Glimpse history through old images of St Albans, in the English county of Hertfordshire, UK.
Verulamium in 1932
On 29th August 1932, Dr R. Mortimer Wheeler spoke to the newsreel cameras about his archaeological discovering at Verulamium. He and his wife Tessa devoted themselves to this site, and their teams discovered many of the artefacts now on display in the city’s museum.
Tessa Wheeler is buried at St. Stephen’s Church, parts of which date back to its foundation in the Saxon era, around AD 948.
Roman Bathroom Is Found At St Albans – British Movietone on YouTube
St Albans in the 1930s
In this amateur footage shot in the 1930s, all the ladies and gents wear hats as they go about their business in the town centre. The old buses are a great shot.
St Albans, 1930’s – Film 1165 – HuntleyFilmArchives on YouTube
Excavations in 1957
In 1957, the proposed bypass for St Albans required a hasty excavation of some of the Velulamium site before the bulldozers moved in. Students and other volunteers pitched tents, grabbed some provided tools, and worked under the direction of archaeologists from London’s Institute of Archaeology.
“Soon, these plans, together with a few photographs, and relics uncovered here, will be all that remains to show that a town ever stood here”.
Excavation (1957) – British Pathé on YouTube
Thames News Stock Reels
Thames News took lots of film footage in and around St Albans in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as people went about their daily lives. It would provide useful stock images for news stories.
This first clip focuses on the market traders and customers, but also includes some of the nearby streets too.
St Albans | British High Street | High Street | Street Market | Market Traders |TN-SL-075-036 – Thames News on YouTube
The second Thames News stock reel focusses on traffic problems. You can see pedestrians struggling to cross the roads.
St Albans | Heavy Traffic | English cathedral city | Hertfordshire | TN-SL-059-001 – Thames News on YouTube
St Albans in 1994
This home video from 1994 visits a bus rally, where a 40 minute country ride could be enjoyed for £1.50, or £1 for children and OAPs.
There are also many street scenes, including the market, and lots of people going about their daily lives.
ST ALBANS IN 1994 – malcolm allwood on YouTube
Extract from “History of Verulam and St. Albans: containing an historical account of the decline of Verulam and origin of St. Alban’s and of the present state of the town … With engravings” by S.G. Shaw.
Newcombe’s St. Alban’s , Vol . I. p . 58 , from Matt . Paris .
In the time of Ralph , Geoffrey’s successor , the Shrine was
stripped of its decorations , in order to provide a sufficient sum
for the purchase of the vill of Brentfield . The succeeding
Abbots , Robert de Gorham , and Symond , embellished it
anew ; and the latter caused it to be somewhat more elevated ,
that its splendor might have the greater effect . As the work
manship of this Shrine throws some light on the state of
the arts in the reign of Henry the Second , we shall here
describe it from Matthew Paris , who declares it to have
been more splendid and noble than any other he had ever be
held . In form it resembed an altar – tomb , having a crest , or
lofty canopy over it , supported on pillars ; these were of plate
gold , shaped like towers , and having appertures , to represent
windows : the under part of the canopy was inlaid with crystals .
Within the tomb was a coffin , containing the relics of St. Alban ,
inclosed in another case , the sides of which were embossed with
gold and silver figures , in high relief , exhibiting the principal
events in the martyr’s history . At the head of the Shrine ,
which was towards the east , was a large representation of the
Crucifixion , having the figures of Mary and St. John at the
sides , and ornamented with a row of very brilliant jewels : at
the foot , or west end of the Shrine , was an image of the Virgin ,
seated on a Throne , with the infant Jesus in her arms ; the
work apparently of cast gold , highly embossed , and enriched
with precious stones , and very costly bracelets.
The immense and constant traffic through the
town , in consequence of the great north – west
road lying through it , affords employment to se
veral most respectable posting houses and inns ,
as also many inferior public houses ; the mails
and stage coaches which run through the town ,
( supposing them to be pretty well loaded , ) have
accommodation for upwards of 600 passengers
daily ; add to which the number of travellers
which pass through by other conveyances , and
those on foot , it may reasonably be computed
that not less than 1000 persons pass through this
town every day .
Prior to the improvement of the public roads in
England , ( by which such great facility has been
rendered to the traveller and the conveyance of
goods and merchandise from the manufacturing
towns to the metropolis , ) innumerable quantities
of packhorses were constantly passing through St.
Albans , with the produce of the factories of Man
chester , Nottingham , Stafford , Coventry , & c . and
at which period the inns were more numerous than
at present ; and several large commodious build
ings , situated on the road side , ( now used for other
purposes , ) can be traced to have afforded accom
modation for the weary pack – horse and his driver .
There are here cotton and silk mills , which give
employment to upwards of 500 persons , mostly
The upper part of the town is badly supplied
with water , and that at a dear rate . Most of the
families are served from the pump , near the
Clock House , which was put down for the use of
the town , at the expense of the Spencer family ,
and was many years kept in repair by them ; since
which the inhabitants , for want of a better sense
of independence , lay the burthen of this expense
upon the purses of their representatives , although
a trifling annual subscription of those who benefit
by it might constantly keep it in good repair ; till
which takes place , it may be considered an object
reflecting discreditably upon the good sense and
independent spirit of the town , for suffering it to
continue an expense to those , whom of all others
they ought to be under the least public pecuniary
obligation to . There is another public pump at
the bottom of St. Peter’s – street , called the Blue
Pump , seldom in repair , therefore of very little
service . Water was formerly , by means of water
works , conveyed from the river near the town ,
for its use ; and which might doubtless be now
effected , and prove a great acquisition to the in
Coals are a scarce , and rather expensive.com
modity at St. Alban’s ; the chief supply comes
from the Grand Junction Canal at Boxmore ,
near Hempstead , from whence there are several
miles of land carriage ; a great quantity of Staf
fordshire pit coals are burnt here . An Act of
Parliament was passed some few years ago , to
make a cut from the Grand Junction Canal to the
town of St. Alban’s , but was never carried into
effect , which was said to be in consequence of the
Grand Junction Company being unwilling to ad
mit those , who would have advanced the money
necessary to accomplish the undertaking , to be
share – holders with them ; but would have given
interest for its use ; which naturally suggested an
idea at that time , of its likelihood of proving a
lucrative concern .
The town has within these few years received
very considerable improvements ; the principal
was forming a new road through the south – east
part of it , affording the traveller both more con
venience and safety in avoiding the steep hill and
dangerous turnings of the old London road : the
same trust have within the last year made another
most excellent improvement , by purchasing the
house at the corner of George – stseet , which
formed a most dangerous turning at the steepest
part of the hill , and by removing it , and widening
the road , have not only rendered it much safer
for travelling , but added materially to the respec
table appearance of the town in this part . In
1804 , an Act of Parliament was obtained to
enable the inhabitants to pave and light the town ;
in pursuance of which it is lighted , and a consi
derable part of it has the comfort and convenience
of paved streets . There are many respectable and
well furnished shops , which supply the town and
neighbourhood with the necessaries and conveni
encies of life ; but , London operates much to the
injury of the trading part of the town ; and , as
there are no manufactories ( except the silk and
cotton mills , ) , or other adventitious cause of in
creasing the trate , its chief dependence is upon
its own population , and that of the small town and
yillages near , perhaps better butcher’s meat is not
to be purchased in any market in the kingdom ;
bread is always half an assize under that of Lon
don , and there are two common breweries , and
also two very respectable inns , that brew excellent
home – brewed ale . , Nor are the articles of grocery ,
drapery , & c . less excellent in their kind , or to be
purchased on more moderate terms by the con
sumer any where .