The Ultimate Hotel For History Buffs: St. Michael’s Manor

Closeup of altarpiece at St Albans Cathedral | ©Judy Spreng /Flickr
Closeup of altarpiece at St Albans Cathedral | ©Judy Spreng /Flickr
Buried in the heart of medieval Verulamium’s Fishpool Street is one of the jewels in the crown of St. Albans: the ideal hotel for history lovers. When St. Michael’s Manor Hotel opened over 50 years ago, it provided visitors with an inn from where they could explore 100 acres of parkland. Guests could roam around medieval history in the town before returning to its peaceful surroundings of five acres of magnificent gardens. Here, Culture Trip explores St. Michael’s Manor and why it’s absolutely perfect for history enthusiasts.

Looking Back: The Heritage of St. Michael’s Manor

The Manor House – as it was called – was built by John Gape, a well known respected gentleman of the 16th century, and is believed to have been erected on medieval foundations, and still retains artefacts that can be traced back as far as the 11th century. The descendants of Gape’s family continued to own the manor until it was sold to the present owners, Newling Ward. It’s neatly nestled amongst the 70 listed buildings, old inns and mills of St. Michael’s district in Fishpool Street. Although the Manor House was never intended as a hotel, Newling Ward took its original features into careful consideration: being particularly sure to keep its medieval heritage alive, they have kept the original floor and path that are still visible in the cellar, and the oak panelled ceiling in the lounge.

Entrance ©St Michael's Manor

Looking In: The Décor

The English heritage of the Gape’s family subtly permeates throughout St. Michael’s Hotel in the décor and furniture. The beautiful lounge, habitually used for afternoon tea, holds a reminder of the past in its informal and homely atmosphere. The design of the patio doors is a nod to Gape’s past – they enter onto the original gardens and the neighbourly community of Fishpool Street, inviting people from outside to gather informally to talk about the hotel’s fascinating history.

The hotel experience offers an unusual journey of Englishness. Guests will be struck by the hotel’s passion for restoring, renovating and improving the hotel and its gardens. Contemporary, bespoke bedroom furniture – solid red wood panelling with mirror inserts, finished with warm colours – unite the past and present together, encouraging guests to reflect on their cultural surroundings. A development of six further bedrooms in the Garden Wing open up on to the vast acres of gardens, offering guests a beautiful experience beyond the doors.

Bedroom ©St Michael's Manor

Looking Out: The Cultural Links

While its alignment with the cultural neighbourhood began in 1213, when St Albans Abbey was a meeting place for groups of churchmen and nobles, St. Michael’s Manor’s location still offers guests easy access to the Abbey. It is a stone’s throw away from the historic city town and world famous Abbey Cathedral, which dominates the city’s skyline from every angle. The Abbey’s architecture, a must see, is a blend of many different periods, and its great tower includes Roman bricks salvaged from the ruins of Verulamium. It is best known for the shrine of St Alban, Britain’s first Christian saint, which continues to attract pilgrims from everywhere.

St Albans cathedral ©Gary Ullah /Flickr

Looking Ahead: The Future

With an ample supply of tourists coming from all over the world, St. Michael’s Manor is ready to embark on the second half of its centenary to continue to preserve its medieval artistic status. The hotel looks forward to receiving visitors for the much celebrated St. Albans’ annual June festival – a spectacular and stunning ‘Pilgrimage Procession’ experience where giant puppets retell the story of Alban’s martyrdom and his trial before he was executed.

The Lake Courtesy of St Michael's Manor