The Clock Tower is unique in the country and still serves as a popular informal meeting place in the heart of the city of St Albans.
Built in 1405, the Clock Tower of St Albans is the only medieval town belfry in England, and was raised by the townsmen to assert their freedom, power and wealth in the face of the premier abbey in the land (now of course St Albans cathedral). Sited on slightly higher ground, the citizens’ Tower looked the Abbey in the eye. In former years it has also been a shop, as well as a government telegraph station during the Napoleonic wars of the early nineteenth century.
The Tower’s original bell, weighing one ton with a diameter of one metre (some 47”) and named Gabriel, is still in place. It would sound the Angelus and the evening Curfew as well as giving the alarm in case of “fire or fray” and sounded the alarm at the First Battle of St Albans in 1455.
The Tower is 19.6m (64’) high at the parapet. A flight of 93 narrow steps connects the ground floor through the two upper floors to the roof, from where there are fine views of the Abbey, the Roman town of Verulamium, and the historic city of St Albans.
Although the Tower’s original clock is missing, the 1412 reference to “le clokkehouse” shows that it was indeed there from the beginning, with the clock keeper striking the hours indicated by the clock. The present clock dates from 1866, and uses a mechanism invented by Lord Grimthorpe – restorer of the Abbey and designer of the mechanism of the clock for Big Ben at Westminster.
Clock Tower photo competition
Clockateers saw the results of the photo competition that ran at the beginning of 2014. The entries were all excellent, and are reproduced here.
Clock Tower opening
Mayor Brewster opens Clock Tower.
On a windy Good Friday 2014, the Right Worshipful the Mayor of the City and District of St Albans, Cllr Annie Brewster, opened the Clock Tower and climbed the 94 steps to the top. She was accompanied by, among others, Prof Tim Boatswain (CS), Prof Donald Munro (SAHAAS), The Mayor, Jill Singer (CS), and Prof Geraint John (CS).
Eleanor of Castile and her cross in St Albans
There was a theatrical storytelling performance called Eleanor Longshanks on Monday 4th December 2017 in St Albans on Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I, who died near Lincoln in 1290. Her body was taken back to Westminster in a splendid cortège, that passed through the lands she owned allowing her tenants and stewards to pay their respects. After she was buried Edward ordered 12 magnificent monuments to be built to honour her in each of the places the cortege rested over night. And of course the St Albans Cross stood close to where the clock tower stands today! More information at https://www.eleanorlongshanks.co.uk/.
We have a valued group of people (known as Clockateers) who help us open the Clock Tower to the public, and anyone who could give a couple of hours at weekends would be very welcome. Visitors come from around the world and it is very rewarding to meet the variety of people who come to climb the 93 spiral steps to the top. More volunteers are always welcome, please contact Jill Singer on 838965 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Dawn Wheeler on 865652.