St Albans Clock Tower
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: The only medieval town belfry in England
From 1837 the tower and the adjacent building were used as a beerhouse by a pair of local brewers.
There are 5 floors within the tower; the bottom floor was let as a shop premises, with the shopkeeper's residence above. The second floor was where the clock keeper and his family lived from 1412-1866.
On the 3rd floor is the large Victorian clock that replaced the earlier mechanism when the tower was restored in 1866. The clock was designed by Lord Grimthorpe, who also designed the mechanism for the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament (erroneously called Big Ben, which is actually the hour bell). The original 14th century bell hangs in the 4th floor, as it has done for some 700 years. Then there is the roof, where the Napoleonic shutter telegraph was used.
The tower stands near Waxhouse Gate entrance to the medieval Abbey of St Albans. Here, in 1290, the funeral procession of Queen Eleanor, wife of Edward I, rested on its journey to London. The grieving King Edward erected a memorial cross at each place the procession stopped while bringing the queen for burial at Westminster Abbey. For centuries the St Albans 'Eleanor Cross' stood outside the Abbey entrance, but in 1703 the town government, in their infinite wisdom, pulled down the cross and replaced it with a town pump. The pump in turn was replaced by a water fountain in 1874. The water fountain was later moved, so the only reminder of the Eleanor Cross is a small plaque on the side of the Clock Tower.
Another plaque, near the first, reminds us that the French Row of buildings immediately beside the tower was occupied by troops of the French Dauphin in 1216, during the Dauphins attempt to seize the throne. A later French visitor was King John II of France, taken prisoner in 1346 at the Battle of Poitiers and held briefly in what is now the Fleur de Lys Inn.
The Clock Tower is open regularly on weekends from Spring-Autumn, and at other times by arrangement for group tours.
About St Albans Clock Tower
Address: Market Place, High Street, St Albans, Hertfordshire, England, AL3 4EL
Attraction Type: Historic Building
Location: On the Market Place, a short stroll from the cathedral. Numerous paid parking areas nearby. Nearest postcode (for satnav) is AL3 5DR
Website: St Albans Clock Tower
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
St. Albans Cathedral - 0.1 miles (Cathedral)
Verulamium Museum - 0.6 miles (Roman Site)
Verulamium Hypocaust and Mosaic - 0.7 miles (Roman Site)
Roman Theatre of Verulamium - 0.7 miles (Roman Site)
St Albans Roman Wall - 0.8 miles (Roman Site)
Gorhambury House - 2.1 miles (Historic House)
Old Gorhambury House - 2.3 miles (Historic Building)
Hatfield House - 5.7 miles (Historic House)
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