Saturday 6th April, 2013. (The day after the 50th pre-anniversary of First Contact.)
With the weather finally improving, Emma, Erin, Emma Jayne and myself headed off to St. Albans for the day. After parking at the Drovers Way car park, we headed onto the High Street and down to ‘Simmons’ bakery for a bite to eat. ‘Simmons’ make the tastiest sausage rolls, that I have ever tasted, which Erin and Emma Jayne soon agreed with. Once we had eaten, we headed off toward the Alban Arena, where Alysha and the ‘Living the Dream’ dance group were scheduled to do a ‘Flash Mob’ at noon, followed by another one every half-an-hour. With a place found to sit, I got out my camera, set it to video and waited. The ‘Flash Mob’ began and we were treated to three minutes of various dance set to pop music. The small crowd that had gathered seemed to enjoy it, too. When the dancers had finished, Alysha came over to say ‘hi’ and play with Erin, before we headed off to get a coffee, promising to pop back to catch another show later on.
We walked back down the bustling High Street, with its myriad market stalls, buskers, families, etc. and made our way towards The Clock Tower. For a change The Clock Tower was open so, while the girls went to get the coffees, I paid my £1 and climbed the 93 narrow, winding steps to the roof, nearly 20 metres above.The St. Albans Clock Tower was built between 1403 & 1412, by a former Royal Mason named Thomas Wolvey, and was based on the great Clock House at Westminster, which was built in 1365. Its walls are made of flint rubble in a lime mortar and are up to four-feet thick. The ground floor has been used as a shop and as government offices for the government telegraph station, which was built on its roof, during the Napoleonic Wars from 1808-1814. The rooms on the next two floors were originally designed as living areas and had their own privies. The third floor room is where the mechanism for the clock is situated. The original clock was very poor at keeping time and was eventually replaced, in the eighteenth century, by a ‘modern’ pendulum clock. The belfry is situated on the fourth floor and contains the Clock Towers original bell. The bell was built by William and Robert Burford of Aldgate and weighs one ton. The bell sounds in F-natural and is named after the Archangel Gabriel and has the Latin inscription; Missi De Celis Babeo Nomen Gabrielis (From Heaven I Came, Gabriel My Name). Gabriel last rang out for the funeral of Queen Victoria, in 1901. Also contained in the belfry is the Market Bell, which was cast in 1729, and was moved from the old Market House in 1855. The last few steps take you on to the roof, through a Gothic spirelet, which was added between 1865-6. The view from the roof is incredible. Looking North you can see St. Peter’s church, the Old Town Hall and the Corn Exchange (which stands on the site of the Market House. Tracking East you can see Trinity church and following South you can make out the M25 at Ridgehill, Shenley Tower, the Sopwell ruins and Woodcock Hill. To the South you can see St. Bartholomew’s and St. Stephen’s churches before resting your eyes on St. Albans Abbey. Continuing to track towards the West, you can see the Roman Town of Verulamium and out towards Dunstable Downs. Batchwood Hall, Christ Church and St. Albans City Hospital complete the panoramic view. After taking a few photographs, I carefully made my way back down the stairs, stopping on each floor to let others wind their way up. On exiting the Clock Tower, I spotted Emma Jayne, with Erin, waiting outside of ‘Starbucks’. Emma came out with the coffees and we made our way down a small alley toward the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St. Alban. We passed the Abbey and continued down the path to Verulamium Park. Erin awoke at this point, so out of her buggy she came and we walked hand-in-hand around the lake, stopping along the way to feed the various ducks, geese, coots, moor hens, gulls, pigeons, swans, etc. More photographs were taken before it was decided to go and have a look around the Market stalls. After a good look around, we headed back over to the Alban Arena, in time to catch another ‘Flash Mob’ and yet another video. Emma Jayne was completely exhausted from her stroll around St. Albans, so I waited with her and Erin while Emma popped into the Tesco Metro, to pick up a few essentials for home. This meant I caught another performance by Alysha and the Living the Dream team, this time managing to video it and take some photographs, at the same time. We then sad ‘goodbye’ to Alysha and made our way back to the car and then home.
Yet another great day out.