Hunt for graffiti vandals who blighted iconic St Albans ruins

Graffiti on the walls of Sopwell Priory. Picture: Danny Loo

Graffiti on the walls of Sopwell Priory. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

Vandals have sprayed graffiti over an iconic piece of St Albans history dating back to the 12th century.

Graffiti on the walls of Sopwell Priory. Picture: Danny Loo

Graffiti on the walls of Sopwell Priory. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

The tag “Zac SG” has been scrawled in black paint across the lime ruins of a Tudor house on Sadleir Road, commonly known as Sopwell Nunnery.

The site was the home of a priory dating back to 1140 which was demolished during the Reformation when the land was given to royal adviser Sir Richard Lee by King Henry VIII.

The ruins of the mansion Sir Richard built on the site have become a popular tourist attraction which is now managed by St Albans district council (SADC).

The council will have to bring in specialist teams to ensure the soft brick ruins are not damaged with chemicals when the graffiti is removed.

Chairman of St Albans Civic Society Tim Boatswain said: “Obviously it’s pretty shocking that part of St Albans heritage has been vandalised.

“It is very disappointing that some people don’t value the historical significance of St Albans.

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“The mortar holding it together will be lime and it erodes quickly - I know generally there is a problem with graffiti, not just in St Albans, but St Albans has a fantastic historical heritage and it’s so disappointing here.”

He said the society has also been trying to discourage thieves from stealing rocks from the Roman Wall, stressing that teaching people about the importance of these sites is necessary going forward.

“We need education that this is something that is valuable and important to future generations, and we need to advise people that this it is actually a crime.”

A St Albans district councillor for Sopwell, Iain Grant, said: “It’s fairly horrible and it doesn’t show much appreciation for an important aspect to our local community. Unfortunately it’s an open site because it’s meant to be enjoyed by everyone and it goes with that, that anyone can access it.

“This person obviously doesn’t appreciate the landmarks of St Albans.”

Head of community services for SADC, Debbi White, said she was shocked and angered by the vandalism: “This is an ancient monument of historical significance that dates back several centuries.”

She said district archaeologist Simon West will advise on the clear up: “The normal methods for removing graffiti cannot be used in case the cleaning chemicals harm the lime mortar or other parts of the structure. Instead, we will use a specialist contractor with expertise in this type of work.

“In the meantime, we hope the graffiti will not spoil the enjoyment people take from visiting and viewing the ruins.”

Herts police are investigating the incident, and asked anyone with information to contact PS Jordan Fox on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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