Could you Climb the Clock Tower?

As you’re taking a drive through St. Albans, you’re bound to see one of its oldest monuments - the Grade 1 listed Clock Tower - which stands at nearly 20 metres high. Built between 1403 and 1412, it is the only medieval town belfry in England, and its design was based on the Clock House at Westminster Palace.

It is thought that the purpose of the clock was to sound the end of working hours to those in the nearby fields, although rumour has it that the people in the Abbey, who controlled the clock, would add half an hour to it on nice evenings, so as they would work for longer. Its original bell is called Gabriel, and weighs in at one ton, with a one metre diameter. Although the bell’s last ring was to mark Queen Victoria’s funeral in 1901, it is still chimed. The present clock dates from 1866 and uses a mechanism invented by the designer of the mechanism of Big Ben, Lord Grimthorpe.

The Clock Tower was also used during the Napoleonic Wars as a semaphore station, where a series of black and white boards were put up at high points across the country, with people communicating from the Tower to Dunstable Downs, 12 miles north, and the same distance in the other direction.

The ground floor of the tower was a shop until the 20th century, and the first- and second-floor rooms were designed as living chambers. These floors are connected by spiral stairs, but there is another flight which goes from the bottom, right to the top of the tower – that’s 93 steps if you’re counting!

If you reach the top, there are fine views of the Abbey, the Roman town of Verulamium, and the historic city of St. Albans stretching out before you. The Clock Tower opened for the season again at Easter, and will be open at weekends and Bank Holidays to the public until mid-September. Once you’ve picked up your car from St. Albans Car and Van Hire, why not take a drive into the city to see this bit of medieval history for yourself!

Posted on May 6th 2015

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