Hidden heritage

PUBLISHED: 11:35 27 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:08 06 May 2010

SIR, — I feel compelled to put fingers to the keyboard somewhat earlier than usual in this biennial Ryder Cup year prompted by a combination of two recent items. The first concerned the sports article by golf correspondent Alan Booth (Herts Advertiser, M

SIR, - I feel compelled to put fingers to the keyboard somewhat earlier than usual in this biennial Ryder Cup year prompted by a combination of two recent items.

The first concerned the sports article by golf correspondent Alan Booth (Herts Advertiser, March 6) and the second a reader's letter concerning the museum service (March 13).

The story of the search by Verulam Golf Club for memorabilia of missing captains was accompanied by a picture of the portrait by artist Frank Salisbury of its most famous former captain, Samuel Ryder, dressed in the splendid livery of the Mayor of St Albans, the office he held in 1905/06.

It was presented to the club by the Ryder family and painted before Ryder took up golf through failing health and went on to become the benefactor of one of the world's premier sporting occasions to be enjoyed again in September.

The big issue concerning this portrait is the question of where and by whom should it be seen and where would Ryder himself have wanted it displayed.

It is a noble quest that the Verulam Golf Club seek to find its missing links in order to give honour and proper recognition to those who have given best service and be seen by its members as being an important part of the club's proud heritage.

It is an example which St Albans District Council needs to follow if it is to establish a tangible link with the citizens and its heritage throughout all the ages of its history.

Apart from the exhibition of tools of craftsmen and history of the Romans and St Alban, there is a conspicuous lack of opportunity for heritage education, and an ignorance by the populace of the contribution to our culture and heritage of people like Lord Salisbury, Lord Verulam, Lord Grimthorpe, Richard Gibbs and Francis Bacon.

The community service of Samuel Ryder as councillor, mayor, alderman and justice of the peace coupled with the fact that he was a benevolent and successful employer, fundraiser and devout churchman, puts him high on the list of St Albans worthy citizens.

The Old Town Hall once displayed portraits of former mayors in honour of the highest service that can be given to the community. Let us have them back and like Verulam Golf Club give honour on walls where honour is due.

Perhaps the Verulam with a less parochial attitude and with its centenary achieved, could loan the mayoral portrait for occasional display in what is really its rightful place for the period of the forthcoming golfing event so that the home of the Ryder Cup would be seen to be St Albans and not only the golf club.

A few years go I put a question in a letter to the Voice of Golf, Ryder Cup player Peter Alliss: Where do you consider is the home of the Ryder Cup and who should benefit most from the association?

Peter's answer: St Albans and Verulam Golf Club.

There has been little commercial benefit to the city of the Ryder link with St Albans. The lack of tangible recognition by our council of our missing benefactors represents an education opportunity lost, not only to our citizens but to our much-needed tourists who could take pleasure in a taste of St Albans heritage while sipping their beverages in the proposed Town Hall tea room.

The Town Hall is a museum-piece, part of the museum service, and the decision to turn it into another tea room is, no doubt, based on commercial considerations.

Mayors are traditionally associated with fund-raising and Samuel Ryder was exceptional in this regard. Therefore I would like to see the Town Hall as the control centre of the charity, Fund for the Future, started by a former mayor, John Peters.

The building should be for displaying post-Roman social history of St Albans worthies with an entry fee going to the charity. It could appeal to your letter writer who is rightly critical of the limited access to the museum in Hatfield Road.

Special exhibitions could well be featured in the old Tourist Information Centre - but no tools please.

May I suggest that the keepers of social history and education and the archivist of St Albans Abbey tell us what exactly is hidden from our view that could be displayed in one place if space and initiative were available.

GERRY FOSTER,

Lawrance Road, St Albans.

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