St Albans actress campaigns to bring home the Bacon

Briony Rawle stands in front of Sir Francis Bacon's statue in St Michael's Church.

Briony Rawle stands in front of Sir Francis Bacon's statue in St Michael's Church. - Credit: Archant

A SNAPSHOT survey in St Albans to determine how much is known about Francis Bacon, one of the founders of modern science, has found that very few residents know of his life or connection with the establishment of the American colonies.

Actress Briony Rawle of St Albans said that despite Francis Bacon being a 16th-Century lawyer, politician, philosopher and scientist who played a major role in the founding of the American colonies, his name and achievements were “in danger of being entirely forgotten in his home town”.

When she recently carried out an informal survey in the city centre to gauge local knowledge of Bacon, who was knighted in 1603, becoming Baron Verulam in 1618 and Viscount St Alban in 1621, only about half of the 50 people she quizzed had heard of him.

Briony added: “Even an ex-pupil of Francis Bacon School was unable to tell me anything about him. Only three people knew that he was linked to St Albans and only one person knew that Gorhambury House had been Bacon’s home.

“We in St Albans have a right to be extremely proud of its historical credentials. The city is stuffed with evidence of our historical standing, from the Roman wall and amphitheatre to the plaque on the Clock Tower commemorating the ‘resting’ of Queen Eleanor’s body here in 1290.

“St Albans is even mentioned in several Shakespeare plays. Bacon was arguably one of the most important people ever to come from St Albans, but since Francis Bacon School [was renamed the Samuel Ryder Academy] last year, I wonder whether St Albans is slowly forgetting him.”

She said that when Bacon died in 1626 there was a “legend that he caught a chill from stuffing a chicken with snow to investigate the idea that keeping food cold may preserve it for longer”.

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Bacon founded the method of impartial empirical experimentation that we use today.

Briony said: “I think it is important to remember that St Albans provided a place of refuge and inspiration for one of Britain’s most important scientific pioneers, and I hope that we can continue to keep Bacon’s name alive.”

The remains of Gorhambury House are open to visitors, and there is a statue of Bacon in the chancel of St Michael’s Church which depicts him reclining on a chair. His bust is carved on the front of the Maltings Surgery on Victoria Street.

Briony is a member of the Francis Bacon Society which was founded in 1886 and is based in London: