St Albans prepares to celebrate 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta

Former Mayor of St Albans Cllr Annie Brewster with the Magna Carta during its visit to the city

Former Mayor of St Albans Cllr Annie Brewster with the Magna Carta during its visit to the city - Credit: Archant

As one of only five Magna Carta Charter Towns, St Albans will be joining the nation in celebrating the landmark document’s 800th anniversary, with a series of free events to be held in June.

The ‘Great Charter’ of liberties was demanded in the 13th Century by English barons in response to King John’s tyranny. It is seen as the foundation of constitutional government, and the first acknowledgment that everybody is equally subject to the law.

The commemorative programme is intended to engage all ages in the city’s unique cultural heritage. It is also planned to highlight the present-day relevance of the charter, which is seen as the bedrock of modern human rights declarations.

Celebrations include a medieval market in St Albans town centre, complete with royalty and vendors in historical attire, and live music and storytelling.

The Magna Carta granted fair trial for every free man, which is to be reflected in a 13th Century trial re-enactment, and an open day at the Crown Court. This will include fingerprinting activities, displays of police dogs and uniforms, and a treasure hunt.

Continuing with the legal theme, the BBC’s Danny Shaw is to chair a historical debate on prison education. This is the only ticketed event on the programme.

St Albans Abbey is also set to get involved, with a celebratory bell ring and a Magna Carta Exhibition, for children and adults alike. The Old Town Hall is set to hold an exhibition on medieval lives in St Albans. Free walking tours will enlighten those who want to learn on the go.

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Cllr Annie Brewster, district council portfolio holder for sport, leisure and heritage said: “I am very proud of the contribution our city made in 2013 to kick off the 800th commemoration celebrations, reflecting the pivotal role St Albans had in the history of Magna Carta.

“I find it incredible to think this historic document that sets out the basic rights and freedoms of common people, including the right to trial by jury, began here in St Albans Abbey in 1213.

“Magna Carta forms the basis of the laws and constitution of many countries across the globe. It is most fitting, therefore, that in June our residents will get the unique opportunity to enjoy courtroom experiences in both our 1831 Georgian courtroom and our modern crown court plus many magnificent events in the Cathedral and the city centre. I hope to see as many people as possible at the various events forming part of the nation’s celebrations of the Runnymede sealing of Magna Carta in 1215.”

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