St Peter St Albans Church
It is, based upon the writing of Matthew Paris, believed to have
been originally founded in AD 948 by Abbot Ulsinus of St Albans. There is some uncertainty about the dates other details in
the writings of Paris, but there is little doubt that the church, together with St Stephen's and St Michael's churches, was
built at about that time to receive pilgrims and to prepare them for their visit to the shrine of St Alban within St Albans
Abbey. The three churches, all of which still exist as active places of Christian worship, stand on the three main roads into
The original Anglo-Saxon structure would have been made of wood,
and nothing now remains of this. In fact, no records at all exist of St Peter's for nearly 200 years after its foundation.
During the 13th century the church assumed the form which it retained until the early 19th century - a cruciform building
with a central tower. Thomas Baskerfield's drawings of 1787 give an impression of what the church was like in its essentials
for so many centuries.
In the mid-12th century it was one of the 15 churches which, with
St Albans Abbey, became exempt from the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Lincoln. It was then ruled by the Abbot of St Albans
until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. After the Dissolution in 1539, the churches of St Albans became part of the Diocese
of London until 1845 when Hertfordshire was transferred to the Diocese of Rochester. In 1877 the Diocese of St Albans was
created and the old Abbey Church became the new Cathedral.
The nave arcades and the greater part of the aisle walls were rebuilt
in the 15th century but the 13th century west and south doorways were preserved.
In 1756 the tower arches were removed and loftier ones inserted,
as it appears that the floor of the original belfry was so low as to obstruct the perspective view of the church, but these
alterations weakened the whole structure and 30 years later the tower became dangerous. In 1785, after a protracted wrangle
between the Rector and members of the Vestry, who were not prepared to embark on what they considered extravagant repairs,
the tower was underpinned with timber. However, in 1799 the tower had become so dangerous that it was taken down to the level
of the crossing arches and finally in 1801 the belfry floor fell in. The new tower, which was erected in brick, was essentially
as is seen today in size and shape. At the same time the transepts were demolished and the chancel shortened almost out of
In 1893, after he had completed his restoration of the Cathedral
and Abbey Church, Lord Grimthorpe took it upon himself to restore St Peter's at his own expense. Reportedly only an hour-and-a-half's
examination of the church enabled him to decide "what is necessary and desirable to do in the way of restoring it to a safe
and creditable condition as far as the modern alterations leave it possible".
He lengthened the chancel and the nave by one bay each. He also
widened the church by demolishing the north wall of the nave and building a new north wall outside the line of the old one.
The west end is similar in design to that of the north transept in the Abbey with a rose window flanked by turrets. Lord Grimthorpe
also raised the roof with a steeper pitch and evidence of the previous flatter pitched nave roof can be seen on the western
face of the chancel arch. The angel corbels which held the beams of that roof have been left in their original position.
The Church is still active today and has over recent years had much work done to access and amenities.