High Street Property Details

In the 19th century, one of the workhouse cottages owned by James Titmuss of Bridge Mills stood on this site.  In the 1891 census(i) the Bygrave family lived here.  The head of the family was a James Bygrave, from Stotfold, Bedfordshire. He was a miller and lived with his wife Georgina and their six children for the next 20 years. In the 1911 census(i) they were living with their daughter Ellen, a domestic servant and three grandchildren, Frederick, 8, Marie,3, and Ethel, 3 months.  James was well known in the village, and worked for Mr Titmuss at the Mill.

During the 1930s there was a push from central government to local councils to clear 'slums' within their boundaries.  By 1933, councils were forced to make slum clearance a high priority and rehouse people into newly-built council housing.  The cottages, now classified as slums, were owned by Mr James Titmuss, who wanted to change them into lock-up shops, creating businesses that the village lacked. However, in 1935, he decided to demolish the cottages and rebuild. The new building, completed in 1936 , was named 'Bankside Chambers'' and is now a row of four shops.

An entry in Kelly’s directory of 1937(ii) states that Sidney Andrews ran a cafe at this site. In 1938 Mrs Cain ran the cafe and in the 1941/42 Kelly’s Directory(ii)  a James Whyte was in charge. By 1946, Mr A.W. Pickburn ran the Lea Cafe.  In an advertisement at around that time, it was stated that ‘they were the official Quarters of the NCU (maybe the National Cyclists Union?), open 7 days a week and had marquees on Nomansland Common on cricket days.’ Mr Pickburn continued to run the café until 1956.

In 1956 N.Parrott, who was known as Polly, ran the cafe.  I can remember going into the cafe for a drink and a Wagon Wheel (iii).  The teenagers used it.  My sister’s boyfriend asked her to meet him there and said if she didn’t turn up it was all over between them.  They were married for over 40 years.  The Diwells also ran the cafe during this time. 

In 1966 the shop became a ladies hairdresser’s, 'Peggy’s'.  Lesley and Rita worked there.  It was later called 'Country Cutters'.

During 1988 a newspaper article carried a story about a local girl starting work at Coppertop for the new owner Tricia Brown.  The shop was then open five days a week, Tuesday to Saturday.

Thirty years later, in 2013,  this business is still run by Tricia Brown (now married and known as Patricia Brewster). The shop is now called ‘Coppertop’’: it has a ladies' hairdressing salon downstairs and a beauty salon  upstairs.

April 2020 update

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


Researcher:  Margaret Humphrey



(i)  Census' 1891, 1901, 1911.

(ii)  Kelly's Directories 1937, 1941/42

(iii) Margaret Humphrey’s memories

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past & present images for this property

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