A Blue Plaque celebrating the life of courtier, politician and local landowner Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, will be installed in St Albans later this month.

Deputy Lord Lieutenant David Williams is the guest of honour at a special public ceremony at 2.30pm on August 29 at Marlborough Almshouses in Hatfield Road.

The project is being funded by Blue Plaques St Albans, made up of several local organisations, businesses and representatives from the St Albans area including the district council and St Albans BID, working together to help make the city a vibrant and interesting place to live, work and visit.

Chairman Tim Boatswain explained: "This is the fourth blue plaque installed by Blue Plaques St Albans and certainly well-deserved. Sarah was an extremely clever and astute woman who rose to be one of the most influential people of her time through her close relationship with Queen Anne.

Herts Advertiser: Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (1660-1744) circa 1700 by Sir Godfrey KnellerSarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (1660-1744) circa 1700 by Sir Godfrey Kneller (Image: Credit: incamerastock / Alamy Stock Photo)

"It is said that because of her knowledge of government she could be a powerful friend but a dangerous enemy. Her almshouses have been a fine legacy for St Albans and we are delighted the trustees have invited the Deputy Lord Lieutenant to officially install the Blue Plaque."

As a close confidante and advisor of Queen Anne (1665-1714), Sarah Churchill became the second most powerful woman in England.

Her husband John Churchill won many battles during the War of the Spanish Succession which led to the Queen awarding them the titles of Duke and Duchess of Marlborough plus the Manor of Woodstock which became the site of Blenheim Palace.

Sarah was probably born at Holywell House, St Albans in 1660 and John and Sarah maintained their strong connections with St Albans, regularly returning.

One of Sarah's greatest legacies to St Albans was the Marlborough Almshouses, completed in 1736 for 18 men and 18 women, primarily veterans of her husband’s battles and servants, at a cost of £50,000 (the equivalent of £4 million today).

The residents of Marlborough Almshouses had to be sober and pious and with an income of less than £20 per annum. Rules for the residents included taking the sacrament three times in the year, observing a curfew of 9pm in winter and 10.30pm in summer, keeping the premises neat, with no swearing and no sub-letting, and not leaving the almshouses for a period longer than three days.

Today a voluntary Board of Trustees run the Almshouses providing unfurnished dwellings designed for the needs of older people.

In 2018 Yorgos Lanthimos directed the film The Favourite in which the Duchess was played by Rachel Weiz and Olivia Coleman, who won an Oscar for her performance, was Queen Anne.

There are many more nominees for a Blue Plaque. The cost of producing and installing a plaque is £550 and to help raise more funds St Albans and Hertfordshire Architectural and Archaeological Society (SAHAAS) are holding a talk on Sarah Churchill on Tuesday August 30 at 7.45pm: Dr John Morewood, President of SAHAAS will give a 45-minute talk via Zoom. The cost will be £8 per person and all receipts will go to fund more Blue Plaques in St Albans.

You can register for the talk via SAHAAS Eventbrite page: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/not-just-a-favourite-the-formidable-sarah-duchess-of-marlborough-tickets-394936464597

If you are interested in becoming involved or want to donate to Blue Plaques St Albans, please contact: blueplaquesstalbans@gmail.com or phone Tim Boatswain on 07873 586074.