Friday, 16 March 2012

New vision to improve St Albans’ museums agreed

Press Release from St Albans Council - 16 March 2012

The Museum of St Albans will be relocated to the Town Hall as part of a new 10-year vision to improve the City’s museums agreed by St Albans City and District Council’s Cabinet on 15 March.

The vision is to create two state-of-the-art museums; one to showcase the City’s Roman history and the other to tell St Albans’ story from the post-Roman and medieval period through to the present day.

The plans include:
· the development of the Town Hall in Market Place as a new city centre museum over the next five years, and
· the expansion and improvement of Verulamium Museum to provide more exhibition space and educational facilities over a 10 year time frame.

The existing Museum of St Albans in Hatfield Road suffers from being located away from city centre and an inflexible layout. In contrast, the Town Hall is located close to historical attractions, such as the Abbey, the Clock Tower and French Row, which will help the museum attract more visitors. It also has the potential to be extended to provide additional exhibition space. Any changes made to the Old Town Hall will be sympathetic to its grade II* status.  The Council will draw on the expertise of specialist architects to deliver an exciting iconic building.

The vision also makes provision for Verulamium Museum to be turned into a centre of excellence for the understanding of St Albans’ pre-Roman and Roman period and the archaeological and natural heritage of the local area. To help develop these plans, a partnership with the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust is being considered.

Verulamium Museum already benefits from a good reputation and location close to the Roman Theatre, the Hypocaust and the city walls. However, the existing building needs additional exhibition space and educational facilities to accommodate school visits.

Councillor Mike Wakely, Portfolio Holder for Sports, Leisure and Heritage for St Albans City and District Council, said: “Cabinet has agreed a new vision for St Albans’ museums that will help them both attract more visitors and contribute to the local economy. The exciting plans for the Museum of St Albans will breathe fresh life into the Town Hall and mean that more space can be devoted to explaining the post-Roman history of the City in its entirety. The existing museum fails to pay full regard to this history and is located in an inflexible building that is out of the way. The vision also provides for the extension and updating of Verulamium Museum to help it become even an even more popular destination for school visits.”

Cabinet also agreed that officers should look into the merits of disposing of the building currently housing the Museum of St Albans to help raise funds to facilitate the new vision for St Albans’s museums.

The meeting can be viewed online via the Council’s website.

The agenda and reports for the meeting are available on the Council’s website at:


1. The proposed new location for the Museum of St Albans will:

· help it attract more visitors, due to its city centre location and close proximity to other historical attractions.

· provide an opportunity to work alongside the Abbey on its ‘Alban Project’ and to develop a medieval heritage quarter that will attract more visitors to the City and benefit the local economy.

· bring to life the iconic grade II* listed Town Hall, a valued heritage asset in the city.

· offer a new visitor attraction in the form of the law courts and cells, all currently located in the Town Hall.

· involve the creation of more exhibition space by means of a new basement area and mezzanine galleries so that the City’s post Roman history can be fully displayed.

· have modern facilities, dependent on the availability of external funding and relevant planning and listed buildings consents.

2. The proposals for Verulamium Museum include:

· an extension to the existing building to provide an extra 625 square metres of public space.

· a working partnership with the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust to promote the natural heritage of the area.

· increasing education facilities.

· adding exhibition space.

3. More information about St Albans’ museums is available at:

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