14 St Albans things that are gone but not forgotten

The Accordion Man was an iconic face throughout St Albans.

The Accordion Man was an iconic face throughout St Albans. - Credit: Archant

Yes, yes, yes, we know, it has changed so much, hasn't it? Remember St Albans back in the good old days...? Like when a man used to sit outside McDonald's with an owl on his shoulder. "The Owl Man", as he was imaginatively named.

Whether you were born and bred here way back when, or moved here as a child and became a native, there will be many features of the city which have disappeared into the mists of time.

Here are 14 things that you will know about if you've been around St Albans for a loooong time. 

1. The Accordion Man

'Paddy' Delaney spent more than 35 years charming market goers with his cheery tunes, bringing a touch of gay Paree to the city centre. He sadly died in 2015 at the ripe old age of 86. A charity busking day raised £1,700 to fund an official blue plaque, which we can remember him by. It is just outside WH Smith. 


You may also want to watch:


2. The Ice Bar

Formerly The Adelaide night club. After-pub karaoke and pitchers of hangover inducing pink stuff. Oh the memories... I think I'll leave it there. 

Most Read

3. Abbey Youth at The Crypt

A Christian youth club down in the subterranean depths of St Albans Cathedral. Who wouldn't send their kids to what is essentially a room full of dead people?! I can't see it happening now... not very gentle parenting at all. Good for video games and tea and toast.

4. Hot Coals

A mysterious, sophisticated cocktail bar in an alleyway. Essentially, a downstairs room of The Waterend Barn with a different entrance but somehow  much more magical. You had to book, if I recall, as you could only fit about 20 people in there. 

5. Claude's Creperie

A tiny French creperie tucked away on Holywell Hill - like a little bit of France (see the Accordion Man). The staff had that same level of grumpiness I experienced in Paris a couple of times. 

6. Our Price

Anyone else used to have a crush on Andy with the pony tail? Or was it just me...? They had posters in plastic covers that you could flick through and everything. Think man with wet hair cuddling baby - in black and white of course. 

7. The Forum department store

Lots of glass shelves with glass items in them, where Wagamama is now in Christopher Place. Constantly terrified as a kid that if you touched something everything in there would fall and smash. 

8. Poppins

The happy orange plastic dining experience where you got a free lolly! On Chequer Street, just near HOB. Classy wipe-clean menus when it wasn't a pandemic thing. It was like a visit to Little Chef but without the luxury of parking outside. 

9. Riders Toys and Sports

A half-sports, half-toy shop staffed by wannabe PE teachers. Working there was almost a pre-requisite to getting onto a sports BEd at De Montfort, Bedford. 

10. The InShops

For all your ex-army boot, embroidery card-making and Kendal mint cake requirements. At the top of the escalators in The Maltings. Back in the day when a trip on moving stairs was really exciting. 

11. The Philanthropist and Firkin

Get your grunge on with the competition to The Horn, where all the rock kids used to go to watch live music, hang over the balconies and quaff snakebite and black.

12. Rocket

A gift and clothes shop for people who skateboard and surf or just want to look like a skateboarder or a surfer. Opposite the Clock Tower where Raindrops On Roses currently is, but I don't think you can buy a bong in there. 

13. Rollerama

The roller-skating rink at the Alban Arena. Leg warmers optional.

Elephants in Chequer Street outside The Bell pub.

Elephants in Chequer Street outside The Bell pub. Just a typical Friday night? - Credit: Archant

14. The Bell

No trainers, no jeans. Spikey hair, one-hoop earrings, a massive meat market by night, and by day a nice place for lunch. Shoulder-to-shoulder at a time when we were allowed to touch other people. WKD and bottles of designer beer.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter