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St Albans

St Peter's Planes

St Peter's Planes - photograph from Hertfordshire Library Service Archives, taken 1940The plane trees that now line St Peter's Street are fairly new to the St Albans scenery. Originally, St Peter's Street was bordered by a lime tree avenue, planted in 1881, which earned the street the description of "one of the loveliest boulevards in Europe".

St Peter's Plane - photograph from the Walk-talk guideHowever, these trees had to be removed in the late 20th century and the plane trees replacing them were planted from 1999-2003, as gifts under the Council's tree sponsorship scheme. Many of the trees were planted commemoratively and full details of these trees and others can be found in the "Tree Book of Remembrance" in the Council Offices. The tree sponsorship scheme is still running; if you want to get involved then contact St Albans City Council.

Battlefield Conker

The garden in which the Verdun Tree stands, taken from the Walk-Talk guide

This horse chestnut was grown from a conker collected from a horse chestnut tree in Verdun, France; the only tree to survive the tragic battle which took place there in 1916 and obliterated the rest of the landscape. The battle of Verdun was the longest and one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War, with a quarter of a million French and German troops loosing their lives, and over a million wounded, earning it the nickname of "the mincing machine of Verdun". This tree, the offspring of a rare survivor amongst an unprecedented level of destruction, serves as a memorial to all those who lost their lives.

Psychiatrist's Walnut

Photograph of Cotton's hospital, 1910. From Hertfordshire Library Service ArchivesThis walnut tree in St Peter's Churchyard was planted in memory of Nathaniel Cotton, a psychiatrist who founded St Albans' first mental hospital in the 1730's. Walnut was chosen as a fitting tribute due to the brain-like shape of its nuts.

Psychiatrist's Walnut - photograph taken from the Walk-Talk guideCotton is most famous for the forward-thinking nature of his methods; in a time where mental health care was in its infancy, and often quite brutal, he was a great advocate of talking through problems with patients, and encouraged sufferers to walk as much as possible; not a million miles away from current forms of treatment for illnesses like depression. His most famous patient was the poet William Cowper, co-author of the hymn "Amazing Grace". Cotton is buried with his wife Ann in the churchyard where the tree now stands.

Justice Ash

Justice Ash - photograph taken from the Walk-Talk guideThis tree was planted 1976 to mark Amnesty International's year of the Prisoner of Conscience which highlighted the plight of all of those imprisoned for their beliefs, race, colour or lifestyle. Ash was chosen as it is a traditional tree of justice; The Abbey at St Albans used to hear pleas and try criminals under a large ash tree in its courtyard. The tree was planted by Mukhtar Rana, a former prisoner of conscience in Pakistan.

These are just a few of the special trees that can be found in St Albans; for more information on these, and to find others, why not try the walk-talk tour of St Albans? The guide can be found online here, or can be purchased for £1 from the Tourist Information Centre, the Verulamium Museum, St Albans Museum and many pubs in the area.


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