With the Library still closed, work goes on behind the scenes as we do what we can, working from home; and we hope to be able to make plans for re-opening the Library, even if with reduced or altered services, as soon as it is safe for you and for us to do so.
The Society’s Library is continually acquiring books and other documents through donation and purchase. If you’d like to consult any of them, you can find them in the Library. Some publications can be borrowed – if in doubt, consult one of our friendly librarians.
The library has been blessed with a number of new and significant acquisitions during the last couple of months.
The first of these is the deed of sale of the White Hart Inn, and four acres of land, on Holywell Hill, in 1792. We are indebted for this to the family of the late Clare Marion Seeley, who lived for many years in New England Street. It has been added to the Society’s collection of property deeds and, like all our acquisitions, will be accessible to members and researchers when the library re-opens.
We have also acquired, for a very reasonable price, a collection of 300 architects’ plans of local properties. You may have seen coverage of this in the Herts Advertiser in March. The plans shed light on the development of housing and commercial property in St Albans between the 1870s and the 1940s, and include plans of a hosiery mill, the Marks & Spencer building and Mallinson House in the city centre, and domestic properties around the city. Such documents are rarely available for the public to study and we are lucky to have them and to be able to make them available for research.
Equally valuable in demonstrating changes in the city over the years are about 30 black and white photographs from the estate of the late John Rudling. These date from the 1980s and feature what were once familiar local buildings then on the point of demolition or repurposing. Subjects include the water tower behind Sandridge Road, the Ballito factory on Hatfield Road and the railway control centre at Bricket Wood.
Last but by no means least… we received the donation of an invaluable collection of books and pamphlets from the Abbey as part of the Beardsmore Gift in 2017; the books are already catalogued and work is well-advanced in adding the pamphlets to the online catalogue as well. Now, thanks to Caroline Howkins and Andy Lawrence who provided the transport, we have taken possession of 56 (yes, 56) albums of postcards, about 4,500 in total, as part of the same donation. These have come to the library since its closure and I haven’t been able to see them myself yet, but I am looking forward to it and I am sure that other members are as well!
Recent journal articles
- The Alban Link, no. 92, Spring 2020 pp.4-5 “The Amphibalus journey”, by Julia Law. St Amphibalus’ shrine base dates from the 1300s. It had suffered Victorian renovations and been moved to a dark corner in the Cathedral. After detailed photography, the shrine was dismantled and taken to Skillingtons in Grantham for cleaning and conservation. The shrine should be completed and in its new site, the Chapel of the Four Tapers, by April. (Note: at present due to coronavirus the new date for completion is September.)
- pp.8-11 “The heart case of Abbot Roger de Norton” by Barry Knight. A box used as a burial case for the heart of Roger de Norton, who died in 1291 was discovered in 1872 beneath the floor in the Chapel of Four Tapers. The fragment that remains has Arabic inscription and was probably from north Afghanistan or south Uzbekistan.
- The Local Historian, vol 50, no 2, April 2020 pp.157-160 “Books on Hertfordshire subjects” by various authors. Four titles are reviewed: Hertfordshire Population Statistics 1563-1801 2nd ed. by Heather Falvey; Tudor and Early Stuart Parks in Hertfordshire by Anne Rowe; Passing Through: The Grand Union Canal in west Hertfordshire 1791-1841 by Fabian Hiscock; and Wills, Inventories and Probate Accounts from St Albans 1600-1615, Pat Howe and Jane Harris (eds.).
- Local History News, no 135, Spring 2020 p.14 “175 Years of the Arc & Arc” by Sandy Walkington. A brief history of our own Society together with the plans (now mostly online) for the 175th anniversary.
- Harpenden & District Local History Society Newsletter, no. 140, April 2020. pp.18-22 “Ronald Fisher, a leading Harpenden scientist”, by Gavin Ross. Ronald Fisher, 1892-1952, was an eminent statistician and geneticist employed at Rothamsted between 1919 and 1933. He introduced the Millionaire, an early mechanical calculator to analyse data from the Rothamsted long-term experiments. He was a promoter of Eugenics and was knighted in 1952.