High Street Property Details

The present Chinese Takeaway ‘Nihao’, at 20 High Street, stands on the site of where there was once  a workhouse, a workhouse yard and four cottages. On the 15th June 1836 there was an auction of the furniture and effects from the workhouse, conducted by a Mr Rumball. It appears that the workhouse was closed from that date.

In 1913 Mr James Titmuss, who owned the Mill, also owned what was the old workhouse and the seven cottages attached. Two or three of the people who lived in the cottages worked in the Mill for Mr Titmuss. There were four cottages at the front of the site, facing onto the High Street. At the back of these four cottages were the wash-houses, toilets and  three more cottages.

These quaint old original buildings  were a long, low thatched building made of cob, with small timber-framed windows and doors opening directly onto the High Street. They were known as the 'workhouse cottages'. The cottages at the front had steps up to the front doors. People recalled how perfect the old oak in the beams of the building was, complete with its original bark. The names of the families who lived in these cottages included the Randalls (five sisters), Newberry, Warder, Marshall, Geo Kerrison,  widow Kerrison, Humphrey, King, James, Bygrave. The Randalls lived in the cottage next to the old workhouse, then the Humphreys and then the Bygraves. Tommy (known as Pickles) Newberry lived there at the end of the 19th century. Tommy's father, an old soldier who had fought in the Crimea War, was a familiar figure sitting outside the old workhouse wearing his soldier's hat. Nell King, known as Aunt Nell King, was believed to have been a housekeeper. Her cottage looked out onto the churchyard. She used to invite the Westwood children round for tea. Granny Warder lived in a cottage at the front.

During the 1930s the government put pressure on local councils to clear the 'slums'. The workhouse yard cottages were classified as slums so the tenants were rehoused in council houses in Marford Road. Mr James Titmuss considered turning the cottages into lock-up shops for businesses (such as a chemist) that were lacking in the village. He finally decided he would demolish the cottages and rebuild on the site. He met up with the local Directors of Barclays Bank in Luton: the bank were interested but needed a side entrance, as they required living quarters above. James therefore changed the plans for his rebuild  to accommodate a side door. Originally there were gates at the side leading into the church yard. The council passed the plans and a side door was allowed. Photographs show that the bank was built before the cottages were demolished in 1935. The bank buildings were erected in 1936 and called Bankside Chambers. The bank was number 22 High Street: it was a sub-branch of Barclays Bank in St Albans and as such was only open for a few hours each day. From 1936-1941 it was only open on three days a week. In 1949 it opened on four days and by 1960 it was open five days a week, but still only for a few hours each day.   

Mr Hugh Guyton was clerk in charge of the sub-branch in the early 1950s, then from July 1960 it became a full branch and Mr J A Lobban became the manager. Planning consent was given in 1960 for alterations and extensions to be undertaken and a hanging sign to be attached to the front of the building. By 1966 the premises had been extended at the back with a proper strongroom. Previously there had only been a small safe for cash. In March 1973  Mr John Sait  took over as Manager. The flat above the bank was occupied by the Manager until the 1980s. In February 1984 the Bank reverted back to sub-branch status and was finally closed in September 1999. In 2007 World Class Homes were trading from this building but by 2008 it was a vacant property again. In 2010 Nihao opened as a Chinese Takeaway.

Next to the bank was No 1 Bankside Chambers. In 1937 it was the Barrett Wilson Chemist but by 1941/2 Thomas J.J., a Chemist, ran the business.  During 1945 to 1950 W. Biggane ran the chemist and finally, in 1952, J. Busby had taken on the premises. Eric and Ruth Smith arrived in Wheathampstead in around 1955 and took over J. Busby’s : they were the couple who moved the chemist from No 1 Bankside to its present position at Mill House, No 2 High Street. In 1964 Barclays had taken over No 1 Bankside Chambers as an extension to its business, and later used it for a cashpoint. From 1962 to1964, 22 High Street was Stuart's the gents' outfitters and tailors. Mr Stuart Bishop was unaware that, when he set up his business, his shop was destined to become the Manager's office for Barclays Bank. After two years' trading Mr Bishop found himself without premises.Then he discovered Mr Bentley, who owned the hardware shop at No. 36, was selling up so Mr Bishop applied for a mortgage to buy No 36. Mortgage lending turned down Mr Bishop's application  because of the appalling condition of the building. However  the bank manager, Mr Lobban, put Mr Bishop's case to Head Office and, because of his satisfactory tenancy at No 22, Mr Bishop was granted a mortgage and moved to No 36 High Street.

Researcher:  Nancy Hale


April 2020 update

Since this research was completed in 2013, members of the History Society have researched the history of the workhouse in Wheathampstead (click here) . For a detailed history of Barclays Bank in Wheathampstead, click here .




Barclays Archives Department documents

Kellys Directories

Wheathampstead Pump

the village website

Conversations with:

Tony Clayton, Wyn Deans, Chris Hart, Betty Spicer and Shelia Vaughan.






Property Images

past & present images for this property

Additional images, documents, audio and video files: