Area Guide: The Cottonmill area of St Albans
PUBLISHED: 10:42 22 March 2018 | UPDATED: 11:46 23 March 2018
Danny Loo Photography 2018
Cottonmill is a mostly residential area of St Albans, renowned for its strong sense of community.
Located south of the city centre, Cottonmill is centred on the estate of the same name.
It has many green spaces, some of which have play equipment (those on Holyrood Crescent and Berners Drive being two examples)
Cottonmill Lane is named after a cotton mill at the bottom of the hill, on the River Ver. The cotton mill was previously a water mill, built in the 18th century and used to polish diamonds. In the early 19th century production changed to spinning and weaving cotton and manufacturing candlewicks. After 1883, the site was used for open air baths.
Properties currently for sale in Cottonmill include a three-bed end terrace house with guest annex on Creighton Avenue for £700,000.
The estate’s only pub, The King Offa, closed for good in 2015 and has since been demolished. Affordable housing is set to be built on the site, which is owned by the council.
There are many popular pubs close at hand however, including The Hare and Hounds, The White Lion, The Goat and The King Harry. The upmarket Sopwell House is also nearby.
The Abbey station offers a direct link to Watford, while the less convenient City station has fast routes to London on the Thameslink Bedford to Brighton line.
The A414 is immediately south of Cottonmill and the A1(M) and M25 are also close at hand. Buses connect the estate with the town centre and the two stations,
There is a small strip of shops on Abbots Avenue West, including a convenience store and a much in-demand hair salon, The Hair Shop. There is a larger parade of shops at Vesta Avenue, offering a mix of take aways and grocery stores, among other amenities.
More is on offer in and around the nearby Abbey View Retail Park on Griffiths Way, where there’s a Sainsbury’s, Pets at Home, Bunnings, Halfords, Matalan, Carpetright, Tapi Carpets and McDonald’s.
St Julian’s C of E Church was founded in 1952 to serve the growing Cottonmill estate. It was initially based in a Nissen hut, eventually moving to the current building on Abbots Avenue in 1956.
The Community Café runs from the church every Thursday (apart from those close to Easter and New Year) between 10.30am-2.30pm. It provides a welcoming environment for people to get together and enjoy tasty home-cooked food such as soup or jacket potatoes.
Many regular groups and classes are held in the church hall, including tap dancing lessons and a weekly playgroup.
Mandeville is the local primary school for the Cottonmill estate. It is a two-form entry school, with 60 children in each year group from Reception to Year 6. There is also a nursery on site. The school is more diverse than many others in St Albans; the latest Ofsted report states that 40 per cent of pupils speak English as an additional language and a fifth of the total intake come from Bangladeshi backgrounds. Ofsted praised the school at its 2016 inspection, saying “Mandeville is a good and improving school with many outstanding features. The headteacher’s very clear vision and strong leadership have created a culture where teaching, learning and behaviour flourishes.”
Other nearby primaries include St Adrian’s catholic primary, Prae Wood and St Peter’s (also ‘good’).
Secondary-aged children are served by the Marlborough Science Academy and Samuel Ryder Academy, which were both rated ‘good’ at their last inspections.
Watling View (‘good’) is a school for children and young people aged two to 19 with severe, profound and multiple learning disabilities.
Amenities and attractions
The St Albans Sub Aqua Club on Cottonmill Lane has an outdoor pool used for scuba diving, snorkelling and underwater hockey. Hardy swimmers also make regular use of the pool.
There are several allotments in the Cottonmill area, with plots available to hire from the council.
The six-and-a-half mile long Alban Way walking and cycling route runs between Cottonmill Lane and Wrestlers Bridge, Hatfield. It covers what was the Hatfield to St Albans branch line of the Great Northern Railway, which opened in 1865 and closed in 1969.
Nature lovers will enjoy the River Ver Trail, which passes through the area on its 17-mile route from Kensworth Lynch to Bricket Wood.
The historic Sopwell Nunnery’s ruins date back to 1580, and now provide a scenic spot to while away an hour or two.
The Marlborough Club open space has a football pitch, multi-use games area and pavilion with hall, kitchen and changing rooms. Those who have made recent use of the facilities include the cast of The Windsors.
A social club, known variously as the Cottonmill Club and the Marlborough Club stood on the site from the 1970s, but was closed in 1994 following a fire, a year after Radiohead played there.
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