HERTFORDSHIRE

Hertfordshire landscape Flickr TheLizardQueenDescribed in 1910 by E.M. Forster as “England at its quietest”, Hertfordshire is still quiet, though perhaps not for too long.  This small agricultural county is becoming increasingly urban, housing more headquarters of many big UK companies.  It is also well-served by trains that are directly connected to London and other major UK cities, so maybe it won’t be long before it becomes a major county as well. 

 

 

 

 

 

 


St Albans CathedralIt takes less than thirty minutes to get to St Albans (pop. 84,600) from London, which has made it one of the most in-demand cities on the commuter belt.  The cathedral city got its name from England’s first martyr—a Roman soldier who lost his life (and his head) after protecting a Christian priest.  The city has long been in existence, as one of the biggest Roman settlements in England after the invasion in 43 AD, and this part of the city’s history can still be seen all around, with ruins of Roman walls, and even a Roman town.

St Albans also boasts of having the most concentration of pubs in all of England.  Even the Guiness Book of World Records has the town in its pages, as the city with the oldest pub – the Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, which is still thriving to this day.

The Clock Tower (High St., +44 1727 751820, 80p) had a mechanical clock when it was built between 1403 and 1412—clearly a sign of the town’s advancement in those times, as this was a practice practically unheard of back in the day.  Nowadays, the Clock Tower is one of a kind, the only medieval clock tower that is still in existence, and with its original bell still there.
 

In the early 19th century it acted as a semaphore station during the Napoleonic Wars.  This left the tower in such bad condition that it was almost demolished.  Thanks to Sir Gilbert Scott who restored the tower, it still stands today, and if you have energy enough, climb its steps to get a great view of the town.

The Museum of St Albans (Hatfield Road, +44 1727 751820, free) was founded in 1898, and it details the history of St Albans after the Romans left it.  It focuses greatly on the city’s medieval era, and its growth from a humble market town to the city that it is today.  It also has interactive and audiovisual displays.  Another interesting facet of the museum is its many and diverse temporary displays.

St Alban's Abbey Flickr mcaretakerSt Albans Cathedral (+44 1727 860780) started life as a Benedictine church, built around the tomb of the England’s first martyr, St. Alban.  Years later, it was completely replaced with another structure that was built using the stones from the ruins of the old Roman town.  Presently the layout of the church dates back to the Norman era, but it had several Gothic additions during the medieval era.

Smack dab in the middle of the ruins of the Roman Town is the Verulamium Museum (St. Michael’s St.,+44 1727 751820, £3.50).  It houses an extensive recreation of how life must have been like for the Romans residing on this very site, with various artifacts like glassware and weapons (or parts of them anyway).

However, for a more tangible feel of the city’s Roman past, head outside of the museum, cross the Verulamium Park to the new Mosaic Room that displays an 1800-year-old Hypocaust, which was discovered in the 1930s.  A hypocaust is a type of heating system, the first one of its kind installed in England.

After getting an idea how Romans in Britain kept themselves warm during the harsh winter, see how they kept themselves entertained at the site of a Roman Theatre (Gorehamburg Estate, +44 1727 8355035, £2.50).

Hotels
178 London Road
(178 London Road, +44 1727 846726, £55) is a Grade II-listed Georgian house that’s just as straightforward as its name.  It is situated right where the action in St Albans is – the Conservation Area—and everything is a five-minute walk away.  The three rooms are well-appointed, with cozy beds, and the bathrooms are all spacious, with a huge bathtub for relaxing.

Hosts at Fleuchary House
(29 Upper Lattimore Road, +44 1727 766764, £60) pride themselves on their “Highlands” hospitality, and this is indeed the thing that stands out in this B&B, where everything is designed the make the guests feel comfortable.    Each room is decorated differently, but tastefully.  To keep the kids occupied, you can even request game consoles for them, and John and Linda will provide them for you.

St Michael’s Manor Hotel (Fishpool St., +44 1727 864444, £125).  This townhouse-style hotel is surrounded by acres of picturesque English garden, so it’s easy on the eyes. The original building may be almost 500 years old, but the restoration done by the family who owns it ensures that it stays faithful to the original design, while still providing modern comfort for the guests.


George Bernard Shaw Wikipedia It is easy to imagine playwright George Bernard Shaw working away at his typewriter inside Shaw’s Corner (Ayot St Lawrence, near Welwyn, +44 1438 829221, £5.50), which was Shaw’s and his wife’s residence for almost fifty years.  The house was originally supposed to be a rectory, but was sold to the husband and wife when the parish deemed it too big.  It is a great example of the early 1900s Arts-and Crafts house.  It is surrounded by a vast English garden, and in the garden, you will even find Shaw’s writing hut.  Everything is made to look like Shaw still resides in the place, and is still about to write his next play.  During summers, you will be lucky enough to catch an open-air performance of one of his plays.

 

 


Hatfield House Flickr tudorroseHatfield House (Hatfield, +44 1707 287010, £9) is a fine example of great Jacobean architecture and craftsmanship.  Having been in the ownership of the Cecil family for more than four-hundred years, the Hatfield House was first built by the First Earl of Salisbury, Robert Cecil, in the 1600s, and is now owned by the 7th Marquess of Salisbury.  It was built to adjoin the former Royal Palace of Hatfield, where Queen Elizabeth I spent part of her childhood.  Part of the old palace still exists, and the association with Elizabeth never ceases in the house itself—it is part of the reason Hatfield House remains popular with visitors.

The garden surrounding the Hatfield House is also a sight to behold.  It has some plants that were never even grown in England the time it was planned by John Tradescant in the 17th century.  It is a 42-acre English garden wonder, with fountains, herbs, and even a maze.