Joan Freeman. Reproduced courtesy of the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban
Until it was dissolved in 1539, St Albans Abbey dominated the life of the town. Most of the ancillary buildings that surrounded the Abbey have now gone, robbed of stone to construct other buildings in the city. But the subterranean archaeological remains endure, and help us to understand how the Abbey evolved, and the role it played in society.
After the Reformation, the Archdeaconry of St Albans turned to improving the quality of parish priests in a wide area of Hertfordshire formerly administered by the abbots of St Albans. Wilton Hall's calendar of the Archdeaconry's records sheds light on this process.
St Mary de Pré was a dependent cell of St Albans Abbey, initially established outside the town as a refuge for women with leprosy. As leprosy faded away, it became a nunnery.
In April 1924, there was a major excavation of the area formerly occupied by the Abbey's cloisters. Ernest Woolley's report was published by the Society in its Transactions for 1926, and includes contemporary photos.
This brief history of the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Albans features the role played by Paul of Caen (the Abbey's first Norman abbot), Cardinal Wolsey and the last abbot, Richard Borman, who surrendered the church to Henry VIII's commissioners at the Dissolution.
Perhaps the most famous of the monks of St Albans, Matthew Paris wrote an acclaimed chronicle of England, offering fascinating observations on the people and events he saw as important.
Analysis of food remains from the Saxon and Norman periods found at abbeys in Eynsham and St Albans helped to shed light on the extent to which the abbeys conformed to dietary rules, and how wealthy they were.
In preparation for the construction of a new Welcome Centre at St Albans Abbey, an archaeological excavation was carried out with surprising results.
Kingsbury Barn is one of an exceptional group of barns built to store grain from the estates of St Albans Abbey.
An extraordinary vision of how the wall paintings of St Albans Abbey would have appeared to medieval pilgrims
Since its formation, the Society has enjoyed a close connection with the Abbey, and led some of the earliest archaeological excavations undertaken in the grounds of the former monastery.
Following several excavations in the area around the Abbey church in 1875 and 1876, the Rev. Henry Fowler transformed contemporary understanding of the archaeology and history of the medieval monastery.
By the early nineteenth century, the fabric of the Abbey was in a dreadful state, including the High Altar Screen. Members of the Society played a pivotal role in securing its sympathetic restoration.
Since its formation in 1845, members of the Society have taken a keen interest in the Abbey, as these articles from the Transactions about the wooden watching loft and other architectural features show.