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St Michael, St Albans, Hertfordshire

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Feature Sets (2)

Description

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.

History

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.

Features

Interior Features

Arcades

Nave

N nave arcade

The arcade is now of 3 bays, round-headed with arches of a single chamfered order on rectangular piers with chamfered angles. The piers are long in the E-W direction, representing a continuous wall through which the bays have been pierced. Imposts are quirked hollow chamfered.

S nave arcade

Originally of 3 round-headed bays with arches of a single chamfered order on rectangular piers with chamfered angles. The piers are long in the E-W direction, representing a continuous wall through which the bays have been pierced. Imposts are quirked hollow chamfered. The E bay has been enlarged with a continuous arch into the Lady Chapel. Bay 2 is blocked with a narrow 13thc arch into the nave of the Lady Chapel Bay 3 now contains the S doorway, The original arcade arch remains and has been mostly blocked and a doorway inserted c.1300.

Comments/Opinions

There has been some dispute about the date of the arcades. Pevsner dated them to the early 12thc., while RCHME and VCH both date them to the latter part of the 12thc. The later date is accepted here on account of the chamfered arches and piers and the profile of the imposts.

Bibliography

  • 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.

Exterior from S
Exterior from SW
Exterior from NE
Exterior from SE
Exterior tower and nave from N
Exterior S side detail
Interior to E
Interior to W
Nave N wall E window from S
Relief cross on N nave wall, pier 1 S face

Location

Site Location
St Albans
National Grid Reference
TL 135 073 
Boundaries
now: Hertfordshire
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Hertfordshire
Diocese
medieval: Lincoln (Dorchester to 1085)
now: St Albans
Dedication
medieval: St Michael (pre-Reformation)
now: St Michael
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
24 August 2018