Erected between 1403 and 1412, St Albans Clock Tower is the only medieval example in this country. The belfry is said to represent the ambitions of the people of St Albans against the power of the abbot of St Albans, and was initially used as a lookout and a curfew, raising the alarm if the town was under fire. However, as you start your journey up the 93 steps of the tower’s spiral staircase, you will discover that each of its five floors reveals a snapshot of the tower’s varied historical past.
The shop on the ground floor and the shopkeeper’s lodgings on the first floor were let together until roughly 1900. Progressing onto the second floor, you will discover the clock keeper’s living room, where he and his family would have lived between 1412 and 1866. The third floor boasts the Victorian clock, which was added when the tower was restored in 1866. It was designed by Lord Grimthorpe, who was the leading Victorian authority on clocks – he also designed the mechanism of Big Ben. The fourth floor houses the original bell itself, still in place and weighing one tonne.
Finally, you can now access the roof of the clock tower, which not only offers beautiful views of the abbey of St Albans and the historical Roman town of Verulamium below, but is also the site of the shutter telegraph. This was used as one of 16 stations linking Whitehall and the North Sea Fleet in Great Yarmouth (within just five minutes) during the Napoleonic Wars.
Don’t miss: the site of the Eleanor Cross, erected by Edward I in memory of his wife, whose funeral procession rested here on its journey to Westminster.
Nr High Street, St Albans, Hertfordshire
tel: 01727 751810