Area Guide: The popular Cottonmill area of St Albans

The eastern end of St Albans' Cottonmill Lane is surrounded by countryside. 

The eastern end of Cottonmill Lane is surrounded by countryside. - Credit: Peter Wares

A residential enclave dotted with ample green spaces, there's way more to Cottonmill than just an estate. We found out more about this peaceful part of St Albans.

Berners Drive, St Albans. 

The Cathedral is clearly visible from Berners Drive. - Credit: Peter Wares

Cottonmill Lane is the main road through the Sopwell and Cottonmill areas, running from the junction with Old London Road and Sopwell Lane to Mile House Lane, with views of the Cathedral along much its route.   

History

Cottonmill Lane is named after a cotton mill at the bottom of the hill, on the River Ver. Previously a water mill, it was built in the 18th century and used to polish diamonds. In the early 19th century production changed to spinning and weaving cotton and manufacturing candlewicks. After 1883, the site was used for open air baths.

The area changed dramatically in the 1930s when the Mentmore estate was built, followed after World War Two by the Cottonmill and St Julian’s estates.

The Cottonmill estate was built after World War Two. Picture: Danny Loo

The Cottonmill estate was built after World War Two. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

Church

St Julian’s C of E Church was founded in 1952 to serve the growing Cottonmill estate. It was initially based in a Nissen hut, eventually moving to its current building on Abbots Avenue in 1956. The church plays host to many community events and activities. 

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The Cottonmill Baptist Church was built on Abbots Avenue in the early 1950s with money raised by the community. It closed in 1968 after merging with the Park Street Baptists, and remained vacant until it became a Christadelphian church in 1976.

Shops

There is a small strip of shops on Abbots Avenue West, including a convenience store and a hair salon as well as a larger parade at Vesta Avenue, offering a mix of takeaways and grocery stores, among other amenities.

More is on offer on the nearby Abbey View Retail Park on Griffiths Way, with the likes of McDonald’s, The Range and Aldi.

Community

There is a strong sense of community spirit in Cottonmill, which is centred on the estate of the same name.

The Cottonmill and Sopwell Hub is a campaign group led by like-minded residents committed to founding a local community centre.

Noting on their website that Cottonmill is "one of the most deprived areas in St Albans", the group has spent three years working to secure funding for an inclusive meeting place for all.

The new community and cycling centre is due to open at the former Marlborough Pavilion site next year and will include a cafe, community kitchen and rooms for hire. 

Pubs

The estate’s only pub, The King Offa, closed for good in 2015 and has since been demolished.

The Hare & Hounds, Sopwell Lane, St Albans. 

The Hare & Hounds, Sopwell Lane. - Credit: Peter Wares

There are many popular alternatives close at hand however, including The Hare & Hounds, The White Lion, The Goat and The King Harry. The upmarket Sopwell House is also nearby.

Transport

The Abbey station offers a direct link to Watford, while the less convenient City station has fast trains to London on the Thameslink Bedford to Brighton line.

The A414 is immediately south of Cottonmill and the A1(M) and M25 are also close at hand. Buses connect the estate with the town centre and the two stations.

Schools

Mandeville is the local primary school for the Cottonmill estate. Rated ‘good’ by Ofsted at its most recent inspection in October, it has 60 children in each year group from Reception to Year 6. There is also a nursery on site.

Other nearby primaries include St Adrian’s Catholic primary, Prae Wood and St Peter’s (also ‘good’).

Secondary-aged children are served by the Marlborough Science Academy (‘good’), while Watling View (‘good’) is a school for children and young people aged two to 19 with learning disabilities.

Amenities and attractions

Cottonmill residents are spoilt when it comes to green spaces. 

The River Ver path is one of many scenic walks in St Albans' Cottonmill area.

The River Ver path is one of many scenic walks in the Cottonmill area. - Credit: Peter Wares

The six-and-a-half mile long Alban Way walking and cycling route runs between Cottonmill Lane and Wrestlers Bridge, Hatfield. One of the best-loved stop off points close to Cottonmill is the Watercress Wildlife Association’s local nature reserve, a peaceful haven maintained by volunteers.

The Cottonmill area offers a number of established walking trails. Picture: Danny Loo

The Cottonmill area offers a number of established walking trails. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

Nature lovers also enjoy the River Ver Trail, which passes through the area on its 17-mile route from Kensworth Lynch to Bricket Wood. Walkers following the chalk stream enjoy a picturesque tour of local attractions, including Holywell Hill and the Nunnery fields. The historic Sopwell Nunnery’s ruins date back to 1580, and now provide a scenic spot to while away an hour or two.

The ruins of Sopwell Nunnery on Cottonmill Lane, St Albans. Picture: DANNY LOO

The ruins of Sopwell Nunnery on Cottonmill Lane, St Albans. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Marlborough Pavilion open space has a BMX track, football pitch and multi-use games area. 

A social club, known variously as the Cottonmill Club and the Marlborough Club stood on the site from the 1970s, but was closed in 1994 following a fire, a year after Radiohead played there.

The Cottonmill allotments are leased from St Albans District Council. Picture: Danny Loo

The Cottonmill allotments are leased from St Albans District Council. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

There are several allotments in the Cottonmill area, with plots available to hire from the council.

The St Albans Sub Aqua Club on Cottonmill Lane has an outdoor pool used for scuba diving, snorkelling and underwater hockey. Hardy swimmers also make use of the pool.

This area guide is sponsored by Frost's, who have offices in St Albans, Marshalswick, Wheathampstead and Harpenden...

This area guide is sponsored by Frost's, who have offices in St Albans, Marshalswick, Wheathampstead and Harpenden (www.frosts.co.uk/branches) - Credit: Archant