Rich in history, St Albans has a history that goes back even further than the Romans. Sacked and burned by Boudica, home to a martyred saint, and the place where the Magna Carta was first dreamed up, this city has played an important role in British history. Travellers to St Albans will need to apply for the UK’s Electronic Travel Authorisation. This guide explains everything you need to know.
Early St Albans
Although Celts actually settled St Albans before the Romans, it was during the Roman period that it really came to prominence. The town — known as Verulamium at the time — was the third-largest town in Roman Britain, behind Londinium (today’s London) and Colchester. Its importance led the local tribes to target it in their conflicts with the Romans. Most notably, Boudica sacked the town in the year 61 AD, burning much of it to the ground. Archaeologists excavating the area have discovered a thick layer of black ash, the legacy of Boudica’s actions.
Roman Theatre of Verulamium
Britain’s only surviving Roman theatre was built in 140 AD. It could hold up to 2,000 spectators and is believed to have hosted theatrical productions, live combat, processions and more. The site was excavated in 1847 and nowadays is once again a working theatre. In the summer months, a local theatre company organises an open-air festival with several dramatic performances held right in the Roman theatre.
Roman Wall of St Albans
Another interesting piece from the time period is the Roman wall, built between 265 and 270 AD. Much of the wall has fallen over the centuries, but two towers remain. Most impressive of all is the London Gate, a defensive gate in the wall that guarded the city against intruders. More Roman history can be explored in the Verulamium Museum, which contains intricate, large-scale mosaics and an impressive collection of 159 Roman gold coins.
The Legend of St Alban
St Alban is regarded as the first British Christian martyr. He is said to have lived in the 3rd or 4th century. While historians doubt the authenticity of his legend, the story goes that he sheltered and hid a priest who was facing persecution by the Romans for his beliefs. When the soldiers came to Alban’s house to seize the priest, Alban offered himself up instead. On the way to his execution ceremony, he and his captors were stopped by a fast-flowing river. Alban miraculously dried the water river so they could continue, as he was eager to reach his martyrdom. He is said to be buried in St Albans, and in the early Christian period, his gravesite became a place of pilgrimage.
St Albans Cathedral and Abbey
Known as the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in Britain, St Albans Cathedral was founded in the 8th century. Although it has not been an abbey since Henry VIII’s decision to break with the Catholic church, it is still known locally as “the Abbey”. Most of the building dates back to the 11th century and is in a Norman style, but it was expanded in later years. In 1213, a meeting was held between barons and clergy in the abbey. The attendees discussed their grievances with King John, making plans for the document that would be finalised two years later to limit the power of the throne, the Magna Carta. It remains a working cathedral today.
Mediaeval St Albans
The importance of the abbey and the pilgrimage site led to St Albans’ growth in the mediaeval period. The funeral procession of Eleanor of Castile passed through the city after her death in 1290. Her grief-stricken husband, Edward I, erected an Eleanor cross in the town centre, although it was eventually destroyed during the English Civil War.
The Clock Tower
One of the most important monuments in St Albans, the Clock Tower, is England’s only surviving mediaeval town belfry. It was built in 1405 as a protest against the power of the abbey. At the time, clocks were a rarity in the country, and the abbey’s clock tower effectively allowed it to control time-keeping in St Albans. By building the clock tower, the town’s merchants took back control of their own time-keeping.
The UK ETA for St Albans
The new UK ETA system will come into effect in the year 2024. Inspired by similar existing systems in the United States and Canada, the ETA represents an effort by the government to digitalise the borders. The ETA, which stands for Electronic Travel Authorisation, gives the government more oversight and control over entries and departures to the country.
The ETA represents a big change for travellers to the UK. At present, the British visa waiver programme allows citizens of 92 countries to enter the UK without a visa. However, when the ETA programme starts, these travellers will need to apply for an ETA before entry.
A visa will still be required for those travellers who want to work in the UK or who plan to spend a period of longer than six months in the country. However, those who will be staying for less than six months and will not be working should apply for the ETA.
Applying for the UK ETA
It is important that travellers apply for the UK ETA for St Albans in advance of their trip, as their carrier may deny boarding to anyone who does not have an approved ETA. The ETA will be required on all means of transport, including planes, ships and trains. The application process is only available online.
Anyone who plans to apply for an ETA should check the published list of requirements before beginning the process. Travellers must have a valid biometric passport. In addition, they will be asked for various pieces of personal information while completing the form. These include the date of birth, contact information and details about employment.
Some sensitive personal information should be provided, too. Travellers will need to disclose any criminal records or past immigration offences, as well as membership — past or present — of proscribed organisations. They will also need to outline briefly some of their travel plans to the UK, including the address at which they will stay in the country.
While submitting their ETA application, travellers will need to pay a non-refundable fee. The processing of applications will not begin until the fee has been paid. Processing time is expected to take up to 72 hours, so it’s important to leave adequate time between applying for the ETA and beginning the journey to the United Kingdom.
The UK ETA for St Albans: Begin Your Journey
After a traveller is approved for the UK ETA for St Albans, they can travel freely around the country. The United Kingdom is made up of four constituent countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There is no border control between these four nations, so an ETA holder can travel between them as they wish. Any form of transportation may be used.
However, it is important to remember that the ETA is only valid for the United Kingdom. The Republic of Ireland is an independent country that sets its own entry requirements, just like every other European country. Visitors who wish to combine a trip to the UK with a wider international adventure to other countries should check individual entry requirements in advance and ensure that they meet them.
The UK ETA for St Albans: Begin Your Journey
From its remarkable Roman ruins to its impressive abbey, St Albans is a city with a long, intriguing history. Visitors will find a wealth of museums and monuments. Spend time delving into the city’s marvels, or use it as a starting point to explore the south of England and even other parts of the UK. Once approved for an ETA, travellers will find be able to explore St Albans and beyond.