St Albans. St Michael's

Colin Wilson

OS 25" map 1879. Composite from XXIV.7,8,11 and 12
Courtesy of Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies
St Michael's Street Street north west side. The Six bells is in the centre of the picture. The Rose and Crown is in the distance. Aug 2020
Colin Wilson
St Michael's Street south east side. The brick building is 35 - 37, Rivendell. Jun 2021
Colin Wilson

Harriot Grimston married Major Poore at St Albans Abbey in March 1885.  The Grimston family was prominent in the area. The head was entitled the Earl of Verulam and the family seat was at Gorhambury House. Harriot was the 3rd Earl’s eldest daughter. A newspaper article noted that Harriot had made herself popular by many benevolent acts in the area, particularly in St Michael’s.

A newspaper report describes the wedding procession route, in sequence, from the Abbey, passing through the town before heading to Gorhambury. At the end it passed St Michael’s almshouses. Like many other properties they were decorated in celebration. The almshouses had a banner suspended, having on one side the words, ‘Health and Happiness’, and on the other, ‘Prosperity’.

That passing reference is unfortunately the only information which has so far come to light. The OS maps of the time or the next few decades do not annotate any buildings in the area as almshouses, but not all almshouses are noted on the maps. The biggest clue is that the procession passed the Rose and Crown, a pub dating back to 1538. The route then passed the almshouses and went along Gorhambury Drive. Maybe one of the existing buildings was used as an almshouse. The Six Bells today has a long annexe which looks something like the traditional almshouse building. However, an 1898 sketch by Holman Winter held at St Albans Museum indicates that only part of the building existed at that date. There is no such thing as a typical almshouse building, and no documentary evidence has been unearthed about any of these properties being almshouses.

Sadly the wishes on the banners did not materialise. Harriot died at Eastney in August 1888 aged just 43. Her death notice was printed in Hertfordshire Almanac Jan 1889 p 157. Death and funeral notices published in Herts Advertiser mention her good works, including at St Michael’s, but do not specifically mention the almshouses.

Readers are referred to the article St Albans. St Michael’s church houses for earlier almshouse provision. One widow from St Michael’s was allowed in the Pemberton almshouse.


OS 25″ maps Hertfordshire XXXI4.7/8/11/12 1879 and 1892
Georef for the Rose and Crown is 513751 207422


‘Old Six Bells Tavern &c’, etching by Holmes Winter, 1898. Held at St Albans Museum ref 2006.6427.38.
This item can be viewed on-line at (site accessed Aug 2020)

Tithe map for St Albans St Michael HALS ref DSA4/87/1 p19 plot 538

Herts Advertiser, Saturday 28 March 1885 Page: 6 col 3.
This article about the procession can be viewed on-line at (site accessed Feb 2020)

Herts Advertiser Saturday 18 August 1888 col3.
This article can be viewed on-line at (site accessed Feb 2020)

Herts Advertiser Saturday 25 August 1888 col 4
This site can be viewed on-line at (site accessed Feb 2020)

Hertfordshire Almanac Jan 1889 p 157.

This page was added on 19/02/2020.

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  • I live in and own the house in the picture, Rivendell, as it is now known, and I have always understood that the house was the “poor house”. At some point I was told that the unusual tile shape on the external walls denoted it as such.

    By John Gilligan (02/08/2022)
  • The only likely building to be regarded as an almshouse in the 1880s would be the newly built cottages now called Rivendell owned by the Verulam family, or possibly the houses built just a little earlier on Blacksmith’s Lane which bear the arms and initials of the then Countess Verulam, but they are of course just off the road. The parish almshouse of the 18th century was located where the school now is. In 1764 a workhouse was established where the parish centre now is and replaced the almshouse, which had been known as the Church House.

    By Kate Morris (25/06/2021)