"St Albans - an Historic City" Top 5 Page for this destination St Albans by St_Vincent
St Albans Travel Guide: 184 reviews and 449 photos
St. Albans is the oldest city in Hertfordshire, located about 20 miles north of London and close to my home town of Watford. I often visit on a Sunday morning for a walk around the beautiful Verulamium Park and the surrounding areas. As an introduction I thought I would provide some details of its history.
It is thought that it first appeared as a Celtic Iron Age settlement called Verlamion at the end of the first century BC, probably taking its name from the nearby River Ver. Around AD 50 after the Roman conquest of Britain, it became Verulamium and eventually developed into the third largest town in Roman Britain despite being largely destroyed during the revolt of Boudicca in AD 60.
At some stage during the 3rd Century an event occurred that would eventually give St Albans its name and provide England's first Christian Martyr. A resident of Verulamium named Alban sheltered a Christian priest, thought to be named Amphibalus, in his home, and was converted to Christianity by him. When the Roman soldiers came looking for the priest Alban exchanged cloaks with him and was arrested in his stead. The priest escaped and when he was found out Alban refused to denounce his new Christian faith and was beheaded on the spot where St Albans Cathedral now stands.
Several legends are associated with Alban's beheading. One of these is that on his way to the execution, Alban had to cross a river, but as the bridge was blocked, he parted the waters and walked through. His executioner was so impressed with this feat that he converted to Christianity on the spot, and refused to kill Alban. Another executioner was however found and it is said that his eyes dropped out of his head when he beheaded Alban.
During the 5th Century when the Roman army departed, Verulamium declined and eventually fell into decay. It wasn't until 793 AD that an Abbey appeared on the spot of Alban's execution and over the ensuing years a Saxon settlement grew up around it, much of which was built using the remains of the Roman Verulamium. By the time of the Doomsday Book in 1086 St Albans was recorded as having a population of 500.
It soon became a town of great significance and was one of the five chosen by the barons and clergy in 1213 for the drafting of Magna Carta. St. Albans also played its part in the Peasant's revolt of 1381. The townspeople had been in dispute with the Abbot over milling rights and a desire to have more control of their affairs. The still present Monastery Gateway and Clock Tower symbolise the conflict between monastery and town at the time. The Monastery & Abbey were surrounded by walls to keep out the townspeople and stop them stealing the livestock, and the Clock Tower was built between 1403 and 1412 by the townspeople as a symbol of their independence from the church. This conflict continued until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1529.
In 1455 the First Battle of St Albans was said to be what started the War of the Roses. The Lancastrian army led by King Henry VI occupied the town but the Duke of Warwick and his Yorkists invaded and a great battle took place in the town.
St Albans sided with parliament during the English Civil War and in 1643 the High Sheriff of Hertfordshire was arrested by Cromwell after reading a royal proclamation from the steps of the Eleanor Cross outside the Clock Tower.
It wasn't until 1877 that St Albans received a royal charter allowing it to become a City and giving the Abbey Cathedral status. It's official name is now The Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban.
Present day St Albans has become a popular commuter town but also has great interest for the tourist with much of the area around the Abbey and Market Place retaining its medieval buildings dating from the 15th Century.
I hope you have enjoyed this introduction to St Albans, there will soon be many more photos and tips elsewhere on the page and I have also built a Travelogue if you want to follow one of my Sunday morning walks.
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