St Aldhem’s or St Alban’s?

St Aldhelm’s or St Alban’s ?

The tiny Norman chapel on the headland, which is still in regular use, is dedicated to St Aldhelm, the first Bishop of Sherborne, who died in 709 AD, and it is very likely that, technically, the headland should also be named for this Saxon priest and scholar, who was, of course, a genuine historical character.  St Alban – if he existed at all – and from whom the town in Hertfordhire took its name, was a British martyr put to death for his Christian beliefs; indeed, he is considered to be the first British Christian martyr.  The year of his death is disputed by historians, some believing that it might have been as early as 209 AD, others as late as 305 AD; but, in any case, it was at least 400 years before that of St Aldhelm.  During the centuries between then and now, probably caused originally by copying or transcription errors, the names of the two saints have become conflated.  What is certain is that mariners have for many years referred to the headland as “St Alban’s Head”, which is why we in NCI, as a maritime organisation, tend to prefer to use the term “St Alban’s Head” rather than the probably more strictly accurate “St Aldhelm’s Head”.

Radar Memorial, Lookout & Chapel