For too long St Albans South Signal Box was a paint-peeling eyesore at the entrance to St Albans. So it was a fantastic thing when local residents in Ridgmont Road decided over a pint that they could and would rescue it. It now glistens in old Midland Railway scarlet livery, is open to the public on appointed days, and was a perfect winner of the main award at last night's St Albans Civic Society annual awards ceremony. You can read all about the signal box and its restoration here. Significantly it was one of the very few non-residential projects highlighted in last night's architectural slide-show compered by Roy Darby. All the projects were completed in the 2008 calendar year.
Frankly not all were good, there is still too much pastiche, we seem sometimes paralysed by our history rather than developing organically with good modern architecture. But I was pleased to see the restoration of our party headquarters at St Albans City Liberal Club highlighted (thank you Civic Society!). And other star turns were a superb restoration of a significant house on London Road and the renovation of the old Town Hall. The major part of the Town Hall is now occupied by STARTS, the acronym of St Albans Arts, a charity set up to promote excellence of the arts in St Albans. It is an iconic building in a magnificent location - Nikolaus Pevsner memorably described it as "the visual urban charter of St Albans". It has all the potential to be a significant cultural hub at the heart of the city.
So I agree with the Civic Society that it is disappointing that the obvious main entrance under the portico is labelled as a coffee shop and leads to a Gaggia coffee machine rather than a route through to the grand staircase and hallway beyond. I hope opportunities can be seized to make a more coherent whole of the interior of the most significant secular public building in St Albans - but at least it looks a million dollars from the outside!