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Historic England Research Records

St Albans Abbey

Hob Uid: 361899
Location :
Hertfordshire
St. Albans
St. Albans
Grid Ref : TL1446306953
Summary : The history of St Albans Abbey is said to begin with the visit of St German of Auxerre to the tomb of St. Alban the Martyr in 429. St German left relics of other saints with the body of Alban, and these are said to have been rediscovered in 793 by Offa, King of Mercia. To preserve them, he founded a monastery which came under Benedictine rule which was soon laxly practiced or abandoned. Both monks and nuns were admitted throughout the 9th and 10th centuries, in separate houses, the latter placed further away in the almonry before 940. King Edgar reformed it to Benedictine rule in about 970. After 1077, Abbot Paul made regulations for the nuns who lived near the almonry and they were apparently moved to Sopwell circa 1140. There were 50 monks at the Abbey in 1190, and about the same number at the Dissolution in 1539. A large school was attached to the Abbey. The church is Norman erected in 1077-88, and built of flint and Roman brick. The north nave wall, transepts and crossing tower of this building remain. The west end of the nave was extended between 1195 and 1230, in Early English style. Rebuilding of the east end was carried out in the late 13th-early 14th century and the Lady Chapel was completed, in Decorated style. In 1323 part of the nave collapsed and was rebuilt. Minor alterations continued in the 14th-16th centuries. After the reformation the church was sold to the town and by 1832 it was becoming ruinous. It was extensively restored in the late 19th century under Sir Gilbert Scott and Lord Grimthorpe, who rebuilt the west end in Victorian style.Dependencies: Beadlow, Belvoir, Binham, Hatfield Peveral, Hertford, Millbrook, Pembrokem Redbourn, Tynemouth, Wallingford, Wymondham, St Albans Hall (Oxford); the Hospital and nunnery of St Mary de Pre, Sopwell nunnery and St Julian's Hospital, (St Albans).
More information : (TL 145070) ST. ALBAN'S CATHEDRAL (C OF E) and remains of (NAT)
St. Alban's Abbey (NR) (Benedictine) (NAT) (1)

The history of St. Albans Abbey is said to begin with the visit of St. German of Auxerre to the tomb of St. Alban the Martyr in 429. St. German left relics of other saints with the body of Alban, and these are said to have been rediscovered in 793 by Offa, King of Mercia. To preserve them, he founded a monastery which came under Benedictine rule which was soon laxly practiced or abandoned. Both monks and nuns were admitted throughout the 9th and 10th centries, in separate houses, the latter placed further away in the almonry before 940. King Edgar reformed it to Benedictine rule in about 970. After 1077, Abbot Paul made regulations for the nuns who lived near the almonry and they were apparently moved to Sopwell circa 1140. There were 50 monks at the Abbey in 1190, and about the same number at the Dissolution in 1539. A large school was attached to the Abbey.

Full history (2).

The Cathedral is of several periods and styles, not all of them visually compatible. The original church was Norman, erected 1077-1088, and built of flint and Roman brick, the tower being almost entirely of Roman brick. A series of eight baluster-shafts in the transepts appear to be Anglo-Saxon rather than Norman, and may be the remains of the pre-Conquest abbey.

The west end of the nave was extended between 1195 and 1230, in Early English style. Towers and vaulting were planned, but were left incomplete. In 1323 part of the south side of the nave collapsed and was rebuilt, again in Early English style. Rebuilding of the east end was carried out in the late 13th and early 14th centuries and the Lady Chapel was completed, in Decorated style, about 1320. Minor alterations continued in the 14th-16th centuries.

After the Reformation the church was sold to the town and by 1832 it was becoming ruinous. It was extensively restored in the late 19th century under Sir Gilbert Scott and Lord Grimthorpe, who rebuilt the west end in Victorian style.

Hardly anything remains of the monastic buildings of St Alban's Abbey, but much is known about them from documentary evidence. The buildings were of the usual Benedictine type and included a cloister, abbot's and friar's lodgings, an infirmary, guest houses and other ancillary buildings. The first cloister on the site was built by Paul of Caen (1077-88) and was rebuilt between 1326-43 by Richard of Wallingford. The mutilated remains still exist against the south wall of the church. Other parts of the monastic buildings were erected during the 11th - 14th centuries. (2-9)

Excavations in "Abbey Orchard Field" located the foundations of buildings to the south-west of the church, forming the east range of the great court.

Plans published in 1810 by Carter show that ruins were still standing above ground at that date. (10)

Excavations in 1924 located part of the foundations of the cloister and frater. See plan. (11)

Excavations were carried out in 1974 in Vintry Garden to the north-east of the Abbey. In one trench, nine burials of Medieval date were found, but the other trenches produced nothing of significance. (12)

In 1975, excavations were carried out at Ver Lodge (TL 14340678) to locate the Abbey precinct wall. A single trench, 70.0m long, was dug and the much robbed remains of the wall were found.

St. Alban's Abbey, site of Conventual buildings - scheduled. (13)

Report on the 1978 excavations of the Chapter house. (14)

Description of the sixteen 10th century or earlier limestone baluster shafts in the Cathedral. (15)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 1:2500 1964
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : The Victoria history of the county of Hertfordshire, volume two
Source details : 1908 plan illusts photos
Page(s) : 483-515
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 11
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Trans St Albans Architec Archaeol Soc 1924-6 (E Woolley)
Page(s) : 181-9
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1924-6
Source Number : 12
Source : Hertfordshire archaeology
Source details : (C Saunders and A B Havercroft)
Page(s) : 16-33
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 6, 1978
Source Number : 13
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : DOE (IAM) List Ancient Mons 3 1978
Page(s) : 52
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 14
Source : Hertfordshire's past
Source details : (Martin and Birthe Biddle)
Page(s) : Mar-27
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 11, 1981
Source Number : 15
Source : Corpus of Anglo-Saxon stone sculpture, volume 4 : south-east England
Source details :
Page(s) : 236-40
Figs. :
Plates : 376-96
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : The Victoria history of the county of Hertford, volume four
Source details : 1914
Page(s) : 367-416
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 4
Source : Medieval religious houses in England and Wales
Source details :
Page(s) : 56 74 481
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 5
Source : An inventory of the historical monuments in Hertfordshire
Source details :
Page(s) : 177-87
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 6
Source : Anglo-Saxon architecture : volume 2
Source details :
Page(s) : 528
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 7
Source : Hertfordshire
Source details : 1953 plan photos
Page(s) : 202-18
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 8
Source : A guide to Saint Albans Cathedral
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 9
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : City of St Albans 27.8.71
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 10
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Trans St Albans Architec Archaeol Soc (H Fowler)
Page(s) : 52-9
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1889

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Early Medieval
Display Date :
Monument End Date : 970
Monument Start Date : 793
Monument Type : Monastery, Abbey, Double House, Nunnery
Evidence : Documentary Evidence, Architectural Component
Monument Period Name : Early Medieval
Display Date :
Monument End Date : 1066
Monument Start Date : 970
Monument Type : Benedictine Monastery, Abbey, Benedictine Nunnery
Evidence : Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Restored Late C19th
Monument End Date : 1899
Monument Start Date : 1867
Monument Type : Cathedral
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Extant
Monument End Date : 1140
Monument Start Date : 1066
Monument Type : Benedictine Nunnery
Evidence : Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date :
Monument End Date : 1539
Monument Start Date : 1066
Monument Type : Benedictine Monastery, Abbey, School, Cemetery, Precinct Wall, Church, Refectory, Guest House
Evidence : Documentary Evidence, Sub Surface Deposit, Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Built 1077-88
Monument End Date : 1088
Monument Start Date : 1077
Monument Type : Church
Evidence : Architectural Component
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Built 1195-1230
Monument End Date : 1230
Monument Start Date : 1195
Monument Type : Church
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Rebuilt late C13th-early C14th
Monument End Date : 1332
Monument Start Date : 1267
Monument Type : Church
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Altered C14th-C16th
Monument End Date : 1599
Monument Start Date : 1300
Monument Type : Church
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Rebuilt 1323
Monument End Date : 1323
Monument Start Date : 1323
Monument Type : Church
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Altered C14th-C16th
Monument End Date : 1499
Monument Start Date : 1300
Monument Type : Church
Evidence : Extant Building

Components and Objects:
Period : Early Medieval
Component Monument Type : Monastery, Abbey, Double House, Nunnery
Object Type : BALUSTER
Object Material : Limestone

Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : HT 35
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : HT 96
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Hertfordshire)
External Cross Reference Number : 6504
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Hertfordshire)
External Cross Reference Number : 6507
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Hertfordshire)
External Cross Reference Number : 6206
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : NBR Index Number
External Cross Reference Number : 96577
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Unified Designation System UID
External Cross Reference Number : 1103163
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Unified Designation System UID
External Cross Reference Number : 1003526
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 163207
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : TL 10 NW 18
External Cross Reference Notes :

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Related Activities :
Associated Activities : ABBEY ORCHARD FIELD
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1889-01-01
End Date : 1889-12-31
Associated Activities : ORCHARD HOUSE MEADOW
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1920-01-01
End Date : 1920-12-31
Associated Activities : DEANERY GARDEN
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1920-01-01
End Date : 1920-12-31
Associated Activities : ST ALBANS ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1924-01-01
End Date : 1924-12-31
Associated Activities : DEANERY GARDEN,ST ALBANS
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1937-01-01
End Date : 1937-12-31
Associated Activities : ABBEY ORCHARD
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1968-01-01
End Date : 1968-12-31
Associated Activities : VINTRY GARDENS
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1974-01-01
End Date : 1974-12-31
Associated Activities : VER LODGE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1975-01-01
End Date : 1975-12-31
Associated Activities : ST ALBANS ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1978-01-01
End Date : 1978-12-31
Associated Activities : WAXHOUSE GATE, HIGH STREET
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1980-01-01
End Date : 1980-12-31
Associated Activities : ORCHARD HOUSE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1982-01-01
End Date : 1982-12-31
Associated Activities : ST ALBANS CATHEDRAL
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1982-01-01
End Date : 1984-12-31
Associated Activities : ST ALBAN'S SHRINE, ST ALBANS CATHEDRAL
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1991-01-01
End Date : 1991-12-31
Associated Activities : ABBEY CHURCH OF ST. ALBAN'S
Activity type : ARCHITECTURAL SURVEY
Start Date : 2000-01-01
End Date : 2002-12-31
Associated Activities : LAND AT THE VINTRY GARDEN
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2003-01-01
End Date : 2003-12-31