Why it's time to move to St Albans
If you want a city that has it all – including a strong community spirit – then this is the one for you...
The appeal of city centre living is universal – there’s a buzz about it you don’t get in lesser places.
For families, St Albans has two major advantages – great schools, both state and private, and a fast train service into St Pancras.
‘There’s a quality of life here that attracts people moving out from London,’ says Liam Howley, partner at Putterills estate agency in Chequer Street. ‘St Albans has the best of everything – we have a first class shopping centre, lots of bars and restaurants and eating places. On Saturday nights there’s a great atmosphere. It’s a lively town, there’s so much on but if you want to escape for an hour or two there are wonderful parks and open spaces.’
The list of notables who currently live in St Albans or lived here in the past is almost as long and as varied as Watling Street.
Names of residents over the centuries range from Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (1660-1744) through to playwright Willis Hall (1929-2005). The legendary footballer Jimmy Hill and the late great entertainer Benny Hill are former locals and physicist Stephen Hawking went to St Albans School. And don’t forget that Robert Runcie was bishop of St Albans before he became Archbishop of Canterbury. He is buried in the grounds of St Albans Cathedral.
Oh yes, the second largest town in Roman Britain has never lost its edge.
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Many local schools have an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rating.
Leading independents are St Albans School for boys from 11-18 but also for girls from 16-18 and the single sex St Albans High School for Girls from age four to 18.
Popular state secondaries include St Albans Girls School which also accepts boys in the sixth form, Verulam School (boys only until the sixth form when it’s mixed), co-ed Beaumont School and co-ed Sandringham School.
Rail: Fast trains into St Pancras get there in 20 minutes. There’s also the Abbey Flyer into Watford with a connecting service to Euston.Road: St Albans is midway between the A1(M), M1 and M25.Air: From St Albans it’s one stop on the train to Luton airport. Direct trains to Brighton connect with Gatwick – the rail trip is about an hour and a quarter.
As you’d expect, the city is culturally sophisticated – there’s a Bach choir, symphony orchestra, chamber choir and a choral society.
The town’s former Odeon cinema, renamed The Odyssey, is undergoing a costly restoration in the manner of The Rex at Berkhamsted where entrepreneur James Hannaway now shows films to customers seated in comfort sipping pre-ordered drinks in the atmosphere of a private club.
Meanwhile The Alban Arena continues to be the main entertainment venue for shows, exhibitions, festivals, live music and movies.
Sporty? Come to live in St Albans and you’ll join a community that, according to a survey by Sport England, is the ninth most active in England. No slouches here.
Even if you’re not the gym-joining sort, you’ll enjoy walking in Verulamium Park which is to St Albans what Central Park is to New York.
History buff? Plenty of Roman remains to be seen including the Roman theatre, hypocaust and Verulamium Museum all close to the cathedral, plus the Museum of St Albans at the other end of the High Street.
How much to live here?
According to Liam Howley at Putterills, ‘Demand is strong for good quality houses. Anything in the right road in a good area is selling well.’
The entry price for first time buyers looking for ‘a nice one bedroom flat in the town centre’ is �190,000.
Here’s a guide to what you can expect to pay as you move up the ladder:
• Two-bedroom/two-bathroom flat on a modern development in the centre of town: �280,000
• Two-up, two-down Victorian cottage, city centre: �325,000
• Three-bed semi in Marshalswick, a family-friendly suburb a mile or two from the town centre, handy for Beaumont and Sandringham Schools: �500,000
• Four-bed semi: from �600,000
• Large detached four bedroom residence: from �800,000