600 years, ringing out to give the alarm during the first battle of St Albans during the War of the Roses, it rang out for Queen Victoria's funeral and the Curfew in 1863.

From the top you can see the lovely countryside.  Even the market is on with its stripy yellow and blue canopies.

Only open at weekends, £1 entry.


Wednesday, 22 May 2019



Thanks for calling in.

St Albans has a rich history and used to be the third largest Roman town, Verulamium.  These days the Roman town has been replaced by a wonderful park full of amenities, wonderful trees and lakes with the River Ver running through.  There are still some remnants of Roman days  including part of the town wall.

There's a Museum too but we'll have a look at the Roman Theatre which is on the land of the Earls of Verulam, Gorhambury round the corner first.

It was built in 140AD and is a theatre with a stage rather than an amphitheatre.

It's a very atmospheric location in the countryside with other excavations available to view.

Back at the Museum, the stand out displays for me were the original wall decoration and mosaics although there were plenty of other finds to admire.

What fabulous, intricate designs!

Within Verulamium Park another mosaic is covered in situ where you can see the hypocaust for underfloor heating.

How fantastic that these treasures have lasted so long. 

The town was sacked and burnt by Boudica of the Iceni tribe in 61 AD but Verulamium recovered and had doubled in size by 140 AD, continuing to grow until the end of the Roman occupation.

It just makes you wonder what is yet to be discovered underneath the park and even though a lot of the building materials were used to build St Albans City, items are still being unearthed around the area.

There is a charge to visit the Theatre and Museum.


Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Things aren't What They Seem to be!


Thanks for popping in.

Taking a walk out of St Albans following the beautiful River Ver which is more a crystal clear chalk stream, you'll find yourself by some ruins on the site of the 12th Century Sopwell Nunnery.  The ruins are actually from a Tudor country house, Lee Hall, which belonged to Richard Lee one of Henry VIII's advisors.

It's a really beautiful place full of wild flowers and leafy trees.

Another interesting building with a cannon in the gardens caught our eye which nowadays is the Registery Office.  We wondered if it was a barracks but it seems that it was an outside prison at one time, with 99 cells for 85 men and 14 women.  They adopted the silent system where prisoners could mix but not speak to each other.  There was a treadmill to keep 32 prisoners busy pumping water to the prison and they also picked oakham - pulling ropes apart.  Not a very popular place.

We stumbled across the Alban Way, a 6.5 mile cycle/footpath along the old railway tracks from St Albans to Hatfield.  It's a beautiful green corridor full of cow parsley.  You can even see the sign for Salvation Army Halt where the train stopped for the Messrs Sander & Sons orchid growing business and later the Salvation Army printing works.  It was active from 1897 til 1951.

It's amazing what you find when you are wandering about!


Monday, 20 May 2019

The Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban


Thanks for calling in.

This week we're pootling around St Albans and what better place to start than the Cathedral or Abbey, the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in Britain founded over the burial place of Britain's first Saint, Alban. 

Like many of the places to visit in St Albans, you can enjoy a look around the Abbey free of charge, let's have a look.

Even from the outside, the Abbey is a mixture of different styles of stone and brickwork.  The old Roman town of Verulamium was very close so the bricks from the dilapidated buildings were used together with flint to add strength.

Here's a British History Online plan of the Abbey as it is quite a complicated building with towers and different sections.

The beautiful Rose Window is a fairly new addition having been made by Alan Younger in 1989 and unveiled by Diana, Princess of Wales.

Another first for the Abbey is that it has the longest nave in Britain at 85 metres.

The whole Abbey has some beautiful ceilings.  The one below is the oldest and the next is a modern copy of the next oldest which is still protected underneath.

Looking towards the West Door through the choir, another plainer ceiling stretches out overhead.

The original 14th Century rood screen but with later statues looks impressive, behind which is the Shrine.

The Shrine of St Alban is a site of  National Pilgrimage with people visiting for 1700 years.  St Alban lived in Verulamium and saved a Christian priest from persecution by swapping cloaks with him and being put to death in his place.

From the Watching Loft below, monks and townspeople kept watch over the Shrine.

The Lady Chapel was added on in the 14th Century and is dedicated to Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

There are beautiful stained glass windows.

Sadly the treasured medieval wall paintings in the Nave are not what they used to be but stunning nonetheless considering they come from the 12th-16th Century.

This collage in the Nave shows the building of the Abbey.

The long Nave is enormous and you can see over the screen to the other part of the Abbey.

The modern day statues are coloured as they would have been in days gone by.

Looking outside, the building has many shapes from each angle.  The Great Crossing Tower is 11th Century, it's always wonderful to hear the bells around the City reminding everyone the Abbey is there and has been for a very long time.

Buried in the graveyard are Robert Runcie, former Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Grimthorpe who provided funds for much of the restoration work.  I believe the gargoyle is the Queen Mother and there's also one of Robert Runcie too.

The Vintry Gardens and grounds are beautiful places to sit and reflect or have your lunch.

Finally, the Abbey Gateway is nearby, now part of the Abbey School.  It was part of the Benedictine Monastery and was built in 1365.

You can't help but think about all the people that have been involved with the Abbey through the Centuries, those that built it and now the schoolchildren enjoying activities to learn about the past, all uniting through one good cause above themselves.