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At some time in the 3rd century A.D., Alban a citizen of Roman Verulamium was martyred for his Christian faith and it was over his burial place that a church developed which was to become eventually one of the greatest Medieval Abbeys of England. Around the Abbey grew up the town of St. Albans. In the Middle Ages the town was governed by the Abbot and most of the townspeople were his tenants. Friction between town and Abbey was not uncommon the greatest trouble occurring during the Peasants Revolt in 1381.
The Market Place
The Medieval Market Place was laid out as a large triangular open space (see Fig. 1) According to the Abbey Chronicles the seventh Abbot Wulsin (or Ulsinus) founded or enlarged the market and encouraged settlers. The date given for this activity is 948 although it is now generally considered that this abbots floruit was earlier, around A.D. 860 - 880. The archaeological evidence suggests that the properties abutting on the market place were not laid out before the mid-12th century so that the ocation of the original market is uncertain. By 1287, at the latest, market days were Saturday and Wednesday.
Today traders of all descriptions occur at random throughout the market but this was not the case in earlier times. By the late Middle Ages the area certainly contained the, Flesh, Fish, Leather and Pudding Shambles, Corn Market or Wheat Chepping, Hay Row, Wool Market and Malt Chepping.
Dominating the southern end of the market in the area now known as Market Cross, opposite the Boot, was the Great Cross or Queen's Cross, an "Eleanor Cross", one of the series built to commemorate the resting places of Queen Eleanor's body on its journey from Lincolnshire to Westminster in 1290. This was completed in 1294. It was close to the cross that the clocktower was built between 1403 - 1412.
The Late Medieval Buildings
In c. 1500. the Boot was built on a vacant plot in the Market Place, just as the Clocktower had been. Infilling of the once triangular space had been going on for two centuries or so and continued until the later seventeenth century. This replacement of temporary stalls with shops resulted in the pattern of alleys and streets seen today.
The buildings now comprising the Boot have like most old buildings been considerably altered over the years and although much still remains to be learned the general sequence of development is clear.
Originally the property consisted of two timber framed buildings. Fronting onto the Market Place Building 1 contained two shops (Building 1A & 1B). Each of these had two ground floor rooms with chambers over on the first floor. This floor was jettied (that is projected over the floor below) on the front and north sides showing that it occupied a corner site allowing access to Pudding Lane. A lane known to have been in existence by the mid-fourteenth century. These shops had no heating and were "lock up" premises for working and selling. Originally each would have had a door set and one end of its frontage and large unglazed windows secured at night by a shutter.
Building 2 was set lengthways behind Building 1 and seems to have been a similar shop.
The Seventeenth Century
In the seventeenth century Building 2 was extended to the south and at the same time a brick chimney stack constructed. This stack served hearths in the extension and the original Building 2 and also Building 1. The cellars of all three original shops were strengthened by new walls built of flint, Totternhoe stone and some tile and in part this was done to take the load of the new chimney. The south wall of Building 1A was removed to claim the narrow gap that existed between it and the building next door. Thus the timber framed wall visible in the bar is that of an early fifteenth century shop (2 Market Place). It is likely that the original jetties were built under at this period.
Timber framed wall of the building next door to the south
It is clear that both original buildings were now under common ownership and somehow integrated. Unfortunately twentieth century alterations have removed or concealed much evidence but it might be that the situation was that which pertained early in that century. Then most of the ground floor of what had been Building 1A, the extension of Building 2 and the first floor of the original Building 2 formed one property. The rest of the ground floor of both buildings and the first floor of Buildings 1 formed another.
Original timber post with later stone cellar wall
Flint and "clunch" lining to cellar wall
Dragon beam to carry jetty round corner
Original floor joists on first floor
Below - The development of the Boot as seen from the Clocktower
The Eighteenth & Nineteenth Centuries
The Boot is first recorded as a licensed house in 1719 and although sometimes referred to as the "Boot Inn" it has never been more than an Alehouse and then a Public House, a term first used in St. Albans around 1800. In 1756 it could provide accommodation for the billeting of 4 soldiers but had no stabling.
In the eighteenth century 3 attic rooms were built over the original upper chambers of Building 1, and the roof modified to contain them. The two rooms overlooking the Market place were, before the end of the century, provided with two windows each suggesting that there was a need for more light and that they were being used as workshops. Leather offcuts recovered from beneath the floor boards indicating the nature of the trade. It is known that in the later seventeenth century the leather market was then situated immediately north of the Boot and this may indicate the origin of the sign.
It is clear that at this time the Boot only occupied the northern end of the building although an extension of the ground floor under a pent roof occurred to both parts. Originally this would have had a tile roof but this was replaced with slate in the nineteenth century. Heating was provided to the front part of the pub in the eighteenth century followed by provision for the back part in thesuceeding century.
The Twentieth Century
It was not until around 1960 that the Boot occupied the whole of the premises. From the late 1890s until that date, the southern part was occupied by Cutmore's tobacconist and barbers shop. The ground floor of the pub contained public bar, saloon bar, private bar and dining room.
When the pub and shop were amalgamated the ground floor doors and windows were altered but two doors were retained on the Market Place frontage to serve the two bars then provided. The southern part of the roof of the original building was removed and new toilets provided under a flat roof (Fig. 3D)
Today there is one bar suitable for both eating and drinking, continuing the Boot's three hundred years of hospitality.
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