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St Albans ( ) is a city in southern Hertfordshiremarker, Englandmarker, around north of central Londonmarker, which forms the main urban area of the City and District of St Albansmarker. 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 Streetmarker for travellers heading north and became the Roman city of Verulamiummarker.Saint Alban, the first British Christian martyr, was beheaded sometime before AD 324 and gave it its modern name. It is a historic cathedral and market town, and is now a sought-after dormitory town within the London commuter belt.


The 15th century Clock Tower
The west end of the Cathedral & Abbey Church
Remains of Roman wall
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 Verulamiummarker, second-largest town in Roman Britain after Londiniummarker, was built alongside this in the valley of the River Vermarker 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 Anglesmarker.

The mediaeval town grew up on the hill to the east of this around the Benedictine foundation of St Albans Abbeymarker. 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 Cathedralmarker (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 Schoolmarker, 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 Lutonmarker was also a notable centre for the hat making industry.

The road between the Abbey and the school, running down to the River Vermarker and Verulamium Parkmarker (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 Cocksmarker 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 Londonmarker - 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 Londonmarker that also saw the creation of new towns.

The city today shows evidence of building and excavation from all periods of its history and 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.

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 Hastingsmarker 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 Abbeymarker in Johnny English starring Rowan Atkinson. The 19th century gatehouse of the former prison near the mainline stationmarker 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 experiences an oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb) similar to almost all of the United Kingdom.


St Albans is twinned with:

In addition, there are friendship links with:


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 Alban Arena, the Abbey Theatre St Peter's Church and St Saviour's Church, given by numerous organisations including St Albans Bach Choir, St Albans Symphony Orchestra, St Albans Chamber Choir, St Albans Chamber Opera, The Company of Ten, St Albans Choral Society. and The St Albans Organ Theatre, There is also STARTS, a registered charity dedicated to raising the profile of all the arts in St Albans and enriching the city’s cultural environment. Also the Sandpit Theatre is a Theatre attached to Sandringham School which hosts a wide variety of plays throughout the year, mainly performances put on by the pupils of sandringham school.


In December 2007, Sport England published a survey which revealed that residents of St Albans were the 10th most active in England in sports and other fitness activities. 30.8% of the population participate at least 3 times a week for 90 minutes.

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. A second outdoor mini ramp was opened at Easter 2009.

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.

St Albans Centurions rugby league club play at Cotlandswick, St Albans. They play in the Rugby League Conference Premier South division. In 2007 'The Cents' as they are known, became National Champions of the RLC Premier Divisions. 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 also hosts the main offices of the Guinness Premiership club Saracens (however, Saracens train in Hatfieldmarker and play home matches in Watfordmarker). 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 Colneymarker.

St Albans is also home to St Albans Hockey Club, based in Clarence Parkmarker. 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. 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. In 2008 the club's 1st XI won the Hertfordshire League Title.

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

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 Aintreemarker. Without warning the race was discontinued in 1839 and was quickly forgotten.


The secondary schools in the area are:



St Albans is the location of two campuses of Oaklands Collegemarker and of a campus of the University of Hertfordshiremarker.

Notable people


  • 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 marker was held in St Albans on 20 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 by . Three years later in 1915, the first private wind tunnel was also built here, but moved to their Weybridgemarker 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 Londonmarker to its naval ships in the port of Great Yarmouthmarker.
  • Chiswell Greenmarker, 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 Zealandmarker & the United Statesmarker.
  • St Albans was the name of a planet in the cult science-fiction television series Firefly.
  • In September 2007, St Albans replaced Mayfairmarker as the most expensive square on a special UK Here and Now Edition Monopoly board, having won an internet vote.
  • St Albans is noted for having the most pubs per square mile in Britain.
  • The National Pharmacy Association the trade association for all of the UK's community pharmacies, is based in St Peter's Street, St Albans.
  • Enter shikari's song 'All eyes on the Saint' (B-side of Juggernauts single) tells the story about St Albans.

Photo gallery

Image:StAlbansPub-PS01.JPG|Ye Olde Fighting Cocks public houseImage:Main Street 5.JPG|The Old Town Hall and Market Place, viewed from St Peter's StreetImage:StAlbansStreet-PS01.JPG|St Michaels StreetImage:Kingsbury watermill museum.jpg|Kingsbury watermillImage:StAlbansMosaics-PS01.JPG|thumb|right|Roman MosaicsImage:StAlbansRomanWall-PS02.JPG|Remains of Roman wallImage:StAlbansCathedral-PS01.JPG|Cathedral and Abbey ChurchImage:StAlbansCathedral-PS03.JPG|Part of the High Altar screen in St Albans CathedralImage:StAlbansCathedral-PS04.JPG|Part of the High Altar screen in St Albans Cathedral

See also

Nearby towns & villages


  1. The Maltings Arts Theatre, St Albans
  2. Abbey Theatre, St Albans
  3. St Albans Bach Choir
  4. St Albans Symphony Orchestra
  5. St Albans Chamber Choir
  6. St Albans Chamber Opera
  7. The Company of Ten, St Albans
  8. St Albans Choral Society
  9. St Albans Organ Theatre
  10. STARTS - St Albans Arts
  11. Sport England—Active People Survey
  12. Football Conference—Blue Square Premier Table
  13. St Albans Hockey Club
  14. St Albans Cricket Club
  15. Hertfordshire Parkour

External links

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