Phil and I met when we were both working in the Operating theatres of hospitals down south. Hemel Hempstead and St. Albans were sister hospitals which became a trust, and we worked in both. This was back in 1987 through to about 1992 or thereabouts when Phil had to come back up North. We’ve often spoken about going back to visit our old haunts, and at the beginning of May we had a weekend down there doing just that. Of course, I took the Fuji, but also took the Minolta Riva Mini and some Fujifilm Experia 400. We stayed in St.Albans and as well as old haunts we visited places we never got to see while living there. One such place was St.Albans Cathedral, but I shot that in digital and there’ll be a report on the Universe blog about that eventually, but I deliberately shot St.Albans town with the Riva.
The History Bit
St.Albans, of course, is possibly more famous as Verulamium in the days when Romans ruled over Britain and Boudicca decided to raze it to the ground and sack the place in AD60. This was in retaliation for the subjugation of her tribe the Iceni, the rape of her daughters and of her being flogged, though that’s a really short version of the story. A few traces of the Roman city remain visible, such as parts of the city walls, a hypocaust – still in situ under a mosaic floor, and the theatre, which is on land belonging to the Earl of Verulam, as well as items in the excellent museum. More remains under the nearby agricultural land have never been excavated and were for a while seriously threatened by deep ploughing. (That’s plowing to my USA readers 🙂 )
The Anglo-Saxons took over when the Romans skedaddled and changed its name to Wæclingaceaster (“the former Roman fortification of the Wæclingas, who were the next tribe along the line.”) I’m pronouncing that as “Wake-ling-acaster- in my head but I have no idea what Anglo-Saxon words sound like!
St.Alban was already dead and saintified before this, but I’ll go into his story when I post the cathedral shots over on the Universe blog. It was the anglo-saxons who founded St.Albans Abbey on the hill outside the Roman city where it was believed St Alban was buried.
Then we get to the medieval era and enter Abbot Ulsinus (known as Wulsin). Now he was like a mega-builder and architect as well as being a churchy guy. He was the Abbot of St.Albans Abbey, and also founded St.Albans Market, built churches at the three entrances to the town, and diverted Watling Street, which linked St Stephen’s and St Michael’s churches, in order to bring traffic through the town centre (the abbey owned the market rights and also charged tolls). He set up market days on Wednesday’s and Saturday’s, and they still go on today. He also founded St.Albans School in 948, and guess what? That’s still going too. It’s not only the oldest school in Hertfordshire but also one of the oldest in the world.
Between 1403 and 1412 Thomas Wolvey was engaged to build a clock tower in the Market Place. It’s a square building of four stories of flint rubble with stone corners. (They’re called quoins apparently.) It’s the only medieval town belfry left in England now. It contains two bells, the larger of which bears the mark of one of two London founders, William and Robert Burford, who were working at Aldgate between 1371 and 1418. It has an inscription in gothic capitals
MISSI DE CELIS HABEO NOMEN GABRIELIS.
Which I think means something like “my name is Gabriel” as it was named after Archangel Gabriel, and it weighs a ton. Literally. The bell, not the angel. Though I really don’t know how much Archangels weigh. The bell was rung every night after its insertion, at 8pm and I know it was a bit annoying to the people nearby, as eventually they whinged about it in 1861 and that stopped. Even more annoyingly it was also rung at 4am to get the townspeople up for work. I personally would have climbed the tower and chucked the ringer off the top of it.
Founded by Wulsin, nothing remains of the original Saxon building and no records exist of St Peter’s Church for nearly 200 years after its foundation. It was during the 13th century that the church assumed the form which it retained until the early 19th century. Then a chap called Lord Grimthorpe, (read about him here)or if you want his full title, Edmund Beckett, 1st Baron Grimthorpe, QC (12 May 1816 – 29 April 1905), known previously as Sir Edmund Beckett, 5th Baronet and Edmund Beckett Denison, who was a “lawyer, mechanician and controversialist” as well as a noted horologist and architect, came along in 1893 and took it upon himself to restore St Peter’s at his own expense.
It was a lovely churchyard to wander around, with some seriously old graves. In the good old days our landed gentry and aristocrats were quite philanthropic, not so much these days.
In the evening we went for our evening meal at a pub who’s name escapes me,
but it had a lovely outdoor area
and that’s the end of the film shots I took around St.Albans.