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The Verulam Arms

Lower Dagnall St.
St. Albans

The Sign of the Verulam Arms

The name Verulam derives from Verulamium, the Roman City which preceded St. Albans. The sign displays the arms of the Earl of Verulam who lives at Gorhambury close by the city. The first Earl, John Walter Grimston received the title on the 24th of November 1815. The motto Mediocria Firma (mediocrity is safe), was earlier used by the famous philosopher, scientist and politician, Sir Francis Bacon (sometime Baron Verulam) (1561&endash;1626) who also lived at Gorhambury.

Before the coming of the railways St. Albans occupied an important position on the London/Chester/Holyhead Rd. and much of its prosperity came from the coaching trade and other travellers who used the many inns and other victualling houses in the town. In 1796 the present London Rd. was opened to ease the passage of traffic through the town, but this still left the main road going down Fishpool Street and along St. Michaels Street. When Thomas Telford improved the Holyhead Road he cut a new road through the town centre (Verulam Rd.) which opened on March 25th 1826. To take advantage of this new road, a new hotel was opened along side it; The Verulam Arms (actually licensed in 1825). One of the investors in this project was the Earl of Verulam, and the hotel took his arms as its sign. However 12 years after Verulam Road opened the new Railway from London, Euston, to Birmingham had almost annihilated the traffic using it, so beginning the end of the coaching trade. In 1848 the Verulam Arms was sold and its Tap and stable demolished to provide for the building of a Roman Catholic Church. The main building survives and is now used as a nursing home.

The Verulam Arms

The "Verulam", as the locals call it, opened in October 1853 and celebrated the occasion by providing for "a numerous and respectable party of the inhabitants of the town," a superior repast" and an evening of "conviviality and harmony". One wonders what the reaction was from the congregation of the nearby Temperance Chapel (from which Temperance St. got its name) to their new neighbour? Early success was marred in 1854 by the bankruptcy of the landlord Joseph Eggleston, previously of the Crabtree in St. Peters St. The house survived however and the present licensee, May Viccars, is carrying on a tradition of feminine hospitality, as for some 40 years from the 1920s until 1962 the house was run by a landlady. May is quite firm that the Verulam motto on the sign "mediocrity is safe" will not reflect the standards of her establishment.

Dagnall Street

This street formed part of the Medieval Town and has borne its name since at least 1240. It was cut into two, Upper and Lower Dagnall Street, by the building of the 19th century Verulam Rd. In the Middle Ages only the northern side of the street was built up with the properties there having long strips of agricultural land stretching back to the town boundary. The southern side of the street did not become heavily built up until the 19th century.

Welclose Street

Like Dagnall Street this formed part of the Medieval Town. In the 15th century it was known as School Lane because of its proximity to the Abbey's school situated a little uphill of the Romeland corner. At times the street was known as Dagnall Lane but its present name comes from a plot of land situated behind it on the west, known as Well Close. This was described in 1597 as "alias Squillers" and can be identified as the site of the medieval toft of Squillers.

H.M.S. Verulam

On the wall of the bar is the crest of the Second World War HMS Verulam. Commissioned in 1943 as a destroyer of the Home Fleet, she sailed in support of arctic convoys to Russia and later saw service in the Far East. With the coming of peace the ship was laid up in Portsmouth and eventually broken up. The ships bell was bought by members of the crew and presented to the City. Originally it was hung in the Town Hall but is now in the District Council Offices.








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