High time you climbed the Clock Tower 6 Apr 2019
Our historic city is proud to boast a list of many “firsts”, “oldest” and “onlys” which attract visitors from all over the country and indeed the world: it is the home of Britain’s first Saint; has the oldest site of continual Christian Worship (the Cathedral); the oldest pub in the land and oldest public school in Britain, to name a few.
And one of the most important entries on that list is a building that thousands of people pass every day and don’t give a second thought to: the Clock Tower, which stands proudly at the heart of the town centre. St Albans Clock Tower is the only surviving medieval town belfry in England, and, as such, is designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Every year on Good Friday, like clock-work, the Tower is opened to the people of St Albans by the Mayor. But what not many people realise is that it was actually built by the people of St Albans, 614 years ago.
Meant to be a symbol of their resistance against the power of the Abbot of St Albans, the Tower allowed the town to sound its own hours. Today it provides people with easily the best view of the city and surrounding countryside, and many thousands of visitors are expected to climb the 93 steps to the roof to enjoy these magnificent views over the coming season.
On their way up, visitors can view the working Victorian turret clock, the medieval bell, Gabriel and also enjoy this season’s display, ‘Poverty and Want in Past Times’. This exhibition highlights the treatment of the poor and destitute in St. Albans over the centuries. It was first shown as part of the Squatlife Exhibition held at St Albans Museum + Gallery in the summer 2018, funded by the Heritage Lottery and organised by the St Albans Arts Team.
This year’s Mayor, Councillor Rosemary Farmer, will be photographed holding the 7lb, iron ceremonial key, a replica of the Victorian key held by the Verulamium Museum, by the front door of the Clock Tower on Friday, 19thApril at 10.30 am. This symbolises the opening of the Clock Tower for the new season.
Many people travel to the city to enjoy this attraction, but there are many locals who have still not explored its interior, or the views from the top. Entry is only £1 for adults, and free for children and it’s open from 10.30 am to 5 pm every weekend and Bank Holiday until the end of September.
So if you’ve not yet experienced this much-loved St Albans historic gem, it’s definitely high time you did this Easter!
by Caroline Howkins, Clock Tower co-ordinator, St Albans and Hertfordshire Architectural and Archaeological Society
This article first appeared in the Herts Advertiser on behalf of the St Albans Visitor Partnership.