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St Albans Heritage Open Days

10 to 13 September 2009

Heritage Open Days celebrates England's architecture and culture by allowing free access to interesting properties that are not normally open to the public, or would charge an entrance fee. Heritage Open Days also include tours, events, lectures and activities that focus on architecture and culture. For the majority there is no need to pre book* and they are all FREE* (*unless otherwise indicated!).

1. Abbey Gateway, St Albans School

Conducted tours by St Albans School pupils of the 14th century Abbey Gateway, one of the few intact medieval gateways in England and the only remaining building of the original Abbey of St Albans. Built in 1365, it has served as the liberty Gaol until 1868, and part of St Albans School since 1811. Open Sun 10am - 3pm. Half hourly tours beginning from 10am. Each tour limited to 20 visitors. Parking at St Albans School. Some very steep steps. No disabled access.

2. Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban

The Cathedral is best known for the shrine of St Albans - Britain's first Christian Martyr - which continues to attract pilgrims from far and wide. Learn some of the stories, discover some of the hidden secrets of this amazing building. Open Thu, Fri, Sat & Sun 8am - 5.45pm. Sat: 10.30am to 3.30pm - Cathedral Guides available for information and tours. 10.30am to 2.30pm: Tower Tours: explore the 11th century Norman bell-tower and see St Albans from a different angle. Numbers limited; first come, first served. 10.30am to 3pm: Exhibition of Embroidery and Textiles in use today. 2pm: Tour looking at ancient graffiti. 3pm: 'Images of Alban' Trail. Sun: 2-5pm: Cathedral Guides available for information and tours. 2pm: An architectural tour of the Abbey. 2.30pm: Christopher Family Trail (suitable for families with children aged about 7 – 14 years). 2.15-4.30pm: Tower Tours: explore the 11th century Norman bell-tower and see St Albans from a different angle. Numbers limited; first come, first served. Some tours by ticket only. First come, first served, available on the day. Disabled parking provided, Induction loop, Touch & Hearing Centre, Braille guide plan.

3. Clock Tower

Built between 1403 and 1412, the Clock Tower is the only medieval town belfry in England, and has its original bell. The tower is 19.6 metres high and has 94 steps to the top via a narrow spiral staircase giving fine views of the Cathedral, Roman Verulamium and the City. The Tower and its fine bell have survived 600 years of use. Open Sat 10.30am - 5pm, Sun 10.30am - 5pm. No disabled access.

4. Court and Convicted Exhibition

An exhibition on the trials held in the courtroom in the Old Town Hall, a rare example of a perfectly preserved early nineteenth-centry courtroom. Some of the crimes will surprise you! Open Thu, Fri & Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 10am-4pm. Partial disabled access.

5. DagnallStreet Baptist Church

Built in 1885, the present church stands on the site first used by St Albans Baptists in 1720. A number of features are unusual for a Victorian-era Free Church. Adjoining coffee shop open 10am-2pm. Open Sat 10am-5pm for viewing and information. Exhibition of the Church's history. No parking at the Church. Full disabled access.

6. Kingsbury Barns

Kingsbury Barn was built by the Abbey in 1374 and has recently undergone a comprehensive programme of conservation. This is the first opening since. Also on display will be an exhibition 'Domestic Architechture in St Michael's Village Through Four Centuries' featuring the photography of John Bethell. Open Fri, Sat & Sun 10am-4.30pm. Directions: Kingsbury Barn is inside Kingsbury Mews on Branch Road, St Michaels - enter through the gates to the left just inside. Disabled access and parking.

7. Kingsbury Watermill Museum

Seventeenth-century working watermill museum with displays of old machinery and tools. Adjoining café/restaurant (The Waffle House). Open Thurs to Sun 10am-6pm. Very limited disabled access.

8. Museum of St Albans

The story of historic St Albans from the Romans to the present day is told through lively displays using the museum's collections. The museum also has a wildlife garden. Free admission. Open Thurs to Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 2-5pm. Disabled access to ground floor galleries.

9. Redbournbury Mill

Fully restored 18th century working watermill and artisan bakery on the River Ver just north of St Albans.  The watermill produces and sells stoneground organic flour and bread, available from the shop. Open Sun 2.30pm - 5pm. Parital disabled access and disabled parking.

10. Roman Mosaic (Hypocaust Building)

In Verulamium Park lies the Roman Mosaic - part of a suite of rooms in a large town house built around AD200.  Beneath a fine mosaic, there is an under floor heating system, a hypocaust. It is a precursor of modern central heating - the Romans had no intentions of enduring a climate they found unpleasantly cold in winter! Open Thu to Sat 10am-4.30pm. Sun 2-4.30pm. Disabled access.

11. Ryder Building

Now housing the Comfort Hotel, this was originally built as the headquarter of the Ryder Seed Company. Samuel Ryder is now best known for starting the Ryder Cup golf match, now played between America and Europe. On Saturday and Sunday there will a display by the City and District of St Albans Tour Guides exploring the life and legacy of Samuel Ryder in the Samuel Ryder Room. Open Thu & Fri 9am-9pm, Sat 10am-8pm, Sun 10am-6pm. Partial disabled access.

12. Shaw's Corner

An Edwardian Arts and Crafts-influenced house, country residence of Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. Some Conservation in Action may be taking place. Open Thu to Sun 12noon-5.30pm (house 1-5pm). Free admission on Saturday. Partial disabled access.

13. Sopwell Nunnery

Visit the ruins of Sir Richard Lee's Tudor great house, built c1555 on the site of a 12th Century nunnery bought from Henry VIII. Open Thu to Sun. Partial disabled access - on common land.

14. St Albans Market & Farmers Market

Saturday: The Famous St Albans market, the largest street market in the South East (Excluding London). Sunday: As always on the 2nd Sunday in the month it is the St Albans Farmers Market. Open Sat 10am-4.30pm, Sun 10am-2pm. Full disabled access.

15. St Albans Signal Box Preservation Trust

The Grade II listed Midland Railway signal box built in 1892 has been restored and is the only signalbox adjacent to an operational main line with public access. There will be signalling demonstrations, archive video, a slide show, museum of railway memorabilia, a steam model railway and steam engine rides. Open Sat & Sun 10am-4pm. Tea and cakes will be available in the garden. Partial disabled access.

16. St Leonard's Church, Sandridge

Norman village church at Church End, AL4 9DL whose architectural features range from recycled Roman bricks to 21st-century engraved glass. There are monuments to local families in the church or churchyard to prominent local families such as the Thrales and the Martens of Marshal's Wick. Open Sat 10am-1pm, Sun 12noon-5.30pm. Guided tours 11am Sat and 3pm Sun. 'Explore the church' trail sheet for children. Full disabled access. 

17. St Peter's Church

St. Peter's Church commands the Northern end of St. Peter's Street. Founded in 948 AD, successive restorations have given a wholly Victorian appearance to a church containing a largely 15th century nave, many interesting memorials including that of Edward Strong (Master Mason in the construction of St. Paul's Cathedral) and an intriguing series of medieval painted glass windows made up of fragments of earlier windows smashed in strange circumstances. Buried in the churchyard are many killed in the Battles of St Albans in 1455 and 1461. Visitors will be able to ascend the tower to see the ringing chamber and the bells and there will be explanatory displays to help you understand the history of this fascinating building. Depending on the weather, you will be able to go onto the tower roof, the highest point in St Albans (age restrictions apply). Open Sat 11.30am-4pm, Sun 2.30-5pm. Partial disabled access.

18. The Independent Chapel

Grade II Listed non-Conformist chapel, off George Street, built in 1811. There are many original features and there will be an exhibition tracing its history back to 1650. Famous associations with poet William Cowper, hymn writer Philip Doddridge, and Samuel Ryder of Ryder Cup fame. Open Sat 12-5pm, Sun 2-5pm. On both days there will be a lecture at 4pm: Independency in St Albans. A brief history of Independents, also known as Congregationalists, from the seventeenth century to the present day. Partial disabled access.

19. The Parish Church of St Michael

Our late 10th Century church of St Michael, which is steeped in history, will be open to visitors. Two brasses, usually kept covered, will be on view for the Heritage Open Days only. Countless families have worshipped here since the foundation of the parish and their memorials dating back to the 14th Century include that of Sir Francis Bacon. Open Thu & Fri 2-4.30pm, Sun 1.30-5pm. Partial disabled access.

20. The RomanTheatre of Verulamium

Built in c.40AD, the Roman Theatre is unique in Britain, being a theatre with a stage, rather than an amphitheatre and is the only fully excavated example of its kind in Britain. The main ruins were unearthed in 1847 and subsequent excavations have revealed shop foundations, a Roman villa and a secret shrine. Open Sat & Sun 10am-5pm. Partial disabled access.

21.Town Hall

While you are in town, pop into the newly refurbished Town Hall which was completed in 1831 by the architect George Smith. Formerly used as the council chamber, Mayor's parlour and assembly room, it is now available for hire for corporate events and parties and is particularly suitable for weddings. Open Thu, Fri & Sun 10am-4pm. Sunday: Complementary Health fair with half hourly talks or workshops from local professional practitioners taking place throughout the day. There is also a mini market with stalls selling books and health products.

22. Verulamium Museum & Legion XIIII

Situated in Verulamium Park, the Museum houses the vast collection of finds excavated from the site of Verulamium, one of the largest towns in Roman Britain. The finds range from large mosaics, amongst the best in this country, to the small objects of everyday life. Using recreated Roman rooms, hands-on discovery areas, touch screens and video presentations, the Roman town is brought to life. Open Thu to Sat 10am-5.30pm & Sun 2-5.30pm. Legion XIII will be on guard Sat at 2.30pm and 3.30pm, Sun at 3pm. On Sunday a coin specialist will be in the gallery, talking to visitors & helping them to identify coins. Admission free all day Sat on Thu, Fri and Sun after 2pm.Full disabled access.  

23. Guided Walks

For a list of walks, visit the Tour Guides website. Some walks must be pre-booked.

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