Attic find lights up St Albans history

Society President Sandy Walkington (right) inspects the plans with Chris and Becky Shepherd from Bec

Society President Sandy Walkington (right) inspects the plans with Chris and Becky Shepherd from Becketts Avenue and son Alex. Photo taken prior to lockdown. - Credit: Archant

A chance find in a local attic has shed new light on the development of housing, shops and factories in St Albans between the 1870s and the 1940s.

The discovery of 300 architects’ plans for key city locations in a Becketts Avenue house is being considered a major find by the Albans and Hertfordshire Architectural and Archaeological Society (‘the Arc & Arc’), which believes they will provide hitherto unknown details about these buildings.

The plans have now been acquired by the society, guaranteeing that they will be preserved and made available to local historians, researchers and the relevant property owners.

They include the hosiery mills in Fleetville where Morrisons is now located, the Marks & Spencer building and Mallinson House in St Peter’s Street, and various domestic properties in the Fleetville area.

Society president Sandy Walkington, explained that such documents are rarely made available to the public to study. “St Albans district council may have copies of these plans on microfilm but their busy planning department is not set up to readily accommodate researchers.

“Once catalogued, this collection will be available to Society members and public alike to access at our library at Sandridge Gate. I was intrigued to see how late stables continued to be seen as necessary and desirable facilities but there is so much else which shows how people’s lives changed over the period.”

Becky and Chris Shepherd discovered the drawings in their attic. They are delighted that they have found a suitable home where members of the public can use them.

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Becky said: “That was really important for us. We want people to see these plans. Some are beautiful objects in their own right. It’s been great learning from members of the society what these drawings tell us about the city we so much enjoy living in.”

Founded in 1845, SAHAAS is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year. Sandy added: “Acquiring and preserving documents to ensure that they will be available in another 175 years is one of our key objectives.

“This acquisition is further evidence of the key role that the society continues to play in helping all of us understand the history of this wonderful city.”

The catalogue listing the 300 or so plans will be posted on the society’s website ( in the next few months.