Time capsules found at old Museum site

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News release: 08 November 2017

A time capsule dating back more than a century has been found by building workers at the site of the old Museum of St Albans.

Time Capsule from 1898
The glass container was discovered hidden behind a stone plaque commemorating the construction of the building in 1898.

Workers came across it while demolishing part of the structure on Hatfield Road during its redevelopment into homes.

The capsule includes an edition of the Herts Advertiser and St Albans Times published on Saturday 16 July 1898 along with a Victorian half-penny.

A note in elegant handwriting explains the bottle was put there during the ceremonial laying of “the Foundation Stone of Hertfordshire County Museum by Dame Maria Millington Evans”.

She was an archaeologist and author as well as the wife of wealthy businessman Sir John Evans, one of the Museum’s founders.

Another capsule, dated 1960, was also discovered and is believed to have been placed there when the stone was moved from its original position. It also includes a copy of the Herts Advertiser as well stamps and coins.

The contents have been examined and will go on display at the Verulamium Museum from Saturday 18 November until Christmas.

They will be reburied at the old Museum site for future generations to discover once its redevelopment is completed. Some new items will be included.

Contractor Morgan Sindall is building ten homes on behalf of the owners, St Albans City and District Council. The houses are due to be put on sale next summer.

Money raised from the scheme will go towards the £7.75 million cost of the Council’s project to create a spectacular new Museum and Art Gallery at the Town Hall, St Peter’s Street. It is due to open next year.

The new residential development will be called Oak Tree Gardens, it has been decided.

This was the most popular name to come out of a consultation run by the independent Look! St Albans community group.

It is inspired by an oak tree that is a major feature of the site and is protected by a Tree Preservation Order.

The former museum’s original façade has been retained to preserve some of the site’s historic character.

Morgan Sindall has completed preparatory construction work, including the drainage system, and has now started work on the new structure.

A roof, external brickwork, internal walls and flooring will all be installed over the coming weeks as the main building takes shape.

Morgan Sindall has been working closely with the Council’s community engagement team to keep nearby residents and businesses informed about the City Centre project.

A number of activities have been arranged while an occasional newsletter will give information about its progress.

Project Manager Paul Barrett recently went on a walkabout in nearby streets and talked to more than 60 locals about the scheme. 

He is available to answer questions outside the Town Hall on the last Friday of each month between 11am and 1pm. A representative from Willmott Dixon, building contractors for the new museum, will also be there.

Councillor Annie Brewster, the Council’s Portfolio Holder for Sport and Culture, said: “This is a high-profile project and we have been very keen to keep residents up to date with all that is happening.

“The discovery of the time capsule shows how proud people back in the 19th Century were about creating a new museum. 

“We hope to produce something just as special in the 21st Century with a new museum and art gallery that will be able to hold exhibitions of national importance.

“As a bonus, we are also creating a high-quality residential development on the old museum site to help fund the new one. It is great news that both projects are on schedule.”

Time Capsule One
Time Capsule Two
Time Capsule hiding place
Pictures: contents of the 1898 time capsule; contents of the 1960 capsule including stamps; removal of the old museum's foundation stone led to the workers finding the time capsules, hidden in cavity.

Councillors contact: 
Cllr Annie Brewster, Portfolio Holder for Sport and Culture for St Albans City and District Council. Email: cllr.a.brewster@stalbans.gov.uk; Tel: 01438 832255 
Contact for the media: 
John McJannet, Principal Communications Officer, St Albans City & District Council, Tel: 01727 296130, E-mail: john.mcjannet@stalbans.gov.uk