St Albans: A History

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This book deals with all aspects of the history of St Albans, but is particularly concerned with the economic and social life of the city. Two themes stand out: the constant economic, political and cultural pull of London, and the ways in which St Albans has promoted, and been influenced by, its own past.


This book covers more than 2,000 years of history. St Albans – or Verulamium – was one of the largest and most important towns in Roman Britain, and the site of Britain’s first Christian martyrdom. After the fall of the Roman town, a small community of Christians remained, and out of the dark ages emerged St Albans abbey, one of the most significant religious houses of medieval England.

However, the history of later medieval St Albans was dominated by conflict between the abbey and the civic authorities. The monks repeatedly thwarted the ambitions of the townspeople, and it was only after the dissolution of the abbey that St Albans was able to secure self-government. This book traces the evolution of urban government in St Albans, and the people’s experiences of the political upheavals that beset England in this period. Like many other towns, St Albans was touched by the wars of the Roses, the civil war, and many lesser conflicts.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the economic importance of St Albans as a ‘thoroughfare town’, on a main road north from London, grew. St Albans also became a centre of straw-plaiting, while at the other end of the social scale, the town was known as a centre of political bribery and corruption.

In modern times St Albans has grown substantially, along with other towns in the commuter belt. Extended suburban housing development was made possible by the railway, which arrived in 1858, and the spread of car ownership. St Albans – which became a city in 1877 – has been described as ‘a terribly smug place’, but has much to recommend it, not least the long and varied history which has itself remained an important theme in the city’s cultural life.

St Albans: a history is illustrated with more than 200 images, most in full colour.

Dr Mark Freeman was born in St Albans in 1974, and educated at Skyswood JMI school, St Albans School, Merton College Oxford and the University of Glasgow, where he is now a Senior Lecturer in Economic and Social History.

  • Author: Dr Mark Freeman
  • Binding: hardback has now sold out, paperback only
  • ISBN: 978-1-85936-139-9 (hb), 978-1-85936-190-0 (pb)
  • Pages: 368
  • Illustrations: Over 200, most in full colour
  • Date of Publication: 10 November 2008
  • Dimensions: 243 × 169 mm


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