Walking through History 19 Aug 2018
Every year thousands of visitors to St Albans are welcomed by the St Albans Tour Guides.
For many visitors to the city, particularly day trippers, the first, and often most prolonged, friendly contact they will have with a local is when they step off their coach for a pre-arranged walking tour, turn up for a scheduled public walk or visit the Roman theatre on a weekend afternoon.
The guides host visitors belonging to all sorts of organisations from different parts of the UK and abroad who book private tours, for example a singles group from London, choir from North Carolina or U3A group from East Anglia.
They offer a variety of themed walking tours around the city and in Roman Verulamium and can tailor make a walk to suit a group’s particular interests. The guides work with the Abbey Guides to provide joint tours – highlights of the city and of the Abbey in 45 minutes for each.
They run a full programme (calendar and descriptions on their website) of ‘turn up and go’ public walks on weekends and bank holidays. These walks attract fairly equal proportions of people visiting from outside the district and local residents, often with friends visiting for the weekend or those recently relocated to St Albans or looking for property, keen to explore and learn more about the area.
As well as outdoor walks, the guides are currently working with the city’s new major attraction, the Museum + Gallery to develop an indoor tour of the historic building itself to add an extra dimension to the visitors’ experience. Additionally, in conjunction with the museum they will be offering walks in the city (General Historic, Tudor and Victorian) for school groups in the same way that they currently run Roman walks for school groups visiting Verulamium Museum.
At Verulamium Museum, the guides do themed gallery talks every weekend, highlighting different parts of the collection such as Mosaics, Leisure and Death and Burial.
In addition, two of the guides become Roman soldiers on occasion, talking about their life experiences and demonstrating their equipment. Still on the Roman theme, the guides are on duty at weekends in the Roman Theatre, explaining the structures and bringing them to life for visitors.
When not welcoming people into the city, the guides take the city to groups in St Albans and neighbouring towns, extending into North London, in the form of illustrated talks on different aspects of the city and its history – for example, ‘City beneath the Park’ ‘Samuel Ryder’ and ‘Daughters of St Albans’ – these often inspire a visit in person!
On a lighter note, the guides feature in the night-time economy of the city – they can be seen on winter evenings telling their stories of hauntings and weird events with their programme of ghost walks for the general public and by prior arrangement for private groups from Brownies to businesses and milestone birthday groups.
St Albans Tour Guides is a voluntary association and all are fully qualified Blue and Green badge Guides. New Guides are currently being trained which will bring their number to more than 30. Information at www.stalbanstourguides.co.uk
This article, by Lin Keen, secretary , St Albans Tour Guides, originally appeared in the Herts Advertiser in August 2018.