32 things you might not have known about St Albans

Author Michael Morpurgo with STAGS pupils at a creative writing masterclass

Author Michael Morpurgo with STAGS pupils at a creative writing masterclass - Credit: Archant

Put your local knowledge to the test and see how many of these fascinating facts about St Albans you were aware of...

Stephen Hawking at St Albans School

Stephen Hawking at St Albans School - Credit: Archant

1) Following an attack on St Albans in September 1916, the German zeppelin SL11 became the first airship to be brought down over England during the First World War.

2) Michael Morpurgo, author of Kensuke’s Kingdom, Private Peaceful and War Horse, the latter of which was turned into a London Theatre production in 2007 and blockbuster film by Steven Spielberg in 2011, lives in St Albans.

3) It is well known that Stephen Hawking studied at St Albans School from 1952, however he also attended St Albans High School for Girls for a few months at a time when younger boys could attend one of the houses.

4) The first episode of the second series of hit E4 comedy series, The Inbetweeners, saw the cast carrying out research for a geography field trip in Market Place.

Giant Monopoly in St Albans

Giant Monopoly in St Albans - Credit: Archant

5) Esmé Bianco, the internationally-acclaimed actress best known for her role as Ros in Game of Thrones, was born in St. Albans

6) In 2013, More Than insurance dedicated a whole advert to St Albans which was filmed in the city.

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7) Pope Adrian IV (born Nicholas Breakspear), the only Englishmen to have occupied the papal throne, received his early education at the Abbey School, St Albans. He was Pope from December 4 1154 until September 1 1159.

8) St Albans features as Mayfair on a modern edition of the Monopoly board game produced in 2007. A 25ft model of the Scottie-Dog counter was placed outside the town hall to signify the event.

Tom Cruise at Veer Dhara, St Albans

Tom Cruise at Veer Dhara, St Albans - Credit: Archant

9) Former St Albans resident Jo Platt set her first novel Reading Upside Down around the city. Special mentions are given to the cobbled streets and great Holywell Hill.

10) The main gate of “Slade Prison” in the sitcom Porridge was filmed at The Gate House in St Albans. This was originally built as the town jail back in the Victorian era.

11) Paul Cattermole, a member of the band S Club 7 and the first to leave in 2002, went to Marlborough School.

12) The Clock Tower at the end of St Peter’s Street in St Albans used to house Gabriel the curfew bell, which sounded every morning at 4am and in the evening at 8pm or 9pm. It was last rung in 1901 for Queen Victoria’s funeral.

Philip Madoc in Doctor Who - The Brain of Morbius

Philip Madoc in Doctor Who - The Brain of Morbius - Credit: Archant

13) In 2012, Hollywood Star Tom Cruise surprised diners when he popped into favourite Indian restaurant, Veer Dhara, for a lobster and chicken tikka masala.

14) Welsh actor Philip Madoc, who appeared as a U-boat captain in Dad’s Army and the mad Professor Solon in Doctor Who, was patron of Best Theatre Arts, the St Albans Theatre School, and lived in London Colney until his death in 2012.

15) In December 2007, Sport England published a survey which revealed that residents of St Albans were the 10th most active in England for sports and other fitness activities.

16) Graham Frederick Young, the ‘Teacup Serial Killer’ of the 1970s, was tried at St Albans Crown Court after poisoning several members of his family and subsequently killing his stepmother. After his release in 1971 he went on to poison 70 more people, two of whom died. Young pleaded not guilty at his St Albans trial in 1972 and was sentenced to life in prison.

Mark Foster and Annie Brewster in training for the triathlon

Mark Foster and Annie Brewster in training for the triathlon - Credit: Archant

17) There are towns and cities called St Albans in Australia, Canada, and in five different locations across the United States including Vermont.

18) The 84 bus route from St Albans to New Barnet is over 100 years old.

19) Chaos City Comics, despite having moved from its original premises in what is now TK-Maxx in The Maltings to Heritage Close, was one of the first wave of original comic shops to open its doors in 1992.

20) Ali G actor Sacha Baron Cohen attended St Columba’s prep school before moving to Haberdashers Boys’ School in Elstree.

Johnny English

Johnny English - Credit: Archant

21) The Hot Cross Bun is said to originate in St Albans,. Brother Thomas Rocliffe, a 14th century Monk at St Albans Abbey, developed the original recipe and distributed the bun to the local poor on Good Friday, starting in 1381. In 2009, the Cathedral campaigned for the return of its original name the ‘Alban Bun’ which sees the cross cut into the top of the bun rather than piped on top.

22) One of Britain’s most successful swimmers of all time, Mark Foster, who has six World Championship titles, two Commonwealth titles and 10 European titles to his name, lives in the area.

23) St Albans and Harpenden are home to a range of Arsenal footballers including Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck, as well as ex-England striker Les Ferdinand, and football’s most iconic commentator, John ‘Motty’ Motson.

24) St Albans Abbey is a familiar backdrop for film and television directors. Ewan McGregor starred in the film Incendiary (2008) which contained shots of the Abbey, as well as using the city station as a location for the aftermath of a terrorist attack. Sean Connery and Richard Gere were filmed in the Lady Chapel of the Abbey for the film First Knight (1995), and in Johnny English (2003) starring Rowan Atkinson, the Cathedral was used as a substitute for Westminster Abbey. More impressively, the 2001 film Birthday Girl, starring Nicole Kidman as a St Albans bank clerk, was set entirely in our city and surrounding areas.

Mayor of St Albans Cllr Annie Brewster, Head Verger Paulm Underhill and Sub Dean Canon Richard Watso

Mayor of St Albans Cllr Annie Brewster, Head Verger Paulm Underhill and Sub Dean Canon Richard Watson break open the giant Alban Bun - Credit: Archant

25) Park Street Studios was the location for series four of the popular technological game show Robot Wars.

26) The city is home to many Team GB Olympians, including Harpenden’s canoe slalom athlete, Richard Fox, who competed in the 1992 Barcelona Games. His daughter Jessica came second in the final of the K1 Slalom event in 2012.

27) Following Amstrad’s sale to BSkyB’s in 2007, parts of Lord Sugar’s The Apprentice have been filmed locally. The series introduction and post-firing ‘walk of shame’ exit sequences from series four onwards have been filmed at the Viglen HQ building in St Albans. This venue is also used for the infamous Week 11 interviews task.

28) During the Second World War, Loreto College’s gymnasium was transformed into an air raid shelter, whilst American soldiers billeted in St Albans used the school’s hockey pitches to train.

Johnny Shepherd. The Pudding Stop.

Johnny Shepherd. The Pudding Stop. - Credit: Archant

29) Johnny Shepherd, who transformed his successful ‘Pudmobile’ train station business into The Pudding Stop shop in the town centre, was one of the last six candidates on the first series of The Great British Bake Off in 2010.

30) St Albans is home to an array of music talent including Enter Shikari, Friendly Fires and the upcoming talent of Trash Boat, who in March 2015, signed to Hopeless Records and played at Download Festival in June.

31) Alban City Primary School holds the record for the largest number of people simultaneously hopping on one leg, 490 , which was completed in May 2015 and beat the previous Japanese record.

32) In the English Civil War which saw the overthrow and execution of Charles I, the High Sheriff of Hertfordshire entered Market Place with troops in 1643 and called on the men of the town to join the king. They were attacked by troops led by Oliver Cromwell attacked and a battle took place in the High Street. The parliamentary troops won resoundingly, and St Albans remained on the side of the parliamentarians.

Enter Shikari band members Rory Clewlow, Chris Batten, Rou Reynolds and Rob Rolfe with Signature Bre

Enter Shikari band members Rory Clewlow, Chris Batten, Rou Reynolds and Rob Rolfe with Signature Brewers Sam McGregor and Tom Bott with a beer brewed for the band called Sssnakepit - Credit: Archant

St Albans band Friendly Fires has released Pala remixes

St Albans band Friendly Fires has released Pala remixes - Credit: Photo supplied