City is Ryding high thanks to Team St Albans

Samuel Ryder

Samuel Ryder - Credit: Archant

Kishor Majithia, owner of The Clarion Collection, writes for the Herts Ad on behalf of the St Albans Visitor Partnership

A new film about Stephen Hawking has just had its UK premiere, and now many more people in the UK and across the world will know that one of the most famous scientists of our times lived and was educated here in St Albans.

The new branding for the city has a slogan: Choose your Story, which is a nod to the 2,000 years of stories that make this city what it is today, and attract many visitors here every year, and it is easy to see this history as you stroll around the area and take in the Roman remains in Verulamium Park, the 11th century cathedral dominating the skyline, the Georgian town hall, and the myriad Tudor buildings lining Holywell Hill.

But this ancient heritage sometimes overshadows the more recent history that St Albans can also be proud of, with Stephen Hawking being a prime example. And of course Samuel Ryder (pictured), founder of the most famous golf competition in the world, and someone of particular interest to me, and my hotel.

Ryder was a resident of St Albans and set up his successful seed and mail order business in the city in 1895, housed in a purpose-built Exhibition Hall on Holywell Hill. This building was a beautiful Art Deco construction with stained-glass roof and windows, and today is home to Café Rouge.

His head office, specifically constructed for his business with the front carved reliefs of sowers and reapers, was squeezed in between the Exhibition Hall and the 15th-century White Hart Hotel. It’s a magnificent building, and today I am proud to say it is a tastefully-restored boutique hotel, called The Clarion Collection, which plays to its heritage with the Samuel Ryder Bar and Ryder Restaurant.

Many local people have a vague awareness of the history of this building, but perhaps not enough to share it with others; others who might well choose to come and stay in this city if they were aware of the Ryder connection. There is even a Samuel Ryder trail that golf fans can take part in.

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And I think this is one of the issues that Team St Albans, the grouping of local businesses who are working together to promote the city to visitors, is trying to address: for us all to work together to communicate what St Albans has to offer in terms of facilities, amenities and attractions and also to spread the word about its unique place in history and its many famous sons and daughters, to the wider world.

As a business owner in St Albans, I have always been aware of how much goes on here but have never really known how to get involved. Joining Team St Albans, however, has made a big difference to us. This year, we participated in the St Albans Film festival as part of the Bird Trail, we hosted events for the first St Albans Literary Festival and we’ve partnered with the Abbey by offering special rates for some of their events.

I hope that those members – and prospective members - of Team St Albans who were able to join a pre-Christmas networking event at the hotel last week enjoyed our hospitality and left with an idea of our hotel’s heritage and also of the fact that we have 65 luxury bedrooms right in the heart of the city. And I am sure that the next Team St Albans event - which will be held at Club Batchwood on January 15 – will be equally well attended.

I would urge local businesses to join this group. It is clear that the more that business in St Albans can work together to attract more visitors and tourists to share in our wonderful city, the better it will be for everyone.

To join Team St Albans, contact: or register your interest at Twitter: @TeamStAlbans