St Albans

St Albans

infobox UK place
country = England
latitude= 51.755
longitude= -0.336
official_name= St Albans
population= 64,038 [ [ Office for National Statistics, 2001 Census, Key Statistics for HCC Settlements #. Crown copyright. Table KS01 Usual resident population (numbers)] ]
shire_district= St Albans
shire_county = Hertfordshire
region= East of England
constituency_westminster= St Albans
post_town= ST ALBANS
postcode_district = AL1, AL2, AL3, AL4
postcode_area= AL
dial_code= 01727
os_grid_reference= TL148073

St Albans is the main urban area of the City and District of St Albans in southern Hertfordshire, England, around convert|22|mi|km north of central London. It was a settlement of pre Roman origin named "Verlamion" by the Ancient British, Catuvellauni tribe. It became the first major town on the old Roman road of Watling Street for travellers heading north and became the Roman city of Verulamium. St Alban, the first British Christian martyr, was beheaded sometime before AD 324 and gave it its modern name. It is an historic cathedral and market town, and is now a sought after dormitory town within the London commuter belt.

The locality

Apart from its historic core, St Albans is highly suburban in character, with much of its housing stock built in the inter-war years and during post-war expansion. Now entirely surrounded by the Metropolitan Green Belt, it is seeing significant 'infill' development and pressure to relax the Green Belt restrictions.

St Albans District (which also includes Harpenden) has house prices considerably above the national average. The most recent figures give an average house price of £328,820 [ BBC News—UK House Prices] —3 December 2007] against a national average of £199,184. St Albans city, according to figures from Nationwide Building Society, is currently considered to be the most expensive place to live in the UK outside Central London. [ [ Nationwide—2006 City Movers and Shakers] —1 January 2007] ibid] This is largely due to fast commuting to London, especially the City, by train. The local road transport network is another factor: St Albans is at the meeting point of the A5183 (the old A5 or Watling Street) and the A1081 (the old A6); the M25 runs east-west just south of the city; and both the M1, only a few miles to the west, and the A1(M), five miles (8 km) to the east, can provide fast connections to London and the north.

The council estimates that 20% of the working population travel to London to work, while local business provides 46,000 jobs of which around 46% are filled by inward commuters. The local economy is made up mainly of offices, small enterprises, retailing and tourism-based enterprises, 80% of which employ fewer than 10 staff. In the working population, 33% are employed in professional and managerial occupations. Self-employment in Hertfordshire runs at 15% of the workforce, compared with a UK average of 12%. There are two railway stations in St Albans. The City Station is about 820 yards (750 m)The imperial figure was calculated from an original value given in metric.] east of the city centre and is served by the Thameslink railway line, with trains (operated since April 2006 by First Capital Connect) to Bedford, Luton, London Luton Airport, London, Sutton, Wimbledon, London Gatwick Airport, and Brighton. The Abbey Station is about half a mile (1 km)as above] south of the city centre and is served by the "Abbey Flyer", operated by London Midland. A single train runs between St Albans and Watford Junction, starting a new round trip every 45 minutes during most of the day. This line is a historical accident, the result of the Earl of Verulam refusing to sell land to the railway company then driving North from Watford. Until 1964, there was a third station, St Albans (London Road), which served a former branch line to Hatfield. East Midlands Mainline 'intercity' services run through at speed from places such as Leicester, Nottingham, Lincoln, Sheffield and Leeds. They do not stop so connections have to be made at Luton or St Pancras International.
Uno buses route S4 and Green Line route 724 are the city's major bus services.

There is easy access to London Luton Airport by both rail and road. London Heathrow Airport is around a 30 to 45 minute road journey.

GCSE results for District schools show 63% of pupils achieving 5 A* - C grades, against a national average of around 46%. Schools include St Albans School, Francis Bacon School, St Albans High School for Girls, St Albans Girls' School (generally referred to as STAGS), Sandringham School, Beaumont School, Loreto College, Verulam School, Nicholas Breakspear School, St Columba's College and Townsend School.

The centre of the city suffers significant road traffic congestion because of the city's many small surrounding streets, high car use, inadequate roads, poor take-up and provision of local public transport, to persuade motorists to drive around rather than through the centre. The council estimates that 75% of traffic entering the city is through-traffic. From 2004 the problem was heavily exacerbated by a bungled series of road works, prompting severe criticism of Hertfordshire County Council's "Hertfordshire Highways" agency. In 2006 the Agency received further criticism for their incompetence and lack of accountability in the multi-million pound overspend and late delivery of works to the St Peter's Street area.

A street market is held in Market Place and St Peter's Street on Wednesdays and Saturdays, as it has been for many hundreds of years. There is also a monthly farmers' market, normally on the second Sunday, and a French market every four months.

St Albans is one of several places that, by repute, has the most pubs per square mile in the country (Edinburgh, Norwich, Nottingham, Otley and Rochdale are other claimants). It also claims to have the oldest pub in England (in which Sir Walter Raleigh is said to have stayed), named "Ye Olde Fighting Cocks" (Nottingham again providing a counter-claimant in "Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem").

The main free local weekly newspapers are "The Herts Advertiser", and the "St Albans and Harpenden Review". The sister title of the "Review" is the paid-for "St Albans Observer", which also has an edition for Harpenden. The "Herts Advertiser" celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2005.


The St Albans area has a long history of settlement. The Celtic Catuvellauni tribe had a settlement at Prae Hill a mile or so to the west. The Roman town of Verulamium, second-largest town in Roman Britain after Londinium, was built alongside this in the valley of the River Ver a little nearer to the present town centre.

After the Roman withdrawal, and prior to becoming known as St Albans, the town was called "Verlamchester" or "Wæclingacaester" by the Mercian Angles.

The mediaeval town grew up on the hill to the east of this around the Benedictine foundation of St Albans Abbey. This is the spot where tradition has it that St Alban, the first British Christian martyr, was beheaded sometime before AD 324. It was, at one time, the principal abbey in England and the first draft of Magna Carta was drawn up there, reflecting its political importance. The Abbey Church, now St Albans Cathedral (formally "the Cathedral & Abbey Church of St Alban" but still known locally as "The Abbey") became the parish church when it was bought by the local people in 1553, soon after the priory was dissolved in 1539. It was made a cathedral in 1877 when the City Charter was granted. There is evidence that the original site was somewhat higher up the hill than the present building and there had certainly been successive abbeys before the current building was started in 1077.

St Albans School, a public school which occupies a site to the west of the Abbey and which includes the 14th century Abbey Gateway, was founded in AD 948 and is the only school in the English-speaking world to have educated a Pope (Adrian IV). It numbered amongst its buildings until comparatively recently a converted former hat factory, a link with the town's industrial past. Nearby Luton was also a notable centre for the hat making industry.

The road between the Abbey and the school, running down to the River Ver and Verulamium Park (on part of the site of Roman Verulamium), is called Abbey Mill Lane. On this road are the palaces of the Bishops of St Albans and Hertford. "The Fighting Cocks" public house is at the Verulamium Park end of this road. Also on the River Ver, at the St Michael's Village end of the park, is Kingsbury watermill, which is now maintained as a museum with a waffle house attached.

The growth of St Albans was generally slow before the 20th century, reflecting its status as a rural market town, a pilgrimage site, and the first overnight coaching stop of the route to and from London - a fact which also accounts for its many inns, many dating from Tudor times. In the inter-war years it became a popular centre for the electronics industry. In the post-World War II years it was expanded significantly as part of the post-War redistribution of population out of Greater London that also saw the creation of new towns.

The city today shows evidence of building and excavation from all periods of its history and it is a tourist destination. Notable buildings include the Abbey and the early 15th century Clock Tower (pictured). The clock tower is one of only two similar towers in England; it is also the site of an Eleanor cross, which was pulled down in 1703 due to neglect, replaced by the town pump. A fountain was erected in its place in 1874, now relocated to Victoria Place. The popular singer Donovan is rumoured to have learnt to play the guitar outside the Clock Tower.Fact|date=January 2008

Running into St Albans from the south is Holywell Hill (generally pronounced "holly-well hill"), its name taken from the story of St Alban: legend has it that his severed head rolled down the hill from the execution site and into a well at the bottom (some versions have a well springing from the site at which the head stopped).

The mixed character of St Albans and proximity to London has made it a popular filming location. The Abbey and Fishpool Street areas were used for the pilot episode of the 1960s' ecclesiastical TV comedy "All Gas and Gaiters". The area of Romeland, directly north of the Abbey Gateway and the walls of the Abbey and school grounds, can be seen masquerading as part of an Oxford college in some episodes of "Inspector Morse" (and several local pubs also appear). Fishpool Street, running from Romeland to St Michael's village, stood in for Hastings in some episodes of "Foyle's War". "Life Begins" was filmed largely in and around St Albans. The Lady Chapel in the Abbey itself was used as a location for at least one scene in Sean Connery's 1995 film "First Knight", whilst the nave of the Abbey was used during a coronation scene as a substitute for Westminster Abbey in "Johnny English" starring Rowan Atkinson. The 19th century gatehouse of the former prison near the mainline station appeared in the title sequence of the TV series "Porridge", starring Ronnie Barker. The 2001 film "Birthday Girl" starring Ben Chaplin and Nicole Kidman was also partly filmed in St Albans.

More recently, several scenes from the upcoming film "Incendiary", starring Michelle Williams, Ewan McGregor and Matthew Macfadyen, were filmed in St Albans, focusing in particular on the Abbey and the Abbey Gateway.


St Albans is twinned with:
*Flagicon|Italy Fano, Italy
*Flagicon|Hungary Nyíregyháza, Hungary
*Flagicon|France Nevers, France
*Flagicon|Denmark Odense, Denmark
*Flagicon|Germany Worms, Germany
*Flagicon|Netherlands Nieuwleusen, Netherlands

In addition, there are "friendship links" with:
*Flagicon|Bangladesh Sylhet, Bangladesh


St Albans has a thriving cultural life, with regular concerts and theatre productions held at venues including St Albans Abbey, The Maltings Arts Theatre, [ [ The Maltings Arts Theatre, St Albans] ] the Alban Arena, the Abbey Theatre [ [ Abbey Theatre, St Albans] ] and St Saviour's Church, given by numerous organisations including St Albans Bach Choir, [ [ St Albans Bach Choir] ] St Albans Symphony Orchestra, [ [ St Albans Symphony Orchestra] ] St Albans Chamber Choir, [ [ St Albans Chamber Choir] ] St Albans Chamber Opera, [ [ St Albans Chamber Opera] ] The Company of Ten, [ [ The Company of Ten, St Albans] ] and St Albans Choral Society. [ [ St Albans Choral Society] ] There is also STARTS, [ [ STARTS - St Albans Arts] ]  a registered charity dedicated to raising the profile of all the arts in St Albans and enriching the city’s cultural environment.


In December 2006, Sport England published a survey which revealed that residents of St Albans were the 9th most active in England in sports and other fitness activities. 26.8% of the population participate at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes. [ [ Sport England—Active People Survey] ]

St Albans is home to one of the country's oldest and finest indoor skateparks, the Pioneer Skatepark in Heathlands Drive, next to the former fire station. Its ramps are available to all skateboarders and inliners. A new outside mini ramp was built in March 2005.

The local football team is St Albans City FC: its stadium is on the edge of Clarence Park and the team won promotion from the Conference South League in 2005-06. It played in the Nationwide Conference Division of the Football Conference for the 2006-07 season, but finished at the bottom of the table and was relegated. [ [,14387,,00.html Football Conference—Blue Square Premier Table] ]

St Albans Centurions rugby league club play at Cotlandswick, St Albans. They play in the Rugby League Conference Premier South division. There is also the Old Albanian Rugby Football Club, a rugby union club which has a large facility known as the Old Albanian sports complex or the Woollam Playing Fields to the north of the city centre and which is also the home of the Saracens A team and Zurich A League and OA Saints Women's Rugby Club (formally St Albans Women's RFC). St Albans RFC play at Boggymead Spring in Smallford, and Verulam Rugby Club (formerly Old Verulamians)] play in London Colney.

St Albans is also home to St Albans Hockey Club, [ [ St Albans Hockey Club] ] based in Clarence Park. The club is represented at National league level by both women's and men's teams, as well as other local league competitions. The club's nickname is "The Tangerines".

Clarence Park also plays host to St Albans Cricket Club. [ [ St Albans Cricket Club] ] The club currently runs four Saturday sides, playing in the Saracens Hertfordshire Cricket League and also two Sunday sides in the Chess Valley Cricket League.

St Albans is additionally home to a community of traceurs from around Hertfordshire. [ [ Hertfordshire Parkour ] ]

St Albans was once home to the then most prestigious steeplechase in England. The Great St Albans chase attracted the best horses and riders from across Britain and Ireland in the 1830s and was held in such high esteem that when it clashed with the 1837 Grand National the top horses and riders chose to bypass Aintree. Without warning the race was discontinued in 1839 and was quickly forgotten.


The secondary schools in the area are:

*Beaumont School
*Francis Bacon School
*Loreto College (Roman Catholic, girls)
*Marlborough School
*Nicholas Breakspear School (Roman Catholic)
*Sandringham School
*St Albans Girls' School
*Townsend School (Church of England)
*Verulam School


*St Albans High School for Girls
*St Albans School
*St Columba's College (Roman Catholic)

St Albans is the location of two campuses of Oaklands College and of a campus of the University of Hertfordshire.


*The Royal Navy has used six vessels with the name HMS "St Albans". As the current vessel is a Duke Class Type 23 frigate, its name is taken from the Duke of St Albans, rather than the city.
*The first meeting of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) was held in St Albans on 20th November 1972, at the "Farriers Arms" pub which has a blue plaque commemorating the event. The organisation still has its head office in Hatfield Road. The local branch holds an annual beer festival in St Albans. In recent years this has been a four day event starting on a Wednesday near the end of September.
*An experimental water tank was built alongside London Road, St Albans for the Vickers shipbuilding company in 1912 on a site measuring convert|680|ft|m by convert|100|ft|m. Three years later in 1915, the first private wind tunnel was also built here, but moved to their Weybridge works shortly after the First World War. From December 1918 the test tank was used in developing fuselage profiles for amphibious aircraft, such as the Vickers Type 54 Viking, completed during 1919.
* The 1957 April Fool's Day spoof edition of BBC documentary series "Panorama", which dealt with the fictitious Swiss spaghetti harvest, was filmed partly at the (now closed) Pasta Foods factory on London Road, St Albans.
* The 2001 film "Birthday Girl", featuring Nicole Kidman and Ben Chaplin, is set in St Albans.
* From 1808 to 1814 St Albans hosted a station in the shutter telegraph chain which connected the Admiralty in London to its naval ships in the port of Great Yarmouth.
* Chiswell Green, directly south of the City, is home to the Royal National Rose Society.
*A number of places across the world are named after the City of St Albans, most notably in Australia, New Zealand & the United States.
* St Albans was the name of a planet in the cult science-fiction television series "Firefly".
* In September 2007, St Albans replaced Mayfair as the most expensive square on a special UK "Here and Now Edition" Monopoly board, having won an internet vote.
* Until recently, St Albans was noted for having the most pubs per square mile in Britain.

Notable people

*Kate Allan (b. 1975), author, lived in St Albans
*Rod Argent (b. 1945), musician and songwriter. The Zombies (Argent with Colin Blunstone, Chris White, Paul Atkinson and Hugh Grundy) was formed while the members were at school in St Albans
*Dean Austin, former Spurs footballer, lives in nearby Chiswell Green
*Francis Bacon (1561-1626), noted philosopher, scientist and statesman, lived at Old Gorhambury House. Bacon was also styled "Viscount St Albans" from 1618
*Nicholas Bacon (1509-1579), Lord Keeper of the Great Seal under Queen Elizabeth I, built Old Gorhambury House
*James Lewis Baker (1976), record producer, artist and creative founder of Source Direct, born and lives in St Albans
* [ Bam-Caruso Records] was based in St Albans. This was the record company that issued the Rubble series
*William Henry Bell (1873-1946), musician, composer and first director of the South African College of Music
*Steve Blinkhorn (b. 1949), occupational psychologist, has lived in St Albans for many years
*Nicholas Breakspear (c.1100-1159), later Pope Adrian IV, born in Abbots Langley, attended school in St Albans
*Cheryl Campbell (b. 1949), actor
*Paul Cattermole (b. 1977), former member of S Club 7, was born in St Albans
*Ralph Chubb (1892-1960), eccentric lithographer
*Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (1660-1744), wife of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough and close friend of Queen Anne, was born in St Albans
*Chris Clark, electronic musician, attended school in St Albans. His 2001 debut album was named Clarence Park after the St Albans park of the same name.
*William Cowper, 1st Earl Cowper (c. 1665-1723), Lord Chancellor of England
*Enter Shikari, British post hardcore rock band, all members born and raised in St Albans
*David Essex (b. 1947), singer, lives in St Albans
*Siobhan Fahey (b. 1957), singer from Bananarama and Shakespear's Sister, attended Loreto College
*Les Ferdinand (b. 1966), England footballer, lives in nearby Bricket Wood
*Nigel Gibbs (b. 1965), former Watford, footballer was born in St Albans
*John Gosling (b. 1948), former member of The Kinks, now teaches music at a school in St Albans
*Edmund Beckett, 1st Baron Grimthorpe (Lord Grimthorpe) (1816-1905), lawyer, amateur horologist, and architect; best-known locally for rebuilding the west front of St Albans Cathedral in 1880-1885 at his own expense, but also designed Big Ben. Lived at Batchwood Hall
*Willis Hall (b. 1929), playwright and TV script writer, lived in St Albans for many years and was for a while president of St Albans City F.C.
*Tim Hart (b. 1948), musician and former guitarist in elelctric folk band Steeleye Span, lived in St Albans and attended St Albans School.
*John Hartson (b. 1975), former Celtic and AFC Wimbledon football player, now playing for West Bromwich Albion, used to live in St Albans with his wife and daughter
*Stephen Hawking (b. 1942), theoretical physicist, educated at St Albans School
*Christopher Herbert (b. 1944), 9th Bishop of St Albans 1995-
*Benny Hill (b. 1924-1992), TV comic, lived in St Albans
*Jimmy Hill (b. 1928), iconic TV presenter and football personality, used to live in St Albans
*Ian Holloway (b. 1963), Plymouth Argyle manager, used to live in St Albans
*Matthew Holness, English comedian better known as Garth Marenghi, lives in St Albans
*Alan Hyman, English jurisprudence expert and academic was educated at Beaumont School in St Albans
*Kurt Jackson, artist, lived in St Albans and attended Francis Bacon School as a teenager
*Jeffrey John (b. 1953), Dean of St Albans 2004-
*Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999), film auteur, resided in Childwickbury Manor, to the north-west of the town, from 1978 until his death
*Stephen Lander (b. 1947), former head of MI5, has lived in St Albans for many years
*Jules Levy (b. 1973), musician and songwriter. Lived and schooled in St Albans. Founding member of Bandwagon musical collective
*Christopher Lewis (b. 1944), Dean of St Albans 1994-2003
*Philip Madoc (b. 1934), actor, lives locally and is patron of three local organisations: Best Theatre Arts, The Abbey Theatre and St Albans Movie Makers
*John Mandeville (14th century), compiler of a singular book of supposed travels, allegedly born in St Albans
*Nigel Marven, television wildlife presenter, notably on Discovery Channel and ITV, was bought up in St Albans and attended Francis Bacon School
*Arthur Melbourne-Cooper (1874-1961), British film maker. Pioneer and innovator of the movie industry. Born in St Albans
*Michael Morpurgo (b. 1943), author, was born in St Albans
*Albert Moses (b. 1937), actor, producer and director, and star of British sitcom "Mind Your Language", lives in St Albans
*John Motson (b. 1945), football commentator, lived in St Albans (now lives in Harpenden)
*Herbert Mundin (1898-1939), Hollywood character actor, lived in St Albans from a young age and educated at St Albans School
*Roger Neighbour, doctor, communication expert, author and former President of the Royal College of General Practitioners
*Mike Newell (b. 1942), film director (incl. "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"), used to live in St Albans and attended St Albans School
*Ayan Panja (b. 1973), media doctor and writer, presenter on Street Doctor on BBC1
*Matthew Paris (c.1200-1259), Benedictine monk, chronicler of the history of St Albans Abbey
*Rupert Parkes (b. 1972) a.k.a. Photek, record producer and DJ, was born in St Albans
*Allan Prior (1922-2006), TV script writer, co-creator of Z Cars and writer of "The Charmer" and father of Maddy Prior (b. 1947), lived in St Albans (and Maddy grew up here)
*Chris Read (b.1978), England Test cricket wicket-keeper, lives in St Albans
*Tim Rice (b. 1944), lyricist, attended St Albans School
*Ian Ridley, chief football writer of "The Mail on Sunday", lives in St Albans and is on the board of St Albans City F.C.
*Jim Rodford (b. 1941), musician, member of Argent and The Kinks and cousin of Rod Argent
*James Runcie, author, film maker, and son of Robert Runcie, lives in St Albans
*Robert Runcie (1921-2000), Bishop of St Albans 1970-1980, later Archbishop of Canterbury 1980-1991
*Samuel Ryder (1858-1936), seed merchant, founder of the Ryder Cup
*George Gilbert Scott (1811-1878), Gothic Revival architect, restored St Albans Abbey 1856-1877
*John Sessions (b. 1953), actor and comedian, attended St Albans Boys' Grammar School (now Verulam School) and is a patron of St Albans Arts, along with Maddy Prior
*Gilberto Silva (b. 1976), Brazilian footballer who plays for Arsenal FC, lives in St Albans
*Jonathan Stroud (b. 1970), author of the bestselling Bartimaeus Trilogy, lives in St Albans
*Cuthbert Thicknesse (1887-1971), 4th Dean of St Albans Cathedral 1936-1955, objected to the use of nuclear weapons in August 1945 by refusing to let the cathedral's bells be rung on VJ Day
*Ulsinus (fl. 10th century), Abbot of St Albans Abbey, reputed founder in 948 of St Albans School, and St Michael's, St Peter's and St Stephen's churches
*Richard of Wallingford (1292-1336), Abbot of St Albans Abbey, mathematician, horologist and astronomer
*Charles Williams (1886-1945), writer and publisher, lived in St Albans 1894-1917 and attended St Albans School
*Graham Frederick Young (1947-1990), the infamous "Teacup Poisoner", tried at St Albans Crown Court in 1972
*Yevgeny Zamyatin (1884-1937), novelist, lived in Fleetville after the Russian Revolution. His 1921 novel "We", a story of a dystopian future which influenced George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four", Ayn Rand's "Anthem", and Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World", was influenced by his experiences in HertfordshireFact|date=August 2007

ee also

*St Albans (UK Parliament constituency)
*Sopwell Priory
*Sopwell House

Nearby towns & villages

*Abbots Langley
*Bricket Wood
*Chiswell Green
*Colney Street
*Hemel Hempstead
*London Colney
*Park Street
*St Stephens

Notes and references

External links

* [ St Albans official website]
* [ Herts Advertiser newspaper]
* [ St Albans Observer newspaper]
* [ St Albans & Harpenden Review newspaper]
* [ Photos of St Albans]
* [ The Cathedral & Abbey Church of St Alban]
* [ St Albans Symphony Orchestra]
* [ St Albans Museums]
* [ St Albans Arts (STARTS) - Official website]
* Diocesan House, St Albans
* Verulam House, St Albans
* [ Best Theatre Arts - theatre school for children aged 4-16]

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