CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Hertfordshire Life today CLICK HERE

Roses, Romans and relics in St Albans

PUBLISHED: 13:58 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:19 20 February 2013

St Albans Clocktower

St Albans Clocktower

There's no need to head off to the Med this summer to discover Roman treasures, a wonderful spectacle awaits visitors to St Albans.Sue Armstrong takes a closer look

WHICHEVER way you approach St Albans, the magnificent Cathedral and Abbey Church dominates the skyline. It stands on a hill overlooking the valley of the river Ver and beyond it lie the buried ruins of the Roman city of Verulamium.

St Albans is vibrant and full of character and its history is evident at every turn. The colourful market and cobbled streets add to its appeal, as do the excellent schools, shops, restaurants and the wide range of entertainment available here.

The city was first built as Verulamium by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago and renamed after Britain's first Christian martyr, St Alban. He was executed for his beliefs in the 3rd century AD and a candlelit shrine has been dedicated to him. Intricately carved with a scene of the martyrdom, it can be found at the heart of the cathedral.
There is much to see and do in and around St Albans, discovering the modern city of today and the life and times of centuries past. Reminders of the Roman occupation are all around and a visit to the Verulamium Museum gives a fascinating insight into the way the Romans lived, as well as an opportunity to view numerous artefacts that have been found during excavations.

The entrance to the Verulamium Museum is via a rotunda, designed to reflect Roman construction techniques. Every second weekend of the month, it is invaded by Roman soldiers who demonstrate the tactics and equipment of the Imperial Army. The museum stands in the middle of what was one of Britain's largest Roman cities and much of what remains lies underneath Verulamium Park. But there are several parts of the site where amazing ruins have been revealed, including some of the finest mosaics outside the Mediterranean.

The city was first built as Verulamium by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago

Exploring these remains involves a leisurely stroll in the park, with its lakes and wildfowl, and around part of the modern town. The Roman Theatre of Verulamium is one of the treasures that can be seen, dating back to around 140AD. It is the only example of its kind in the country, having a stage rather than an Amphitheatre, with seating for 2,000 or more spectators. These ruins were unearthed in 1847 and subsequent excavations have exposed a row of shop foundations, a Roman Villa and a secret shrine, all thought to date from the 1st century.

Signs lead the way to a modern building which houses a 1,800-year-old hypocaust. On show here is an example of one of the first heating systems and it has an elaborate mosaic floor. This was uncovered during excavations in the 1930s and it was decided to leave it in its original location, where it formed part of the meeting and reception rooms of a large Roman town house.

Following the Roman trail towards the cathedral, sections of the city walls can be seen, originally stretching 2 miles and enclosing an area of 203 acres. The foundations of the massive London Gate are also revealed, originally one of four main entrances to the town.

The Roman invasion of Britain is arguably one of the most significant events ever to happen in our history, affecting our language, culture, geography and architecture. Even though thousands of years have passed since that chapter, their mark is still firmly imprinted in St Albans today.


Verulamium Museum
St Michael's Street
01727 751810

Gardens of the Rose
Chiswell Green Lane
Chiswell Green
01727 850 461
Open from June 4 to September 28 2008


More from Out & About

Yesterday, 10:28

It’s a great tradition, but where to go? Countryside Management Service projects officer Emily Clowry picks five of the best Boxing Day rambles in Herts

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Hertfordshire’s churches are storehouses of history, yet they also attract legends. Mia Jankowicz follows the mysterious trail

Read more
December 2018
Monday, December 3, 2018

Clear your head during the colder months with a walk around the beautiful and varied Hertfordshire countryside. We have gathered eight spots that make stunning walks in the winter

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

From Aldbury to Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire has a plethora of pretty villages. We have picked just 10 that you should visit

Read more
Friday, November 16, 2018

Christmas isn’t complete without a trip to a festive fair. From German-style food stalls to vintage fetes, Hertfordshire’s Christmas markets have it all

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

We quiz author Kevin Exley about his new book that takes the reader on the trail of fascinating stories, new and old, around Berkhamsted

Read more
October 2018
Monday, October 29, 2018

Hertfordshire is a county with a vast, fascinating and sometimes dark and bloody history that has reportedly lead to more than a few angry ghosts sticking around to wreak havoc and take revenge on the living. We have gathered 10 of the most haunted places in the county

Read more
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Make the most out of autumn with these eight walking routes that take in a variety of Hertfordshire’s terrains and - most importantly – have a cosy pub along the way

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

We've selected a variety of spooky activities in the county that are sure to delight the kids

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust’s Charlotte Hussey explores the fascinating world of bats and new projects in the county to help conserve these remarkable creatures

Read more
October 2018

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search