The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






St Albans

St Albans
OS Grid Reference:
District: St Albans
County: Hertfordshire
Region: East of England
Nation: England
Ceremonial County: Hertfordshire
Traditional County: Hertfordshire
Post Office and Telephone
Post town: ST ALBANS
Postcode: AL1, AL2, AL3
Dialling Code: 01727

St Albans (thus spelt, no apostrophe or dot) is the main urban area of the City and District of St Albans in southern Hertfordshire, England, around 22 miles (35.5km) north of central London. It was the first major town on the A5 for travellers heading north and was previously the Roman city of Verulamium. After the Roman withdrawal, and prior to becoming known as St Albans, the town was called Verlamchester or Wćclingacaester.


The locality

Housing is expensive relative to England in general, mainly due to fast commuting to London by train. 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.

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 the Hertfordshire runs at 15% of the workforce, compared with a UK average of 12%.

Arms of St Albans City and District Council
Arms of St Albans City and District Council

There are two train stations in St Albans. The City Station is about 750 metres east of the city centre and is served by Thameslink, with trains to London, Luton, London Luton Airport, Bedford, London Gatwick Airport and Brighton. The Abbey Station is about one kilometre south of the city centre and is served by the Abbey Flyer, which is operated by Silverlink. A single train runs between St Albans and Watford Junction, starting a new round trip every 45 minutes during most of the day.

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

GCSE results for District schools show 63% of pupils achieving 5 A* - C grades, against a national average of around 46%.

The centre of the city suffers significant road traffic congestion because it lacks a proper by-pass. The council estimates that 75% of traffic entering the city is through-traffic. During 2004 the problem was heavily exacerbated by a series of road works, prompting severe criticism of Hertfordshire County Council's Hertfordshire Highways agency.

A street market is held in Market Place and St Peters Street on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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


See main article at History of St Albans
Clock tower
Clock tower

St Albans has a long history of settlement in the general vicinity. The Celtic Catuvellauni tribe had a settlement at Prae Hill a mile or so to the west. The Roman town of Verulamium was built alongside this in the valley of the River Ver a little nearer to the present town centre. The mediaeval town grew up on the hill to the east of this around the venerated spot where the first British Christian martyr, St Alban was beheaded sometime before 324 CE.

Successive abbeys and a cathedral have occupied this spot and the town grew as a centre of pilgrimage and as a stopover for people travelling from and to London in the days of coaching. St Albans Abbey was, at one time, the principal abbey in England and the first draft of Magna Carta was drawn up there, reflecting its politcal importance.

The growth of St Albans was generally slow before the 20th Century, reflecting its status as a rural market town and a coaching stop of the route to and from London. 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 St Albans Cathedral and the Clock Tower (pictured). The clock tower is one of only two similar towers in England. The Cathedral's formal name is The Cathedral & Abbey Church of St Alban and it is known locally as the Abbey. See also St Albans School, which occupies the former gateway to the Abbey.


St Albans is twinned with:

In addition, there are friendship links with:


  • CAMRA was founded in the Farriers Arms in Lower Dagnall Street in St Albans and 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 680 by 100 feet. Three years later in 1915, the first private wind tunnel was also built here, but moved to their Weybridge works shortly after World War I. 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.
  • St Albans is home for one of the country's oldest and finest indoor skateparks, at the Pioneer Youth Club, in Heathlands Drive, next to the fire station. Its ramps are available to all skateboarders and inliners. A new outside mini ramp was built in March 2005.
  • The football team is St Albans City F.C.: its 'stadium' is Clarence Park and they play in the Conference South. There is also the Old Albanian Rugby Club which has a large facility known as the Old Albanian sports complex or the Woolam Playing Fields, which is also the home of the Saracens A team and Zurich A League.
  • 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.

Notable People

Rod Argent, musician and songwriter (b1945). The Zombies (Argent with Colin Blunstone, Paul Atkinson , and Hugh Grundy ) was formed at St Albans School.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626) Philosopher and statesman
Nicholas Breakspear (c1100-1159), later became Pope Adrian IV
Ralph Chubb (1892-1960) Eccentric lithographer
William Cowper (1731-1800) Poet
Willis Hall, playwright and TV script writer lived in St Albans for many years and was for a while president of St Albans City F.C.
Stephen Hawking (b. 1942) Theoretical physicist, educated at St Albans School
Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999), film auteur, resided in Childwickbury Manor, to the north-west of the town, from 1978 until his death
Philip Madoc , actor, lives locally and is patron of two local organisations, The Abbey Theatre and St Albans Movie Makers
John Mandeville (14th century) allegedly born in St Albans.
Robert Runcie (1921-2000) Bishop of St Albans, later Archbishop of Canterbury
Allan Prior, TV script writer, co-creator of Z Cars and writer of The Charmer and father of Maddy Prior lives in St Albans (and Maddy grew up here)
Samuel Ryder , founder of the Ryder Cup

External Links

Last updated: 08-02-2005 22:12:44
Last updated: 08-25-2005 08:10:43