Memories of The Pilgrims Rest, St Albans
The Pilgrims Rest was a family restaurant in Holywell Hill, St Albans, where I grew up and it fuelled my imagination as a child.
I have lived in Bishops Stortford for the past 32 years but the Pilgrims Rest was run by my family in the 1950s, 60s and 70s and I lived above the restaurant for most of my young life and it was quite an unusual upbringing.
My parents and grandparents worked every day, there were no weekends off, and our living quarters were upstairs on the first and second floor. When all the customers had gone home and the place was quiet I would explore the very old 16th century building which had many secret nooks and crannies, a spooky attic on the top floor and an old cellar underground where I discovered a blocked off tunnel.
Stories surrounding the tunnel were the trigger for my imagination. Apparently monks used it centuries before to make and store their wine for the liturgy etc. There was a lot of talk and rumours amongst staff of ghostly apparitions.
I started to write a book about the restaurant nine years ago when my mother and I went back to visit No 1 Holywell Hill which had been bought by Wesley Barrell and was a furniture showroom. I started doing my research then, asking if there had been any more ghostly sightings by the staff, which there had!
I am now newly retired from my job as a medical secretary in Church Langley and so I have more time for writing.
My novel is based on fact and is a memoir and homage to those who lived and worked at the Pilgrims Rest. Fictitious events have been intermingled with religious and historical truths and legends relating to the town of St Albans which have been passed down through the ages. An ancient tunnel which links The Pilgrims Rest to St Albans Cathedral is the basis for this mystical tale. There have been many ghostly sightings reported in the area.
The book is a family affair through and through, my husband David, who retired from his job as an electronic engineer last September, was the first to read the novel and also helped layout the artwork for the cover. Our daughter Hayley, 28, a visual merchandiser for Marks and Spencer and a former student at the Herts and Essex High School, did the illustrations for the book’s front, back and spine. Our sons Andrew, 32, who works for Tate Enterprises and Daniel, 22, who is a freelance sound engineer were very supportive. Both attended the Bishops Stortford High School.
My grandparents, former publicans Reg and Win Haye,s bought The Pilgrims Rest and worked with my parents, Derick and Julie Hayes, and also my uncle and aunt, Reggie and Sheila. A strange loner called Alf features in the book and he was based on an elusive character and odd job man who actually lived on the top floor of the restaurant with the family.
The historical information and legend were obtained via old documents on websites which related to the town of St Albans, the Abbey and the story of Albanus (Saint Alban)
In a strange quirk of fate, the premises at No. 1 Holywell Hill has now been taken over by a bookshop called ‘Books on the Hill’ who are very excited to stock copies of my book which is also available from Amazon in paperback edition or Kindle download.