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An exhibition looking at the lives of some of the inhabitants of medieval St Albans, as the town gained greater freedom and independence. Also featured are extraordinary characters like Dame Juliana Berners of Sopwell and Sir John Mandeville, travel writer.

Medieval fishmonger. Drawing by Frances Saxton

The fourteenth century was a period of economic instability with famine and livestock epidemics in the early years. High taxation was a recurring source of tension. The Black Death or plague in 1348–1349, caused the deaths of a third to half the population.

In St Albans, townspeople frequently challenged the Abbey’s authority, notably in 1327, when they temporarily gained independence following violent outbursts and again, during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381.

The town continued to benefit economically from its closeness to London, although this proved a distinct disadvantage in 1455 and 1461 during the Battles of St Albans in the Wars of the Roses. However, by the early 1500s, the town had gained some independence from the abbey with the roles of town bailiff, and clerk of the market undertaken by townsmen. Following the Dissolution of the monastery in 1539, a form of self-government and administration was established. St Albans finally received the coveted Borough Charter in 1553.

Come and meet some extraordinary figures and ordinary folk of medieval St Albans to learn about how the town developed in the centuries following the Magna Carta of 1215.

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