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A brief history of St Albans

Here are the key facts. For a much more entertaining history lesson we recommend the City of St Albans Tour Guides, based at the Town Hall, who provide themed 1-1½ hour guided walks covering 1200 years of local life. You can also test your knowledge and learn more at

  • Around 20BC - the town first appears in the Iron Age as Verlamion, 'the settlement above the Marsh'
  • AD43 - The Romans conquer Britain and the renamed Verulamium becomes one of the largest towns in Roman Britain
  • AD60-61 - The wooden town goes up in flames during the revolt of Boudicca but is rebuilt with impressive town houses and public buildings
  • AD275 – gated walls encircle the town
  • AD304 – St Alban becomes Britain's first Christian martyr
  • AD407 – The last Roman soldiers leave and the town declines. During the 6th and 7th centuries, Saxons from Germany arrive and convert to Christianity
  • AD900-950 – Abbot Ulsinus establishes a monastic and market settlement close to the site of St Alban's execution and becomes the acknowledged founder of St Albans, also building St. Michael's, St. Peter's and St. Stephen's churches
  • 1077 – the old Abbey is demolished and rebuilt. It is consecrated in 1136
  • 1086 – the Domesday Book shows that the population of St Albans was around 500
  • 1213 – St Albans is one of the five chosen venues for the drafting of Magna Carta
  • 1381 – conflict grows between the monastery and the town over milling rights. The Abbey is surrounded by walls to protect livestock and keep townspeople away
  • 1403-1412 – the Clock Tower is built as a symbol of the peasants' revolt and their need for independence from the church
  • 1455 and 1461 – two battles in the Wars of the Roses are fought here
  • Middle Ages – St Albans prospers, catering for travellers and pilgrims. The Fleur-de-Lys, the George and the Tabard Inn are all built in the 15th century
  • 1553 – the right to a Mayor and to hold markets is granted by a charter of Edward VI
  • 1604 – St Albans loses many inhabitants to the plague
  • 1642-45 – St Albans sides with parliament during the English Civil War
  • The 18th and 19th centuries see St. Albans remain a market town with silk and cotton mills, brewing, printing and straw hat industries. Residents welcome gas street lighting, a new town hall and a police force. The London, Hatfield and Verulam Roads are built
  • 1868 –the main railway line to London arrives and St Albans begins to rapidly develop into a modern city
  • 1877 – a Royal Charter gives the town City status and the Abbey Church becomes a Cathedral
  • 1881 – the first public library opens, joined 8 years later by the first museum.
  • 1908 – a cinema opens (a century later we are without one!)
  • The 20th century sees St Albans develop as a commuter town, with expansion in the electrical and aircraft industries stimulated by WWII
  • The district becomes encircled by the M1, M25 and A1 motorways. It continues to attract commuters and tourists
  • 2001 – the census shows a population of 129,000 for St Albans City and District