In and Out of London Or, the Half-holidays of a Town Clerk

Loftie, W. J.





THE modern traveller from London to St. Albans will conveniently, if unwittingly, follow the footsteps of a personage of whom it may safely be said that while few in England are so ignorant that they do not know her name, still fewer are so wise that they know anything more. The semi-fabulous deeds of Boadicea begin and end with a battle at St. Pancras and a massacre at Verulam. The name of Verulam is now lost in the modern name of St. Albans, if anything so ancient can even comparatively be called modem; and the fame of Battle Bridge is obscured in Pentonville-road and King's-cross, although this last appellation has been taken by some to refer to a victory of King Alfred himself.

But an equally convenient route is by Euston and the North-Western Railway through Watford. By this line the visitor will find himself deposited at the foot of the hill on which the Abbey stands, and within a few hundred yards of the most prominent relic of the Roman city. He will probably make for the Abbey at once, postponing his visit to the older if


less interesting remains; and crossing the river from which the ancient Verulam, or Gwerllan derived its name, he will ascend Holywell-hill, remarking, as he passes, the lane which leads on the right to the ruins of Sopwell Nunnery, where flourished the strong-minded Prioress, Juliana Berners, of sporting and heraldic celebrity. If he wishes for something to occupy his mind during the ascent, he may discuss with himself the truth of the story by which the name is accounted for, and wonder if the first two sisters did really sop their dry bread in the waters of the holy well. The street is uninteresting, few of the houses being ancient; and after the first view of the Abbey, which is obtained from the railway station, there is little to attract until a narrow passage on the left suddenly reveals the glories of the east end, the Lady-chapel, the south transept, the great tower, and, as if purposely to contrast with the ruddy tones of the ancient brickwork, a magnificent cedar, renewing its youth in a green and flourishing old age. The Decorated windows of the Lady-chapel, although unglazed and dilapidated, the flat Roman tile of which the walls are built, the heavy Norman arches, and the general absence of pinnacles or flying buttresses, all give a singular character to the building, and will impress the beholder with a sense of the real unity of the heterogeneous pile. There is, notwithstanding the prevalent decay, a business-like air about it all. Strength, massiveness, completeness, were the objects of the builders,-not ornament.


The abbots were too busy with politics, the monks too busy with literature, to have time to spend on mere frivolity; and if this impression is not fully borne out by a further examination of the church, it is at least one which will be shared in at the first sight by almost every visitor.

Passing through an archway which leads from the south side to the north between the sanctuary on the left and the Lady-chapel on the right-a modern arrangement similar to that by which Wolsey's Chapel is divided from the choir at St. George's at Windsor- a lane which leads back to the street will be reached, and a fine view obtained of the most remarkable feature of the Abbey; for almost without end toward the west stretches, arch after arch, bay after bay- first Norman then Early English-the long-drawn perspective of the nave. The north closely resembles the south transept, both being mainly of Norman construction, and both having an immense Perpendicular window at the end. A good view of the same side may be obtained by entering an archway adjoining a baker's shop in George-street, on the left hand, after leaving the market-place, into which the visitor will have emerged from the passage. An ancient tower formerly stood opposite the street entrance to this passage, and marked the site of the royal palace of Kingsbury; but the clock tower itself has been utterly restored within the last few years, and presents nothing but its name to interest the archaeologist. In order to walk round the Abbey


before visiting the interior, it will be necessary to pass through George-street from the market-place, and descending a hill to reach the open space at the western extremity of the church, which still goes by the suggestive name of Rome Land.

Passing between the churchyard of the Abbey on the left, and a triangular piece of ground-also a cemetery-on the right, the road leads through the only portion of the Abbey buildings which remains. It is an Early English gateway, surmounted by a Perpendicular building which for centuries had been used as a prison, but is now the site of King Edward the Sixth's Grammar-school, removed from the Lady- chapel, which it had long desecrated-a good thing in the wrong place. The bibliographical visitor will perhaps stop here to see the Caxtons unearthed in an old cupboard in the chapel by Mr. Blades in ; otherwise he will pursue his way towards the east, along a narrow path between the grassy mounds which mark the site of the cloisters, the chapter-house, the refectory, the dormitories, and all the other buildings of a great monastery, of which now not a vestige remains. Dr. Stukeley tells of their destruction in , and a drawing or two at the British Museum and the Society of Antiquaries testify to their greatness. The marks of the roofing of the cloisters remain in the south wall of the nave, and the rest of the buildings which were as usual placed around them. From the top of the great tower, and especially in dry weather, their plan may


be traced by the colour of the grass and the general direction of the mounds which mark their site. The great length of the nave, at this side chiefly of pointed work, shows well from the cloister; and the low building in front of the south transept recalls the chapel of St. Blaize at Westminster Abbey, and points to the site of the chapter-house. The path leads under the turrets of the transept to the east side, where it reaches the foot of the yew-tree already mentioned near the Lady-chapel, and the door by which at present the church is usually entered. This was the door of the sacristy, which lay parallel to the south transept, but has now entirely disappeared.

Once within the Abbey a feeling of despair comes over the visitor. The impossibility of noticing everything worthy of notice, the vastness of the edifice, the seemingly puny efforts of modem art to rival or even to sustain the wonders of old time, the memories which crowd upon the brain, and the mere physical fatigue induced by traversing the long aisles and ascending the almost inaccessible tower, -all these produce a confusion of mind from which it takes some time to rally. The present building or collection of buildings began to be made in the days of Eadmer, the ninth Abbot, towards the close of the tenth century. He collected materials for rebuilding the church of Offa; and he seems to have set the example, so extensively followed in later times, of using the materials of the Roman Verulam for the construction of the English abbey. But it was


not until the incumbency of Paul, the first Norman Abbot, that any part of the present building was begun, and carried out so effectually that the tower, the transepts, and the easternmost bays of the nave, attest his industry to this day. Some of the pillars in the transepts present features usually assigned to the semi-mythical Saxon period of our architecture, but it is hardly possible that these are part of the materials either of an older building or of the collections of Eadmer. The most prominent interior defect is the want of vaulting; for although in parts a barrel vault, and in others a wooden arched roof are to be seen, the flat ceiling, or boarding, of the latest period, is unsatisfactory in the extreme. The medieval builders were probably aware, that notwithstanding the great thickness of the walls, the material of which they were constructed and the method of construction pursued would not bear the thrust of a heavy vaulting; and their fears are justified by the very insecure appearance now of the south wall of the nave, with its beautiful Early English and Decorated details. It is the eastern end, with its chapels and its sanctuary, which has suffered most in the lapse of ages. The chapels are gone; a public path crosses behind the altar; the Lady- chapel has been till lately a grammar-school; and of the magnificent marble shrine of the saint himself nothing remains but the marks in the floor of the sockets of the marble pillars by which it was elevated to such a height that it might be seen even


from the high altar of the choir and over the lofty screen.[1]  The glory of all this has departed, and much else that was glorious with it; yet it must not be supposed that St. Albans suffered at the dissolution a tithe of the destruction which fell upon Malmesbury, or Glastonbury, or Woburn. Sir William Petre, of whom we have given some account in our notes of a visit to Ingatestone, was associated with Thomas Leigh, another commissioner of Henry VIII. and his minister, Cromwell; to whom, no doubt, much of the destruction commonly attributed to another Cromwell and his Ironsides, properly belongs. They report that, having visited St. Albans Abbey during the absence of the Abbot in London, they summoned him before them, and endeavoured to persuade him to surrender. He seems to have been very unwilling to do so, and said he would rather have to beg his bread all the days of his life. However, whether his resolution failed, or whether he was tempted by handsome offers, he at length, as we know, surrendered peacefully, was well pensioned, and afterwards himself became by purchase the possessor of the ancient precincts, finally yielding them to Queen Mary, in contemplation of her intention of restoring him as Abbot and renewing the greatness of the Abbey. This intention was never carried out, but the church was saved. Its destruction had almost begun. The first


grantee of the site had pulled down the parish church of St. Andrew, which stood on the north side in the churchyard, as St. Margaret's yet stands at Westminster; and but for Boreman's timely interference all would also have been ruined.

The Abbey of St. Albans is itself so closely wound up with our national history, that any detailed account of it would be a mere cento from the chronicles. Yet, viewed from various points, it will be found a curious and instructive commentary. A series of scenes, more or less real, more or less authentic, more or less connected one with the other, are presented successively, whilst, like the hero of an old romance, the proto-martyr of Britain-or, as the monks seem usually to have called him, in defiance of history, the proto-martyr of England-comes into prominence over and over again, living or dying, dead, buried, or dug up again, until, by the mere force of reiteration, the story becomes true, if it wanted truth before, and the effects of the legend are greater than the subject of the legend itself. Tradition is a weak staff to lean upon; yet it was the tradition of five centuries upon which Offa II. was content to found his Abbey and establish his colony of Benedictines. Alban suffered in the fourth century, when, according to the St. Albans Chronicle, in MS. at , quoted by Dr. Nicholson,

was gret persecution of Christen pepell by the tyrant Diocletian.

Amphibalus, by whom he had been converted, was put to death at


Redbourne, not far off, and his relics, having been discovered in the reign of Henry II., were brought to the Lady-chapel and interred near those of the friend from whom he had been separated for seven hundred years or more. Gildas and Bede are the earliest historians by whom St. Alban is mentioned. All the more minute particulars of his martyrdom must be apocryphal. Tradition says that the exact spot on which he suffered was where the north transept now stands, and that a tablet was placed on the wall of the Roman city in the valley below detailing the crime and the punishment as a warning to future offenders. That his remains were not burnt according to the Roman rule, but were buried where he fell, we owe to the piety of his disciples: that they were discovered hidden under the turf-

sub cespite diu absconditum,

as Matthew Paris puts at-must be acknowledged a miracle. Nor was his martyrdom the last which his city witnessed. An interval of twelve hundred and fifty-three years and two months separates it from that of George Tankerville, who, under the regime of Bishop Bonner, was burnt alive on the triangular plot of land to westward of the Abbey, and in front of the Abbey gateway of which we have already spoken. His persecutors no doubt took care that no future Offa should discover his remains; but when the flames which consumed him died out, with them died the last hope of restoring the system whose splendid results, towering above and around


his stake, must have seemed hateful to his latest gaze. The spot on which he suffered reminds us of the scene of Hooper's execution at Gloucester; the same west window seems to look down on both, and the story of the Abbey of St. Mary resembles not distantly that of the Abbey of St. Alban, up to the point at which one became the seat of an episcopal see, and the other, less fortunate though not less deserving, became, by the generosity of a private individual, a parish church. Master Stump, a rich clothier of the town, bought it for £400 and presented it for ever to his fellow-parishioners of St. Andrews. The advowson was, until recent times, in private hands, but having been purchased by the late venerated rector, Dr. Nicholson, it was bequeathed to the see of Rochester.

The story of the relics of St. Alban is a typical example of what may be called the irony of history. According to one account, the body of the martyr was early transferred to Rome. According to a second, and equally good authority, it was removed to Cologne. According to a third, it was preserved at Ely. According to a fourth, it never left the scene of the martyrdom. All these accounts cannot be true, nor can all the minor legends which crop up here and there in the medieval books. A correspondence which took place in the Guardian in , threw some light on the subject, and from it I venture to epitomise the following notes on the shrine and relics.

We find then that, to take the earliest story first, the tomb of St. Alban was known at Verulam 125 years after his martyrdom, when it was visited by St. Germanus, who, it will be remembered, held a council at Verulam in to combat the opinions of Pelagius. St. Germanus was presented with a portion of the relics as a token of gratitude for his exertions in healing the wounds of the British Church. These relics, according to Constantius, consisted only of a lump of earth saturated with the blood of the martyr. According to Molanus ("Martyrologia Usuardi," Antwerp, ), they consisted of St. Alban's head and the upper portion of his body. Constantius is very minute in his description of a sod,

in qua apparebat, cruore servato rubere, martyrum caedem, persecutore pallente.

Now Constantius, we must bear in mind, was the contemporary of Germanus. His is the earliest authority for the martyrdom of St. Alban; but for the after-legend, it only proves that his tomb was shown at Verulam in the fifth century.

St. Germanus transported the relic, whatever it was, to Ravenna, where he died in , when it was removed to Rome. There is next a mention in by Bede of the thaumaturgic powers of the martyr's tomb at Verulam,

to this very day.

Next, in , Offa founded the Abbey; but the tomb was unknown and the bones lost. Sixty-two years of disturbance and war must be taken to account for so strange a fact. A dream was needed to reveal


the secret. Offa, at Bath, had the required dream, searched in a cemetery on the hill above Verulam, and, we are not surprised to hear, discovered there a body, which a miracle further identified as that of St. Alban. Offa surrounded the skull with a golden circlet, on which, in defiance of history, he wrote,

Hoc est caput Sancti Albani Anglorum proto martyris.

The building of the Abbey went on from this with various interruptions for four hundred years. Meanwhile, the Empress Theophania, wife of Otho II., visited Rome in 989. She visited the shrines of SS. Peter and Paul, and was presented by the Pope with the relics of St. Alban, which St. Germanus had brought to Ravenna 550 years before. The following year she carried them with her to Mentz, where, by the advice of the Archbishop, she changed her saint's name to Albinus, there being already another St. Alban in the neighbourhood. She went on to Cologne, where she finally deposited the relics with the Order of St. Pantaleon, and, to use the words of Dr. Back, in his , as we have them translated by Mr. Rabbetts,

according to the venerable traditions of the St. Pantaleon's Order, the relics which are enshrined in the above-mentioned magnificent shrine were no doubt always considered and adored as the earthly remains of that martyr St. Alban who had obtained the palm of martyrdom, as the first martyr and Christian hero of the faith on English soil at Verula, in England, Hardfordshire (Hertfordshire),

at the time of the Emperor Diocletian, about the year



Now, as to the rest of the story of the English relics.

In the tenth century, according to Matthew Paris, St. Albans was visited by the Danes and the relics carried to Denmark, where they were for some time venerated in an abbey of Black Monks, till, by a special intervention of the saint himself, they were restored to the country

where he shed his blood for Christ.

(, p. 992.) At the time of the Norman Conquest (here we quote from Mr. King's letter)

the relics of St. Alban were, it was asserted, removed to Ely for greater security. The

Liber Eliensis

declares that they were never restored, and that they always formed one of the treasures of Ely. Matthew Paris asserts that the Abbot of St. Albans concealed the true relics in the wall of his own church (whence they were removed and enshrined when the country had become safer), and substituted for them some ordinary bones, which were sent in all honour to Ely.

At the later translation, in the reign of Henry III., the bones of the martyr were carefully numbered, and, with the exception of one small relic which was known to be in Spain, were found perfect. This was done because

quoddam Collegium in Dacia

-no doubt the Benedictine monastery to which the Danish plunderers had carried the relics -and also the monastery of Ely,

mendaciter asserebant

that they were in possession of the

true remains (Matthew Paris,

Vitæ Abbatum

, p. 1010).

Next, we read in the St. Albans Chronicle the relics were carried round the town in , together with the shrines of two other saints,

when the weather, which had been cloudy and dark, became bright and clear as soon as the reliquary was borne forth, though the day following was marked by a hailstorm.

[2]  In the same means were taken to produce a contrary effect, and with equal success. And so on, until the dissolution. We must now return to Cologne, with Dr. Nicholson, who went to visit the shrine in that city. We quote from Mr. Lloyd:-



the Rev. Dr. Nicholson, rector of the Abbey, read a paper [afterwards printed] before the Architectural and Archaeological Society of St. Alban, in which he said that the above statement had raised in him a desire to pursue some inquiry into the subject, and he proceeded to narrate how, after consulting many ponderous folios for histories of the saint, he had lately remained a day at Cologne, and had been permitted to see in St. Mary's Church that shrine whose roof, gables, and sides he describes as having upon them numerous figures, &c., in silver-gilt, and also thirty-three Latin verses, two of them being those quoted by Mr. Thompson.

Mr. R. J. King has thus summed up the questions at issue:

All that can be said is, that the remains sent to Cologne by the Empress Theophania were probably as genuine as those so long reverenced in their magnificent shrine at St. Albans. It is possible that Offa, digging in the neighbourhood of Verulamium, may have lighted on an ancient sepulchre containing human remains. The belief that any relics so discovered were those of St. Alban rests on evidence altogether

supra historicam


Messrs. Buckler, in their account of St. Albans, assert that the relics contained in the shrine were carried to Rome after the dissolution; and that they are still preserved there.

So that if the real relics are anywhere they are at St. Albans; the relics found by Offa perhaps at Rome; those carried away by Germanus at Ravenna; those presented to Theophania at Cologne.

Fragments of the shrine itself have been found during the progress of the work of restoration, built into various modern walls, and have been replaced where they formerly stood.

I return to the history of the Abbey itself. Many remarkable events of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries took place at St. Albans.

It was here in , and afterwards, that the Black Prince lodged his royal captive, during the incumbency of Abbot de la Mare; and the story of the concealment of treasure by Sir John de Molins,


of which I spoke in my chapters on " London Four Centuries Ago" (p. 87), probably relates to the same Abbot. Here, in , Jack Straw and his followers besieged the monks. Here the first conspiracy against Richard II. was hatched at the table of Abbot de la Motte. Here the Duke of Lancaster and the King lodged on the way to the deposition scene at Westminster; while the bold Bishop who protested against Henry's usurpation was here committed to the Abbot's custody; and, not long after, the Abbot attended the funeral of Richard at King's Langley, and was buried himself within the year. Here, forty-six years later, Duke Humphrey was buried. From the eastern gallery of the tower the monks watched anxiously in , while the battle in the Key Field, near the Sopwell Nunnery, was decided against the family of their patron: they could see the wounded creeping down to the river to quench their burning thirst and wash their wounds, and their companions searching the town till the King was captured in the house of Sir Edmund Westby, bailiff and tanner. But in the same King comes in state to St. Albans, and, having been the guest of the Abbot during the Easter week, leaves his best gown to the Prior as a present. Once more at least was he at St. Albans, this time to be again captured, but by his own party. The battle was fought at Bernard's Heath, beyond St. Peter's Church, on a snowy Shrove Tuesday, in ; and the King, Queen, and Prince of Wales


attended at the Abbey on Ash Wednesday, not for humiliation, but to give thanks for their victory. Yet the Queen did not prevent her army from sacking the Abbey immediately after, and the Abbot and monks, who had previously favoured the Lancastrians, beheld with pleasure the proclamation of Edward IV. in the following month. Between the date of the two battles the tomb of Duke Humphrey of Gloucester was made, in a place of honour, close to the shrine of St. Alban himself, and surmounted by the care of Abbot Wheathampstead with sculptured canopies and delicate carving, which far surpass those of his own monument in the choir. The coffin of Duke Humphrey may be viewed through a grated door, but the curious fresco, or distemper painting rather, which formerly decorated the wall, is almost obliterated.

But it is chiefly for its services to literature that St. Albans deserves well of the men of this generation. It was early a seat of learning; and retained its reputation until after the invention of printing. Abbot Ælfric, in the reign of King Edgar, translated parts of the Old Testament into the vernacular, and left among other writings a Latin and Saxon Glossary. He became Archbishop of Canterbury in , and died in . A long succession of names represent the men who in after ages sustained the honour of the genius loci which he had evoked. Such were another Ælfric, the eleventh Abbot; Robert de Gorham, who is said to have refused admission


to one Nicholas Breakspere, on account of the insufficiency of his learning, although this was that Nicholas who afterwards reached at Rome the Chair of St. Peter and remains as Adrian IV., the only Englishman who ever sat in it; Symon, who is best known by his connection with , and who repaired and enlarged the scriptorium, and built a library adjoining the south aisle of the nave; Wallingford, the clockmaker, twenty-eighth Abbot ; above all, Wheathampstead, in whose incumbency the scriptorium attained its highest excellence, upwards of eighty books having been transcribed in his time; and Wallingford, under whose patronage a press was set up, and the first book printed at St. Albans as early as . As might be expected this was a chronicle, for the Abbey had always been famous for its chroniclers; and Matthew Paris, William Rishanger, Thomas Walsingham, Roger Wendover, John of Tynemouth, and Thomas Ramrydge, afterwards Abbot, were all historians, whom modern historians can well afford to honour. Of all, the first is the most remarkable. Matthew, the chronicler, according to recent researches, was Matthew Paris, and though a distinction has been made between him and another Matthew, surnamed of "Westminster," it seems probable now that there was only one Matthew, and that he was the monk of St. Albans of whom we speak. His own original manuscript is in the British Museum,[3]  and contains his


portrait, representing him as kneeling before the Blessed Virgin and her Son. He is in the monastic dress, and over his head his name is written in Latin. The book contains a history of England from to , almost entirely in the handwriting of Matthew himself. John of Basingstoke was a deacon of St. Albans; and Nicholas, a chaplain, was the assistant of Grosseteste; indeed, a list of the literary men who flourished here would alone occupy all our space.

Attempts have been made to trace the fate of the great library which must have accumulated here before the dissolution. Many of the books have been identified. In the British Museum, in the Bodleian, in private collections, these old treasures are now scattered about to tell both of the industry and of the taste of the St. Albans Scriptorium. Of all these books there are few more interesting than a folio volume in the National Library, part of the famous Cottonian collection. Like the rest of Sir Robert Cotton's books it is classified by the name of one of the Twelve Caesars, and is best known to antiquarians under the title of Nero D. 7. It contains a catalogue of benefactors to the Abbey who had been admitted to the fraternity of St. Alban before the year , together with their portraits, painted in a rough but effective style. The greater part of the book was compiled by Thomas Walsingham in , but there are additions which bring it down a hundred years later. In a list of the


abbots we have portraits, more or less conjectural of the early ones, and some very elaborate paintings representing Abbot Wheathampstead, and of two of the others. But most of the pictures are not so highly finished. One of them, which shows us Abbot John of Berkhamstede, who appears in some way to have offended his monks, is very curious. The following is a translation of what the biographer tells us about him :--[4] 

Since he did nothing memorable in his life we shall place nothing respecting him in the present page; but we warn the reader that he be converted to works of piety, and pour forth prayers to the Omnipotent for his soul.

One would hardly gather from this that Abbot John had been so distinguished for his efforts to emancipate the monks from the King's control; and the picture represents him not only with a deplorable countenance, but in an attitude admirably expressive of remorse.

It is curious to note, regarding this picture, that though it was painted so many centuries ago, we know the name of the painter, and several other circumstances relating to the history of the bock. In a list of the monks at that time in the abbey we are told of Thomas de Walsingham that he

compiled this book and procured from John de Bedingham and Christiana his wife seven marks of

money for the work of the new gate.

His success in begging is thus put to his credit. A little further on we have the name of the scribe who wrote the book out fair: it was "Willelmus de Wylum." And near the end we have the illuminator's name. He seems to have done more than merely work himself. We read of him,

Alan Strayler worked much upon the painting of this book, and gave three shillings and four pence, which was owed to him for colours.

Alan adds a little couplet in rhyming Latin expressive of his satisfaction, and of his pious hope that with the celestial choirs he may be everlastingly associated. Beside the verses he favours the reader with his likeness. This book came by some means into the possession of Queen Mary; it was next owned by the great LordVerulam, Francis Bacon, whose residence and whose grave are not beyond the sound of the Abbey bells. He gave it in to Sir Robert Cotton, and it happily escaped the fire which destroyed so many of its companions.

The monastery, notwithstanding the mollifying influence of the arts, oppressed the town with an iron hand. Twice during the eighteen years of Eversden's incumbency was the Abbey besieged by the burghers. They gained by the King's special interference some alleviation of their bondage, but even the strong rule of Edward III. was unable to prevent Wallingford from resuming the charter, and forbidding the town even to send its representatives


to Parliament. The pride, too, of these spiritual peers is constantly evinced in their contests for the precedence accorded to them by Adrian IV., and the rivalry and jealousy of the Abbot of the royal foundation of Westminster. Another questionable feature is the importance of an officer whose very existence is capable of a sinister construction. Time after time was the Cellarer elected Abbot; nay, John de la Moote, one of the most eminent of the line, when Cellarer, before his election, was put into the stocks, as we read, at Luton, by Philip de Limburg, in hatred to the Abbot and

utter contempt of religion.

The history of the Abbey after the dissolution offers few features of interest. The general absence of seventeenth-century tombs and of eighteenth-century tablets is worthy of remark. A few flat stones commemorate parochial officers; but the monuments, after the brasses, or their marks on so many graves, have been examined, leave hardly anything of note. Of the later inscriptions which occur perhaps the most remarkable is that of John Jones, Master of the Grammar-school, which was as follows:--[5] 

Here lies John Jones, a Welshman, Master of the School of St. Albans, a most learned man, who when this church was repaired in


at the public expense, carved for himself also a monument

for that he wrote ' The Fane of St. Alban,' a poem in heroic verse, which will last longer than this slab, than even this building or the very age itself.

Another has often been quoted for its quaintness:-

In memory of Thomas Sheppard, son of Thos. and Mary Sheppard, died Feb. ye 15th


Aged xxx years.

Great was my Grief, I could not Rest,

God called me hence, He thought it best;

Unhappy marriage was my fate:

I did repent when it was too late.

" And one or two of the Abbots' tombs still bear part at least of their brass inlaying: among them are a couple of fragmentary inscriptions. On a stone in the sanctuary is the brass of Robert Beauner, a monk, with the words from the fifty-first psalm,

Cor mundum in me crea Deus


Create a clean heart in me, O God,

and a short epitaph stating the date of his death, , and the fact that for forty years he had filled various minor offices in the abbey. Not far off is another stone, from which everything has been torn except the scroll which issued from the mouth of a vanished monk, whose figure, as may be seen by the marks of the brass, once knelt at the foot of a crucifix by which stood


the Virgin and St. John. On the scroll is this verse from an old hymn of the Sarum Breviary:-

Salva Redemptor plasma Tuum nobile, Signatum Sancto vultus Tui lumine, Nec lacerari sinas fraude daemonum Propter quos mortis exsolvisti pretium


which may be translated-

Save, Lord, the work Thy hands have wrought,

The face illumined by Thy smiles;

Nor suffer those Thy blood has bought

To perish through the devil's wiles.

Near these are the despoiled gravestones of Abbot Stoke, Abbot John of Berkhamsted, and of another Abbot who cannot now be identified, although the inscription remains, for it runs thus :-

Hic quidem terra tegitur, peccati solvens debitum, Cui nomen non imponitur, in libro vitae sit conscriptum.

It is hardly possible to give the beauty of these lines in an English version, but the following attempt has been made :- One here is laid, who dying paid In death the debt of sin; His name, not here, may yet appear The Book of Life within. According to Mr. Haines it is the brass of Abbot John Moote. Royalists were imprisoned here, as appears from a name cut upon the wall of the sacrarium,

Hugh Lewis souldier in his Maies army taken prisoner at Ravensfield, Northampton- shire,

June 1645



The repairs contemplated, and in part already carried out, are of a very thorough kind. The great tower, 140 feet in height, and open to the church almost from roof to floor, was in a tottering condition. The Roman bricks of which it is built, or rather heaped up, have yielded to the weight of two thousand years, and a settlement at the southern side threatened its very existence. The fees for viewing the church go to increase the fund; but they are so moderate, and the number of visitors so small, that little appreciable influence is exerted on the total sum required. The whole, or nearly the whole, of the church has been covered with whitewash, and its removal, and the restoration of the ancient painted plaster work, is an expensive process. The walls of the south aisle lean perceptibly outward; and though something might be done by buttressing to remedy their inclination, yet the unity of the building would be seriously compromised, and Sir Gilbert Scott may have no choice but to pull down and rebuild the whole side. The chief repairs provided since the Abbey became a parish church have been of a temporary character. James I., it is true, took an interest in the place, but his exertions were of the vicarious kind which he usually employed. He took much credit to himself for the translation of the Bible, for which others had to pay; and at St. Albans, though he granted leave to his Queen and her maids to search in the ruins for treasure, his chief contribution


towards the repairs was a brief permitting his subjects to subscribe.

Much permanent benefit may be expected to result from the repairs, so far, carried out. But it is impossible not to regret that the look of antiquity should in any way be rubbed off. When we look at the delicate iridescence and rich hues with which the old bricks seem to be coloured, at the creeping lichens and many-toned weather-stains which lend a harmonious and subtle tinting to the venerable walls and crumbling stones, we feel a kind of trembling hope that the architect will deal tenderly with the ancient pile, and perhaps, for old times' sake,

Be to its faults a little blind,

And to its failings not unkind.

In the town of St. Albans the visitor will find little to interest him. The absence of ordinary sanitary arrangements will remind him of the state of many picturesque continental cities; but here it is the more unpleasant, from the want of the compensating attractions. Yet a walk should be taken through the market-place to St. Peter's Church, half of which, with the tombs of those who fell at Bernard's Heath and the Key Field, the knights and mighty men of old, was destroyed during the prevalence of an improving mania in the early years of the present century. A long street leads past Rome Land and the Abbey gate down to the river's edge and up the opposite slope to St. Michael's Church, whose


quaint half-timbered gables and flint walls derive a double interest from the tomb of Francis, Lord Verulam and Viscount of St. Albans, which they contain. On leaving the grave of Bacon, the visitor should descend to the river again, and, keeping on its right bank by a footpath, should see the remains of a Roman wall and the marks of Roman fortifications in the meadows on his way, and so return to


the station. We were at St. Albans in the early autumn, and at this season such a walk should by no means be omitted. The gleam of the setting sun on the tower of the Abbey, and the ruddy glow with which the old brickwork answers back, the dark green of the elms lower on the hill, the shadows creeping across the meadows by the river and gradually rising to the Abbey itself, all go to form a picture not easily forgotten; and so the weary sightseer is whirled back towards London through the cornfields and pastures of Hertfordshire, and finds himself repeating half-unconsciously the misspelt motto on Abbot Wheathampstead's tomb :-



[1] Several portions have been recovered since these lines were written.

[2] Riley's Chron. Mon. S. Alb., p. 36.

[3] Royal MS. 14. c. vii.

[4] Some further particulars regarding Abbot John of Berkhamsted will be found at p. 204.

[5] H. S. E. Iohannes Iones Wallus, Scholae S. Albanensis Hypodidscalus literatissimus, qui dum ecclia. hæc Ao. 1684 publicis impensis instauraretur exsculpsit sibi quoq. monumentum quod inscripsit " Fanum S. Albani" poema carmina heroico, hoc lapide, hâc etiam æde, ævoq. perennius omni. Obijt Ao. 1686.