On this page we provide brief details of some of the issues we have pursued in recent years.
‘The Devil is in the detail’. True of many things and certainly true in the case of buildings, where an incorrect material or colour scheme may strike a jarring note. That is why the Society carefully reviews planning applications. Attention to detail is also important another key part of our built environment: our pavements. ‘Black Spot’ is a common disease of roses. Unfortunately this nasty blight is now affecting the city’s pavements. The affliction manifests itself in the form of a rash of patch repairs with dollops of tarmac used to infill missing paving stones.
A tour of the city’s pavements would make for some pretty depressing viewing, for while some have retained and had their traditional blue bricks relaid, many of them are in a parlous state of repair and look like a patchwork quilt of bodge ups. Does it matter? Well, granted it is not up there with the loss of Green Belt, the state of the River Ver, or the city centre redevelopments. But things like this set the tone of our urban environment. When you aggregate sub-standard paving with other minor degradations such as potholes, damaged and dirty signage, unkempt kerbs and verges, unauthorised retail ‘A boards’ and banners, graffiti, etc, it makes the streetscape look a mess and makes it harder to take civic pride in our city. We are therefore unapologetic about highlighting these smaller issues, which effect people throughout the district, not just in the city centre. If there are issues like this affecting your neighbourhood, do take it up with your councillors, but please let us know, too.
Those of you who have recently walked down from the Clock Tower to the Abbey Cathedral may have noticed how pristine the passageway, known as Waxhouse Gate, is now looking. Providing pedestrian access from the town to the Abbey, the Waxhouse Gate is an open passage through the ground floor of 15 High Street. Originally there was a Gothic arch but round stone archways and brick work were inserted in C18. It may once have been Sacrist’s Gate which existed in C14 and was rebuilt 1420-40 by Abbott Wheathampstead. It is a Grade II listed building. At the north entrance on the east of the arch there is one of St Albans First World War street memorial tablets, which is also listed.
The passageway has been in a pretty poor state and the Civic Society, with the proprietor of 15 High Street, and the support of the Council, have initiated some renovation and redecoration of this important piece of St Albans’ heritage. There is still more work to be done around the passageway: the redecoration of Waxhouse Gate – still more work to be done the flanking wall and Thai restaurant, as well the cleaning and repainting to the lamp-posts that run down to Sumpter Yard. With the an increased footfall of visitors, following the opening of the new Museum and Gallery at the Town Hall and the Visitor Centre at the Abbey Cathedral, this important walkway must be maintained as part of the city’s heritage.
A very special tree planted in St Albans to commemorate one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War now has an information panel to explain its significance. This was achieved through pressure from members of the Society.
The district council installed the panel, and it was unveiled by St Albans Mayor, Cllr Frances Leonard. Members of the St Albans branch of the Legion attended the ceremony, along with representatives of the Civic Society and the council’s portfolio holder for heritage, Cllr Annie Brewster.
Cllr Brewster said: “The Verdun Tree is a wonderful historical monument in the very heart of our city that has not received the interest it deserves. This smart new information panel puts it firmly in the spotlight and brings the moving story behind the tree back to life. It will be read by many thousands of people in the years to come. The Civic Society is to be congratulated for the work it has done to ensure the only tree that survived the battle is now going to get more attention. It is fitting that this panel was unveiled on Remembrance Day and in the centenary of the battle itself.”
Town Hall Museum + Gallery
The St Albans Museum + Gallery opened on 8 June 2018 after the St Albans Museums and Galleries Trust raised £1.7 million from the public, charitable trusts and local businesses to fund the project.
The Town Hall, dating from 1832, was originally the Court House and Council Assembly hall. In the last couple of decades it has suffered from lack of maintenance and uncertainty about its role in the City. It is now the city’s Museum + Gallery. The redesign cleverly incorporated two significant additions. First, excavation below the entrance hall creating a fine exhibition gallery capable of taking the most sensitive works. Second, two glazed links were added on the first floor, on either side of the courtroom, linking back rooms of the building with major spaces to the front. These give views down into the courtroom, and out over the city. The Assembly Room was restored to its prime with three large chandeliers that underlined its splendour, and double glazing added for improved insulation. The Society considered this to be a clever and sensitive regeneration of a fine building and an achievement which has restored the building’s architectural dignity and strengthened its significance in the life of the city and it was the Society’s Award winner for 2018.
Luton Airport Consultation
The Society has submitted an objection the expansion of Luton Airport and you can read the response here.