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St.Michael’s Church pre-dates the Norman Conquest and, in common with the churches of St.Stephen, and St.Peter, was always said to have been founded by Ulsinus, Abbot of St Albans Abbey in 948AD. There is now some uncertainty about both the date and the Abbot, but there seems no need to doubt that the three churches were built at about that time to receive pilgrims, and to prepare them for their visit to the shrine of St.Alban within the Abbey. The three churches, which still exist, stand on the three main roads into St Albans; and St Michaels lies among the foundations of the old basilica (law-court) of Roman Verulamium, where Alban was condemned to die.
In more-or-less this form, St Michael’s Church survived into the late 19th C, when the indefatigable Lord Grimthorpe, owner of Batchwood Hall, not exhausted by his career as lawyer, parliamentarian, clockmaker and saviour of St Albans Cathedral (as the Abbey Church had become in 1877), turned his attention to St Michael’s. At his own expense, he extended the nave westwards and built the tower on the north-west corner of the church. Not surprisingly, the clock is also Grimthorpe’s work. Give or take the odd vestry, St.Michael’s to-day is very much as he left it.
For the visitor, the two most noteworthy objects within St Michael’s Church are both connected with our most famous parishioner, Sir Francis Bacon, 1561 to 1626, (see next page). Author, lawyer, statesman, philosopher and pioneer of the empirical method in science, he inherited Old Gorhambury and its estate from his father. The Bacon monument, possibly the work of Nicholas Stone, was erected to his memory by his devoted secretary in 1630. Second only to this is the beautiful Elizabethan oak pulpit with its tester and hour-glass.
We were tasked to supply and install an efficient and controllable lighting system to replace the existing metal halide discharge luminaires that had caused a fire a few years previously and to eliminate the basic LED floodlights that had been used as a temporary solution for some time. Following several design meetings and delivery of a full specification we agreed with the PCC to install a new installation compiled of DALI controlled LED projectors, LED strip lighting and retro fit units to existing sphere uplighter wall lights. These have all been connected with a scene setting system supplied by Mode Lighting that allows infinite control of lighting scenes that can be programmed for any service, concert or activity.