Fowler's plan of St Albans Monastery Boundary

Extract from Fowler's plan showing Romeland & Abbey gateway

The Revd Fowler’s Plan of the Monastery Boundary

Based on his excavations around the Abbey, 1875-76

Above is an extract from Fowler’s plan showing the area around Romeland. The full plan, to which a link can be found at the bottom of this page, should be used in conjunction with Fowler’s paper “The Boundary Wall of the Monastery of St Alban” published by the Society in 1876.[i].

In conducting several excavations in the area around the Abbey church in 1875 & 1876, the Revd Henry Fowler transformed contemporary understanding of the archaeology and history of the medieval monastery. This plan, one of several, and the paper referred to above are the results.

The most recent evaluation of his work is by Dr Isobel Thompson.[ii] She notes that Fowler’s aim was to describe the extent of the monastery as it existed in the late 14th century. Over 140 years later this work remains fundamental to our understanding of the monastery’s precincts, due to Fowler’s archaeological skills as well as his close knowledge both of the area and the documentary sources. Thompson suggests that the plan should be used with care largely disregarding any material of which Fowler had no first-hand knowledge.[iii]

There is another reason to be cautious. Several versions of Fowler’s plan survive and, in the absence of any comparative analysis, it is not clear in what sequence he produced them. That on the wall of the Abbey’s North Transept, a later copy by Charles Henry Ashdown, is stimulating both for its beauty and its historical value. Further versions are held in the Abbey Muniment Room and St Albans Museums also have a copy.[iv] The plan reproduced here comes from the Society’s Library.[v]

The Revd Fowler was one of a long line of indefatigable clergymen with a keen interest in antiquity who were so prominent in St Albans, and indeed in many parts of the country during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A master at St Albans School, he was also secretary of this Society, then called the St Albans Architectural and Archaeological Society, and author of several pamphlets and articles on local history covering such topics as the vicars of Sandridge and the stained glass of St Peter’s church. St Albans history owes much to his work and that of many like him. For further biographical information about the Revd Fowler see his obituary in article 10 in the 1899/1900 Transactions and Isobel Thompson’s short assessment of his overall contribution here.

For further information, email the Library at

A downloadable copy of the plan in the Society’s collection is available below.

[i] Three Papers read at a meeting of the St Albans Architectural & Archaeological Society, February 22nd, 1876, Randall (1876) (copy in SAHAAS Library; available to download)

[ii] Alban’s Buried Towns, An Assessment of St Albans’ Archaeology up to AD 1600, R. Niblett & I. Thompson, Oxbow Books (2005), pp 199 & 215-7 (copy in SAHAAS Library)

[iii] Ibid. See page 198, Figure 7.2

[iv] St Albans Museums’ Maps Handlist, ref. M0268

[v] SAHAAS Library Maps Handlist, ref. A1/7b