St Albans is a city in Hertfordshire by virtue of the cathedral (formerly St Alban’s Abbey), although in terms of its population it is only the 4th largest settlement in the county, after Watford, Hemel Hempstead and Stevenage. The city is situated centrally in the county, 2 miles outside the M25 on the N side, and midway between the A1 and the M1. St Michael’s parish is on the W edge of the city, in Verulamium Park. The church now consists of a chancel with a N vestry, nave with a N aisle having a tower at its W end, and a Lady chapel on the S side of the E part of the nave, with a porch at the centre of the S side and a vestry at its W end. The building’s development is a complex one. A 2-cell Saxon church has a foundation date of 948. Remains of round-headed windows in the original nave walls seem too large to represent the original fenestration, but they certainly predate the piercing of the walls to provide 3-bay aisles in the 12thc. The chancel was lengthened at this time, and in the 13thc the nave walls were heightened and provided with clerestory lancets. A W tower was also added at this time and the Lady Chapel was added at the E end of the S aisle by widening it and modifying the arcade bays. Evidence of the tower falling into disrepair and the loss of the S aisle from the 18thc led to major restorations. The first general restoration was by George Gilbert Scott in 1866, and he also added the S porch. Then from 1898 a more drastic restoration was undertaken by Lord Grimthorpe, who added a vestry on the site of the lost S aisle, demolished the tower and rebuilt the W end of the nave,building a new tower at the W of the N aisle and the N vestry to the chancel. The church is faced with flint and also includes Roman brick, notably in the pre-Conquest nave windows. The arcades are described below. A small early medieval interlaced carved stone cross set in the N arcade wall was introduced from Italy in the 20thc.
The church was founded by Wulsin, Abbot of St Albans in the mid-10thc. and he also founded the churches of St Stephen and St Peter. St Michaels was confirmed to the abbey by Pope Honorius III in 1219.
Historic England Listed building, English Heritage Legacy ID:163415
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Hertfordshire, Harmondsworth 1953, 219-20.
RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Hertfordshire (London, 1910), 190-93.
Victoria County History: Hertfordshire vol. 2 (1908), 392-405.