St Albans Lord Mayor camapign gathers steam

THE campaign by St Albans to become the first district in Hertfordshire to have a Lord Mayor has received the backing of leading citizens.

As exclusively revealed by the Herts Advertiser, the district council is entering the Lord Mayoralty competition being held to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, and the newspaper will be backing its bid all the way.

Now other prominent figures in the community have added their support to the campaign, which focuses on how St Albans is the only city with over 800 years of history without a Lord Mayoralty, it has a remarkable heritage from over 2,000 years of human occupation and is the only city in Herts. In addition, it is a member of the Magna Carta 800th anniversary committee and is playing a major role in the planning of national celebrations in 2015.

Dean of St Albans Abbey Jeffrey John said: “St Albans is a uniquely important religious and spiritual centre, both historically and in the present. St Albans owes its name to Alban, the first known Christian martyr in the British Isles, a hero who gave up his life in standing for justice and tolerance against oppression.

“The cathedral is built over his shrine, and is the site of the longest continuous tradition of Christian worship in the country, being at least 300 years older than Canterbury.

“St Albans Abbey became the premier Abbey of England in the Middle Ages. It played a part in the drafting of Magna Carta. The Chronicler Matthew Parris wrote his works here, and the scriptorium produced many of the country’s most important and beautiful medieval manuscripts.

“The cathedral today has the largest regular attendance of any in the country, and in addition is home to four ecumenical denominations – Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran and Free Church. Until the Reformation, St Albans was an internationally important pilgrim destination.

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“The tradition of pilgrimage has been renewed, and the shrine of Alban is rapidly becoming once again a nationally and internationally important centre of pilgrimage.

“St Albans has also been chosen to represent Britain in the Network of Green Pilgrimage Cities to be launched in China later this year – an initiative whereby pilgrim cities of different faiths promote environmental stewardship and the responsible use of resources.”

Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Rev Dr Alan Smith, added: “There have from time to time been campaigns to courteously present the case of Alban as the patron saint of England over that of St George.

“I consider the close links between the Cathedral and Abbey church and the community to be a distinctive and highly beneficial aspect of life in St Albans.”

The Countess of Verulam said: “Of course I am biased because I live in the district and would not wish to live anywhere else, however St Albans has the history and the vigour to merit a Lord Mayoralty.

“One of the key merits of St Albans is the fact that the cathedral is the beating heart of the place, it is still a centre where people gather together for many different activities. The quantity of superb concerts which are performed there is remarkable. The city and the district are fortunate to have such a centre where citizens from all faiths can congregate.”

High Sheriff of Hertfordshire Lord Charles Cecil said: “St Albans is notable for the strong civic feeling of its population and the wide range of activities and support which the city provides for its citizens. There are many admirable and effective voluntary organisations in the city providing for many different needs.”

The campaign has also received the support of St Albans MP Anne Main, who highlighted the district’s 2,000 year history, rich heritage and historic city status, merits which were echoed by the Marquess of Salisbury, Chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire.

Liberal Democrats leader Tom McNally said: “I give my enthusiastic support for this application.

“I and my family have now lived in St Albans for nearly 20 years. Throughout that time I have been impressed by the community spirit and civic pride which is exemplified both by the care and attention paid to our historic heritage and the initiatives taken in areas of green technology and sustainability.

“This combination of pride in our past and commitment to tomorrow’s world makes St Albans a very strong contender for this designation.”

The deadline for applications is May 27 and a special project team is currently working on a draft application which has to include an introduction highlighting why the area deserves a Lord Mayoralty.