High Street Property Details

54, The High Street


The property is known as 54 High Street and 1 Church Street and comprises in the basement a  cellar, on the  ground floor; restaurant, bar, two reception areas, commercial kitchen, disabled wc and courtyard with water feature. The first floor comprises customer toilet facilities, two rooms for staff accommodation, office and separate bathroom and WC.

When the property was occupied by Collins Antiques from 1926 to 2006, it comprised basement cellar, ground floor retail shop, kitchen, sitting room and office, external WC stores and workshop. A metal staircase provided access to the first floor office (previously used as a "den" by Sam Collins (b 17.11 .1928) in his youth). An internal staircase in the cottage provided access to the first floor with  three interconnecting bedrooms with separate bathroom and wc (constructed 1947).

1a Church View, the Village Barbers, adjoins the property and is a self-contained shop unit. 


The Shop was originally the "Winter Garden" forming part of Blackmore End House a Victorian mansion situated north of the village, which was demolished in 1926 and this part of the house was purchased by Fred and Charlie Collins as a fixture and was erected on site in 1931. It is of timber and glazed walls with a brick parapet under a flat roof. The adjoining cottage is dated as 1746  of vitrified red brick with red brick dressings and banding. The timber frame interior is suggested as being the same date. It has plain tile roof and is two storeys, it has two 19th century casement windows, on ground floor with segmental heads. It has a 19th century panelled door in 18th Century pegged oak frame. It has floor band with red brick centre course. Lozenge panel over door with inscribed brick. Interior has a chamfered floor beam and inglenook and quarry tiled floor. 1 window extension on the right circa 1870 in purple brick with ground floor barbers shop.  In 1971 the Corner Shop and Barton house became buildings of architectural and historic interest.


1911 to 1915    WOOTTON:

At the turn of the Century the corner shop site at 54 High Street was F G Wootton Store. The 1911 census  records the occupants as  Frederick George Wootton (head) aged 45, occupation General Dealer, Ann Wootton (married) age 45, Frederick Douglas aged 14 (born 1896) and John Ellis aged 5 (born 1905).

Gilbert Smith remembers this as an ironmongers run by FG Wootton (i)

I have read a local newspaper article with a hand written transcription as 1910 but consider this date may need verifying ,   which records a "Disastrous Fire" at the shop "Business premises Destroyed at Wheathampstead", It records that the family dog raised the alarm but subsequently perished in the fire. The local fire service pumped water from the River but needed support from the Harpenden Fire Brigade. the shop was totally destroyed along with  the end part of The Swan, the  first floor  bedroom and roof structure.

Extract "Talking to Old Inhabitants by Daphne Grierson (1909 - 1994) Transcribed by John Wilson, Lamer Lodge, between 1987 and 2002.  Mrs T Sparrow; “And Charlie Collins' corner shop was an oil shop and was burnt to the ground; I'll never forget that night. I'd walked home from Harpenden, back to Necton Road, a bit further down from this house we're in now - that was my father's house, the one we were brought up in - it was a beautiful night: sky clear and stars shining, twelve o'clock at night. All too perfect. I came in and had a bit of supper and sat down for a minute, and my mother called out from her bedroom: 'Look at the window, isn't that a fire?' I got up and looked out and saw the red glow; I started to run and I ran down to the Fire Engine to get her out. That was the last of the Oil shop - Wootton's that was. But he still went on going round the houses with paraffin oil on a cart.

 After the fire the Wootton  family moved to the High Street but the address is unknown to the present Wootton family.

The eldest Wootton son was killed whilst on active service during the First World War:-Extract from the St. Albans and Wheathampstead Times, Saturday May 20th 1915. This extract records the death of the eldest son in the Wootton family.

"The death of driver Fred Douglas Wootton, oldest son of Mr and Mrs F.G.Wootton of 1, Church-street, Wheathampstead at the early age of 18, was an event which called forth much sympathy in the village.  In private life the deceased was a salesman at the establishment of Messrs. Osborne and Garrett, of Frith Street, Soho, but heeding his countries call he "chucked his job" and enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery (Kitchener's Army). . Therefore the body, enclosed in a coffin covered with purple cloth, was conveyed by rail to Wheathampstead on Friday, and rested at his home for a night. On Saturday the funeral took place, military honours being accorded.  The coffin was placed upon a gun carriage and. covered with the Union Jack, upon which rested wreathes sent by the family. The Rector (The Rev. C Girwood Thompson officiated and he with the marvellous choir met the cortege at the lych gate, Mr R.W.Seabrook at the organ. There was a large assemblage of parishioners including Mrs. Cherry-Garrard, Miss Davys."

In 1914 the premises are still recorded as Wootton Store in the Kelly's directory.

I am still researching from the period 1915 to 1926 when the property was purchased by Frederick Collins my great uncle.


(Background to the brothers who started the business on 1907 moving to 54 High Street in 1926)

Frederick George and Charlie Collins two brothers started the antiques business in 1907..Charlie Collins was born at the Railway Hotel latterly known as the Abbot John, now converted to flats .  His father    (James William)  had been the Coachman for many years  at Brocket Hall Lemsford  to the late Lord Cowper, he  took over the pub in 1887 and  worked up a flourishing trade and reared a family of 13 with his wife Agnes. Frederick was 9 when he came to Wheathampstead and was the second son. Charlie was the youngest son and second youngest in the family. Charlie went to St Helen’s School at Wheathampstead and he would tell friends later in life that he couldn’t remember leaving he just “drifted” out of school into his brothers Fred’s antiques business. The brothers bought repaired and sold furniture in the pub yard first at the Railway Hotel and then later at the Red Lion. When Charlie’s mother died in 1909 aged 57 years, his father set up home at 12 High Street.

Officially the family business of Collins Antiques was started by two brothers in 1907; Frederick “Fred” George Collins and Charles “Charlie” Collins (born 22nd March 1895).  When the business first started Victorian furniture was regarded as rather vulgar and the two brothers specialised in 17th and early 18th century furniture.  Fred Collins was partnered by his brother in 1911. Fred was a trained cabinet maker. By 1911 Charlie had established his London connection. He would drive up in his horse and cart to collect furniture his brother Fred had bought at Christies the previous day. The brothers were also cabbies for the Railway hotel, in those days they used to hire horses from Tattersalls and the horses used to come down on the train.  The First World War 1914-1918 took the two brothers away; Fred was a member of Herts Yeomanry and served in France and Italy in the motor transport unit. Charlie served with Herts Yeomanry in Egypt, their sisters Millie and Grace looked after the business whilst the brothers were away. After the war they sold the horse and cart and bought a motor van. Charlie Collins got a Lanchester motor car which was his cab until 1920. Photograph 01a

Extract interview Sam Collins February 9th 2001- talking about early transport for the Antiques business “It had epicyclic gearing using two cones and a belt like an early automatic gear box in some ways. Uncle Fred went into oil business- they had a petrol pump. From horse drawn carriages to early motor cars the company later had a delivery van built by Fred Collins with the help of Wheathampstead tradesmen with a logo of an addressed envelope on the side.)  I remember the van it was called a chevy, built from an American vehicle and I can remember them buying a flat chassis. They used to make the van bodies themselves and there was a blacksmith that did the iron work. Uncle Fred could do all the woodwork and they just put it together by the bottom at the bell along with Mr Wren the coach builder. We have been using the envelope sign for a number of years after my father did a delivery to Nottingham and saw it being used outside a place there and decided to use it."  The envelope sign was a distinctive logo use by the family business on letter heads and attached to the delivery vans.  See attached photographs of Collins Antiques Transport and Collins Antiques logo 01b and 01c and 02.

Motoring offences Reported in Herts News 7th June 1921 - I have referred to this article as it shows a different approach to life, post First World War when tradesmen/businesses felt they were able to challenge the law with a pleading letter.

In 1921 the two brothers wrote a letter complaining to the "County Petty Sessional Court" each had received a summons in respect of an offence against motoring regulations. .Apologise were offered to the Court on non attendance on account of business calls. The letter referred to the fact that while people are willing to work hard and help the state were harassed over minor matters, whilst others were free to draw dole and enjoy their lives in idleness. The police did not contest the explanations so Earl Verulam presiding at the bench took the lenient view and ordered the brothers to pay costs only. The summons against Fred was driving a motor car without lights and Charlie was driving a motorcycle with no rear number plate. Fred explained that the night in question was an exceptionally light night exercised his discretion by driving home slowly a distance of 200 yards without a lighted lamp, He stated that he knew he should pass a constable when he came to his decision he could have turned another way and obtained a lamp. He claimed his action was "no danger to anyone". The charge against Charlie and the rear back plate, Fred claimed that he had sent it to the blacksmith to have straightened. Charlie only used the machine to take a message some half a mile away. He maintained that the police knew that the cycle was properly registered and pointed out that the front plate was in order. Fred asked the Court to take into account "With the present state of Trade and employment what encouragement is there for us to endeavour to respond to the Prime Ministers appeal for employing reserve de mobs when at present all your endeavours are hampered as such trivial matters as these. We both commenced work the very day we were de mobbed and have practically done 12 hours or more every day since, knowing every £1 we earn means about 14 shillings for the State. Yet we get not so much consideration as the army of unemployed “.  There was obviously a major grievance by the two brothers being caught for minor motoring offences when going about their daily business having served in the First World War and now trying to earn a living.

In the late 1920s and early 1930's George Bernard Shaw was a customer of my great uncle and grandfather, on 23rd June 1921 they delivered parcels to  Hanover Square and Bath  Adelphi Terrace. See attached invoices dated 9th July 1932.  Scanned documents 03. In 1923 they fitted carpets on his landing and sewed cushion covers. In 1924 additional carpet laying. In 1925 collecting a garden shelter from Station and delivering to Ayot and a Copper Scuttle was purchased.  It is interesting to read the invoices as it shows the diversity of the business, carpet fitters upholsterers and furniture removers.


In  1926 Fred Collins saw the potential for his growing business and bought 54 High Street and 1 Church Street from Innes  (I am still researching this name)  for £350,00. It was a site and adjoining cottage. He got an extra £25 discount when he won the toss of a coin. The best bargain Charlie Collins ever struck was the £12 he paid for the old Winter Garden from Blackmore end house in 1926. It was an auction of "Fixtures and Fittings" from the house and it was held on 26th October 1926. My father Sam Collins recalled that it was a sale of the building fabric from the top of the chimney down to the foundations. See auction catalogue  04.

On September 12th 1927 Charlie Collins married Susan Griffin in Killuin Co Wexford Ireland. Susan had emigrated from Ireland to work for the Earl of Cavan at Wheathampstead House looking after their daughter. Charlie Collins ran a taxi business along with his furniture business picking up customers from Wheathampstead Station. His most notable customer being George Bernard Shaw, who lived at Ayot St Lawrence, in an Edwardian villa for over 40 years from 1906. I understand that Charlie met Susan whilst he was chauffeuring and calling at Wheathampstead House.

The establishment of permanent premises at 54 High Street enabled Charlie to run the business from here with his brother operating 12 High Street. Charlie was able to employ a cabinet maker to carry out repairs on items they had purchased or to repair furniture for local and provincial customers In 1926 Jack Humphrey start working in the furniture restoration workshop at Collins Antiques aged 52 and he was  still working at 80 in 1954 when he retired. Jack recorded the time spent on each piece of furniture in a Boots Scribbling diary, a practice that was used right up until 2006.  See photo of Jack in workshop 05 and with his wife.

On the 17th November 1928 Susan and Charlie’s son Samuel John was born, their only child.  

On 1st January 1930 Frederick George Collins took on a lease from Francis Farquhar Sladen of Town Farm, Marford Road, and the lease related to the thatched barn and tin roofed shed in the rear of the farm and paid 9 shillings per week. The use was restricted to the display and storage of furniture only. The last rent cheque paid to Sladen was the rent due to 31st December 1969 for £52.00.

In 1931 the Winter Garden was erected on the site of the "former Wootton Store", Charlie and Susan my grandparents had kept chickens here before they reconstructed the Winter Garden. In 1932 The business letter heading referred to Cabinet Makers, Upholsterers and Dealers in Antique and Modern furniture. The premises used were as follows Showrooms displaying “Antiques and Curios” at Corner House High Street; Modern and second hand furniture at No 1 Church Street. Warehouse storage and large modern furniture, outdoor effects at Town Farm Marford Road and Office and Workshops central house high Street i.e. No 12.

During the 1930's my grandparents would always decorate the shop to commemorate a Royal Occasion, e.g. Silver Jubilee of King George V 1935,  Coronation of Edward  1936 and George VI in 1937, and Coronation of Elizabeth 11 1953 . This tradition continued for royal and military occasions during the following decades. Photographs 06 King George V Silver Jubilee;  07  1936 Edward  Coronation: 08 Coronation King George VI 1937, 09 1977 Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee.

1936 Fred died aged 54 and the property at 54 High Street was left to Charlie Collins, Fred's wife continued to run 12 High Street (see history of this property.)

In 1939 A clearance order was made by St Albans Rural District Council on a property known as Barton House see photograph 10, 17-19 Brewhouse Hill the former Hope Brewery situated along Brewhouse Hill which was in danger of being demolished.  Charlie Collins saw potential in this building and carried on to fight for 15 years to save this property.

My dad's first Cousin Sheila Vaughan (nee Collins) daughter of Frederick recalls in my interview with her in  June 2013  "that in the late 1930's and 1940's Uncle Charlie's shop was always full of people as Charlie would stroll down the village and whoever he met he would invite them back for a cup of tea. His trademark attire was a panama hat and a dirty white apron, Sheila recalls in the summertime in the late 30's, if it was a nice weekend Uncle Charlie would go out for the day with loads of children from the village all in the back of the van and off we would go for a picnic in Dunstable downs. We would spend a day out and anyone could come,   she thinks Auntie Susie made all the sandwiches. In the winter Charlie would go around the big houses to find where a pond or lake had frozen over and he had a chest full of skates for all the children, Sheila recalls as she was the youngest she would have to wear football boots to skate.  Sheila says, everyone knew everybody and there was a great sense of Community spirit in the village".


Charlie Collins rented the barn buildings at Town Farm, the buildings were diagonally opposite the shop on Marford Road which were developed into housing post 1971. He used these buildings as showrooms and storage. Owners of large properties in London would store their furniture here as a protection against possible bomb damage during the blitz.  The Collins family ceased using this property in 1969. Charlie Collins took Jim Hensman junior around the showrooms as a young lad and asked him to pick out an item to keep; Jim told me he still has the little box he picked out. Jim also recalls Peter Collins, my father’s cousin (who went onto becoming a member of the Royal Academy of Art) painting the Swan public house and giving the painting to his father. On the morning of the FA cup final May 1971 my grandmother telephoned my father to say bulldozers were knocking down the farm, my father thought she had been dreaming. When he arrived it was pile of rubble and a blaze of debris. This case is known as Maltglade v St Albans Rural district Council a conviction for unauthorised demolition of a building on which a Building Preservation Notice had been served was quashed by the High Court as the owner had not been properly served with the Notice. The Town and Country Amendment Act 1972 now covers situations where the owners cannot be traced and notices can be fixed to buildings themselves. 1971 saw the start of a period of listing important historical buildings in the village.

During the 1940's Sam used the first floor room approached via a metal staircase from the yard as his den and friends from the village like Valerie Barker daughter of the policeman who lived opposite, Eileen Hensman, daughter to Jim Hensman publican at the Swan, June Hebb and Colin Spur son of the licensee at the Bull and Les Walker all joined Sam in his den known as the "dive". I interviewed Colin in 2013 and he said Sam left school at 14 and went to work at Murphy Radio in Welwyn Garden City as an apprentice. He did not go straight into the Antiques business. Colin said that my father learnt about electronics and to understand the composition of radios and valves. My father was there from age of 15-17. At the age of 19 my father Sam joined the air force as part of Conscription “calling up” after the war i.e.  From 1947 to 1949. In the air force Sam specialised in instruments, he was a skilled technician in Altometers and Speedometers. When Sam left the air force he couldn’t make up his mind whether to go back to Murphy radio or Antiques business.

I asked Colin if there was any pressure from his father to join the business. Colin said there was absolutely no pressure from Charlie Collins. He was totally laid back about it, one of the most laid back people he had ever met. Colin says Charlie Collins was one of the “greatest” sales persons he had ever met if a customer was being difficult in the shop (i.e. not committing to a purchase.)Charlie always called his customers “Sir” Colin said it was Susan’s (his wife) influence she was in service to Earl and Lady Cavan who lived at Wheathampstead House a little sub servient to people something they couldn’t shake off always polite to upper class “nobs”.  (Colin gets back to the story) Charlie had a technique if the customer started to try and push down the price, he would say you don’t need to go any further I have decided I don’t want to part with this piece of furniture, I really like it I think I will keep it for myself. The customer would then look astonished and quizzed what Charlie had said. This was a technique where the customer was so puzzled, that an argument would then pursue that the customer said they really wanted the item and it was a sure way of getting the price back up and a sale.

Charlie Collins would often be found in the Swan after work by the time his half of mild and bitter had been poured and he sat down, a little voice over the fence between the pub and shop would shout "Charlie Tea Time!!!"

When Sam joined the business in 1950 after the forces he converted the end room of the house into an office and immediately began to organise the business. It was an age before computers but he created systems so that records were more readily accessible. Colin says records were in odd books ready for the accountants to sort out. Sam set about streamlining the business. Colin recalls as you walked through the shop into the yard there was an iron staircase which went up to a room called the “Dive” This was where Sam could be a recluse where he played around with his love of the radio.  Colin would meet Sam here with Les Walker where they built a tape deck with a broad tape (Colin supervising) it was with broader tape to carry more information. They got PA (Public Address) system jobs from 1949 to 1953. Colin did the commentary and Sam did the technical side. They did events on Nomansland  Common announcing to the crowd who was batting on the Cricket field. Colin did the chat. They built this tape recorder so when the Queen visited the village in the early 1950’s and they were positioned on the roof of the shop and the whole village turned out, they would do the commentary. Colin said he got very excited but felt he was poor with the commentary he just said the Queen is wearing a lovely skirt but was unable to describe it. They got a job of doing the PA system when Douglas and Peggy Cory Wright’s daughter became a debutante in the 1950’s at Mackerye End House.

I asked Colin about the customer base for the shop. Colin said they came from all over the place; they did however sell a lot to the Trade. Sam would go out looking for items in the countryside and dealers would by from him. Colin recalls a Mr Brown who was a 100% scrupulous dealer who would buy a lot from Charlie. Colin recalls that he was always known as Mr Brown but Mr Brown referred to Charlie as Charlie.   I did know Mr Brown he had a shop close to Chelsea football ground near Stamford Bridge and in his later years he traded from Bedmond village. That’s when I remember him. Colin recalls that he helped Sam drive the van and in their time they did removal jobs.  Colin recalls how Sam’s first cousin Peter Collins (father Willkie Collins brother to Charlie) came down from London and his brother Gordon and Bernard all met up together. Gordon became an academic but at one time he was a youth leader in Wheathampstead.  Colin recalls playing table tennis with Bernard.

Post war 1945 Selena Morse (nee Kearney) niece to Susan and Charlie Collins came to live with Charlie and Susan from Southern Ireland and assisted in the family business. Susan had hurt her back with a slipped disc and Selena came over to nurse her but stayed on to work with Charlie in the workshop and stayed for 2 years whilst Sam was doing his national service. This was a common situation an uncle or cousin would spend a month in the summer helping in their relations business as a holiday or break from their own environment.

In 1947 a Mr Jones called into the shop with his friends the Whitemans, a father and two school boys. Mr Jones had previously lived in Warwickshire and had moved to Knebworth, he told his friends the Whitemans about Collins Antiques and from 1947 until the close of the business. Henry Whiteman the young school boy from 1947  and his family have visited  the shop and our family for many years  and became lifelong friends of my parents., It  is unusual in this day and age to be a customer for such a long period and to have forged a friendship from a shopping visit . (reference recording 10.08.2013)  Henry recalls Town farm and the works at Barton House and meeting Cathie at Barton House whilst Sam was rewiring the whole property. Henry also recalls the 75th Celebration of the shop in1982 a celebration with customers and friends at Barton House displaying Peter Collins Art work. Henry purchased a piece of Artwork. Henry says that in the 1960's the business supplied a lot of Cruise ships with furniture. He also recalls that the repair workshop was very busy as there were not many places with skilled cabinet makers that could repair antiques; he remembers having to wait a while to get furniture fixed. ,


Charlie Collins purchased Barton House in 1952 as a warehouse and had it not been for some effort to preserve the building by Messrs Collins it might have been lost to Wheathampstead years ago. From 1939 to 1954 Charlie Collins fought for the retention of the building which for nearly 200 years was used as a brewery. Charlie sought the support of every influential person in Hertfordshire and the aid of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and one of his strongest supporters was Sir Albert Richardson who mediated with the Ministry of Housing in averting the demolition of Barton House.  In the 1950's and 1960's saw the comprehensive refurbishment of this property to provide three floors of showrooms for antiques which complemented the main shop in the High street. The conversion work spanned over the late 1950's and early 1960's.

In 1955 Sam Collins married Catherine (Cathie)  McLafferty and they started their married life in Gable Cottage Church St, they had three children  Michael Charles Collins ( b 19.09.1956 died 12.03.2010) Anne Catherine Collins (b 29.10.1958) Sarah Claire Collins (b 21,01.1963 (who presently runs The Barn).  Sam would sometimes spend weeks on buying trips in Ireland with his father as his mother had relations in Co Wicklow.

Harold Feasey joined the family business in 1955 as a cabinet maker. He was originally a wheel wright and then worked for a window company in Luton building window casements. See attached photograph 11  One of Harold's projects was to make a set of 6 chairs for Barclays Bank in Luton in 1968-1969 as shown on the attached photograph he was a skilled craftsman .On interviewing Derick Keen 25.11.2013 who joined the business as an apprentice, he recalls that Harold was a very patient teacher and states "he only ever got cross with me once and threw a mallet at me".    In 1960 the family partnership became a limited company with Charlie as Chairman.  

By 1961, Sam recalled that people used to do more of their shopping in the immediate vicinity, without a great need to travel, although he stated that the public transport system was more developed than it is now referring to 2001. London transport used to run buses through the village and there were a number of daily trains. He said" There used to be six trains up to London and six trains down, and when the railway was running I used to go to furniture shows in Manchester. I used to catch the train at 7.45am at Wheathampstead change at Luton and be in Manchester by 11.15am; Sam said in 2001 that it would take you that long today.

1960's and 1970's

In the 1960's and 1970's Charlie or Sam Collins would go to Ireland on buying trips sometimes staying for over a month, leaving Susan in charge of the shop with Cathie's help.. The mode of transport in the 1960's was a Commer van with a Box on the back with the distinctive yellow and black checks and the envelope logo.

The business also diversified and my father became a local agent for "Sunway venetian Blinds" and he set up a showroom at the main shop premises. The opening times are recorded as being Monday to Saturday 9am to 5.30pm and Thursdays 9am to 1.00pm. (Early closing). They were also local agents for Sunresta Bedding and their stock included 3ft divans with spring interior mattresses and oak headboard from £10 15 shillings to £43 3 shillings and six pence. See attached photograph Bedding in the showroom Photograph 12

One of the most exciting sales the business concluded was in 1962 which was  a notable sale of a pair of 16th century stalls made of walnut in the style of southern french renaissance period sold to York minster . They were acquired locally in 1960 and required only minor restoration. See attached photograph 13 Cathie Collins and Harold Feasey Polishing the settles .

In 1960’s the business used Ron Ball who lived at Church St (his family were butchers) to repair grandfather and grandmother clocks. They also supplied the chairs for the Waterend barn in St Albans see attached. Photograph 14

In 1965 Sam Collins becomes a Parish councillor and in 1966 employed a salesman called Robert Hall who worked full time in the shop and lodged with Lesley Rolph in Necton Road. He was very accident prone which was not that good when handling glass and furniture. Derick Keen joined the business in  1967 after telephoning Sam to ask if there were any jobs going. He had an interview one Saturday and the following Monday he started his 3 year apprenticeship. Derick recalls that on his first day he cycled in the pouring rain from London Colney drenched from head to foot. Susan Collins offered him Charlie’s clothes for the day so that he could dry out.  Derick says that his wages in his previous job in St Albans before joining the business were £4,00 per week and  he had a two week trial and his wages doubled to £8.00 per week. This salary rose to £12.00 per week on completion of his apprenticeship. Derick recalls as the new boy he had to stoke up the Rayburn stove in the workshop last thing at night before he left work so that the workshop would be warm when they arrived the next morning. It was also the source of heat to make up the traditional "pearl glue" (see attached photograph 15) used for making timber joints stick together. Derick recalls that a firm in London called "Jenkins" supplied the dyes, spirits of slats, sulphurs acids, polishing mops which were squirrel haired and the gold leaf. They did however buy traditional acids from The Chemist in the village up until the mid 1980's. The other shops they used in the 1960's and 1970's were Mrs Blackford the hardware shop and Cunningtons having a monthly tab at each shop. Mrs Blackford would always say everything was coming in on "Thursday" if she didn't have it in stock. The business also used Timberland stores which occupied the parade of shops in Station Road opposite Mount Road. Derick recalls how he prepared and fitted leather tops to desks with cow hides stretching and rubbing with Irish moss, taking 3 days to prepare and fit and to decorate with gold leaf via a brass wheel. A labour intensive job. Derick worked for the business for 30 years with a 3 year break from 1981 to 1984  and saw three recessions.

The  premises at Town farm- were used as Showrooms and Storage in 1960s and 54 High street as a Showroom and Restoration Workshop, East Lane Yard- Period Building effects, Barton house Showrooms and Bedding centre, Barton Yard- Depository. This period was probably the height of their trading and restoration potential.

Susan Cunnington recalls three generations of Collins's Charlie Sam and Michael walking in single file from Church Street to their premises in Barton House. She also recalls that they had a tab in her Dad’s shop something that is very unusual today.

1965 - closure of Wheathampstead Station.

The 1960's 1970's and 1980's were decades of popularity with Antique furniture amongst dealers and the general public and Collins Antiques also had a thriving restoration workshop for repair works for items to be sold or customers damaged furniture. The fact that there were dealers in St Albans the likes of Crispin Antiques , Lomas and Sykes (latterly moving to Woburn) and Beckwith and Sons and Village Green Antiques in Hertford enabled my father to buy and sell to other dealers and customers would visit these towns and then call by at Wheathampstead. Their main association in the 1960’s and 1970’s was with a dealer called Arthur Brown who originally traded from Fulham Road Chelsea then Bedmond and Lomas in St Albans. Other regular dealers included S and S Timms from Ampthill and Frank O' Dell in Shefford. They also bought stock at auction from provincial auctioneers such as Jacksons and Philips of Hitchin. During this period there were also regular sales of the contents of Country houses which my grandfather father and brother would attend.  In the 1960s and 1970's Sam employed Ken Males (village postman) and Lesley Rolph to help with deliveries. Derick recalls that deliveries where often every second day from 2pm to 4.30pm.

Sam employed two Saturday girls probably around late 1960's and he would say the attraction of the job is that they could do their homework whilst working. Annette Ratushnack and Ruth Scott.  They both went on to study courses related to fine arts/porcelain. In the 1970's the mode of transport for delivering furniture was a yellow "Rice" horsebox kitted out internally.

On FA cup Final day May 1971, my grandmother telephoned my father to say that bulldozers were knocking down town farm. My father thought she had been dreaming but when he arrived at the shop it was too late. The case is known as Maltglade v St Albans Rural District Council and unearthed the weakness of the Building Preservation Notice System. A conviction for authorised demolitions of a building on which a Building Preservation Notice had been served was quashed by the High Court as the owner a Ltd Co had not been properly served with the Notice. Subsection 58 (6) was specially inserted by the Town and Country Amendment Act 1972 to cover situations where the owners cannot be traced and notices can be fixed to buildings themselves, Photograph 16 shows Charle Collins painting the step of his shop with Town farm in the background circa 1970. 

1975 Michael Collins joins the family business straight from school; he enjoyed working and attending auctions with his grandfather and continued to work for the family business until it closed. He was a great historian and ran the repair workshop booking in and pricing up jobs. 16th august 1976 Charlie Collins dies. In the 1970's the business traded with a young man called Tony Bush who eventually set up business in Islington and now to date 2013 runs "Bushwood Antiques" in Gaddeson Row. He would call up to our family home every Sunday have tea and scones with Mum and Dad and buy Victorian and Edwardian furniture.

1980's 1990's

1982 Interview with Sam Collins-"We have so lamentably failed especially in the High street. In the 1970’s the County planners had wrong thoughts about how the High Street should go. They were not so much concerned with about the preservation of its character as finding a way of making the rush hour traffic flow. When I look back I know that our High street changed its character in a way that should never have happened. Thank goodness from a Conservation point of view these are days of enlightenment. Villages are now our only surviving link with the past apart from the cosseted Cathedral cities. With a bit of luck Wheathampstead will continue to keep its identity so long as we can maintain the metropolitan green belt. It is the character of the village which has so radically changed. As late as the 1930’s when a special train was booked for a trip to the seaside the whole village went. Today because there is a touch of class consciousness we very rarely meet together. Mind you on occasions such as a royal weeding will still work the old magic."

1982  75 years of trading Peter Collins first cousin to Sam exhibits paintings at Barton House .See scanned image 17

1980's and 1990's Collins Antiques were one of the stop off points for a Company called "Through the Looking Glass" the first company to organise antique buying trips abroad (France, England and Italy). They offered clients the rare opportunity to purchase antiques at wholesale prices as well as provide a wonderful opportunity to experience Europe in a very special way.  This was a good opportunity for my father and brother to sell to Americans but this market began to tail off when the dollar became weak.  Sam recalled in 2001 "we used to get American Tourists and Wheathampstead used to attract a lot of people when St Albans was a good Antiques centre with firms like Crispins Sykes and Graham Bell." In the early 1980's Sam employed two Cabinet makers trained under Harold Feasey John Seymour and Simon Pallister Simon left in 1984 and John in 1986. See Photograph 18 Michael outside the shop in 1986

This period saw a change in shopping patterns and types of shops with the growth of the out of town retail stores and throws away flat pack furniture from IKEA.  Young people had more spending power with easy access to credit and second hand furniture shops and auction houses had lost their appeal as brown furniture became less and less popular and dining room tables and chairs became a thing of the past with very few families eating together. This affected my father's business although there was still a "high end" market for period pieces or ornate French furniture. The fashion changed to pine furniture and then Swedish style IKEA or habitat furniture.  During this period the business did a lot of work for the Inchbald School of Design (Mrs Jacqueline Thwaites) and on the 25th February 1989 much to the delight of his daughters Sam appeared in the Hello magazine having attended a Venetian masked ball at Claridges, a change from the Herts Advertiser and Hertfordshire Countryside.

1987 Susan Collins dies aged 98 years, having lived at the cottage from 1926 to 1987 and still answering the telephone in her 90’s.22nd September 1988 Cathie Collins dies aged 59 years. Michael Collins moved into the cottage in 1988.

When Hatfield Galleria opened in late 1980’s there was a gentleman’s outfitters in the centre called Lester Bowden and Collins Antiques displayed their furniture in the store, complementing the tweed suits and country gentleman’s outfits.  Sam and Michael took it in turns to work on the shop floor as it was a useful outlet to capture the North London and wider catchment of shoppers visiting the centre and then marketing their own showrooms  in Wheathampstead.

In the 1990's my father continued to trade with a dealer called Johnny Haines who originally had a shop in Barnes but latterly had become what is termed as a Runner, a dealer who bought and sold whilst on the road.

In 1994 Sam Collins receives an MBE for services to the Community having served on the Parish Council for 29 years. He was instrumental in saving the Victorian Village School and improving the Mill Quay area and promoting and seeing through the Village Surgery at Marford Road.

June 19th to July 5th 1997 Collins Antiques celebrates 90 years of trading. A display of Barometers through the Ages by Derek and Tina Raiment Antiques Cheshire, 18th and 19th century furniture by Collins Antiques and new paintings and Sculptures by Art Connections Gallery who had opened a gallery in one room in Barton House in October 1996.

2000 - 2011

In 2001 my father reluctantly leased his main showroom to a hair salon called Elysian which operated until 2010. It was a difficult decision for him as he had been heavily involved in the restoration of this condemned building physically doing the rewiring and refurbishment works to create three floors of smart antique showrooms. On the 20th April 2004    Sam Collins died. Michael Collins continued to trade for a further 2 years closing the shop on in March 2006, celebrating some 99 years of trading. He had 4 years in retirement before his death on 12th March 2010 aged 53.

From 2007 until 2009 the cottage was let on short term lettings whilst we strived to find a use for the whole building that would encourage more visitors to the village. In 2009 we were fortunate to find Barry Hilton to refurbish the property and create a stylish restaurant in the form of the Hillside. A large amount of earth was removed from the site to create the Commercial kitchen in place of the furniture workshop. The building was tastefully restored converting granny's kitchen to a bar and her sitting room to a reception room.

In 2009 Hillside restaurant opened business partners being Barry Hilton and Nick Georgiou and in 2012 Kippings opened with Barry Hilton still at the helm with his business partner and wife Patricia, it is a new rebranded restaurant.


From hardware store to antique showroom to restaurant, it is the only property in the village where there has been a long period of continued occupation by one family i.e. from 1926 to 2006, and apart from Titmuss it was the second longest stabled business in the village. My grandparents and parents would have done most of their shopping in the village up until the late 1960's using Simmons butchers for their meat, LG Hall for their bread, Amos for their shoes and green grocery and grocery from Pateman and Lorna Rowe and Woodleys in East Lane.


Researcher:  Ann Atton (nee Collins), daughter to Sam and Cathie Collins


(i) Gilbert Smith's memories of the High Street, as recounted to Ruth Jeavons

Interviews with Jim Hensman, Derek Keen, Colin Spurr, Susan Tattersall Henry Whiteman

Collins family Archives: Invoices, adverts and photographs 

Auction catalogue 26th October 1926 Perry and Philips Auctionners 59 High Street Bridgnorth

Memorandum of Agreement 22nd february 1930 unfurnished letting Town Farm

Herts Advertiser and St Albans Times 10th December 1954.

Harpenden Free Press 11th August 1964

Hertfordshire Countryside June 1997




Acknowledgements & thanks to:

Colin Spurr (School friend of Sam Collins & resident of Bull re and post 2nd World War) 

Derick Keen  Cabinet maker Collins Antiques

Susan Tattersall (nee Cunnington)

Sheila Vaughan (nee Collins) Frederick George Collins daughter.

Henry Whiteman (lifelong Customer of Colins Antiques 1946-2006).

Jim Hensman resident of Swan 1940's and 1950's (neighbour of Sam Collins in the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s)













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past & present images for this property

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