High Street Property Details

In 1799 this building was described in a survey by the Church Commissioners: ‘Commonly known as the Brickt House and also by the name The White Horse and yards (quit rent 6d). Owned by Thomas Kinder (copyhold) 1rood 12pole.’

At the turn of the twentieth century the property was run by the Nashes as a china and bric-a-brac shop. In an oil painting of 1902 the house is referred to as Aubury house.

Before 1907 the Collins family moved into the house from The Railway Hotel in Station Road; at this time the house was leased from a lady in Blackmore End. Fred Collins, having been a carpenter on the Brocket estate and done an apprenticeship at Childwickbury with Sir Blundell Maple, started his own business in 1907.  He took on the bric-a-brac shop from the Nashes and extended it to furniture and antiques. There are records of him leasing out complete kitchen equipment to people who would not have otherwise been able to afford this.

Records show Fred was a ‘Special’ in the Hertfordshire Yeomanry in the year 1914. With the start of the Great War he joined the army and there are photos of him dated 1917.  While he was serving in the army his sisters kept the business going.  When he came home he set his brother Charlie up in the business and gave him a house in Church Street to live in.

Fred was one of the eldest of 13 children and he took on the role of looking after his siblings. His brother Tom lived in Shenley: Tom's daughter Joan would recall that, when her father visited,Fred bought up all the umbrellas at a 'lost property' auction and gave them out to the people of Wheathampstead: the High Street was full of people with new umbrellas. Fred owned a Lanchester car which Win Deans and her father used to sit in and wait for Fred. She said he also had an old Holborn bus, and that he would always have an entertaining story to tell.

In 1924 Fred married Gertrude Olive (Ollie) Aylott who had moved to Kimpton Mill from Raynes Park with her parents and two small girls Barbara and Joan. Ollie had been widowed in the  Great War. She moved into 12 High Street where she had a son Michael (known as Mickey) and two girls -  Ena, born in 1926, and Sheila, born in 1933: all were born at 12, High Street. By this time the shop had changed into more of a hardware shop and the antiques were at the shop on the corner of High Street and Church street.

Gilbert Smith, in his letter to Ruth Jeavons in 1976, remembers a Mrs Parfitt in this  ironmongery shop and that it later became Fred Collins Antiques.

Diane Davis (daughter of Bob Simons, the butcher) remembers that Mrs Collins had the hardware shop with the petrol pump, where the WI notice board always was.

In the 1920s Fred had beaten the doctor, by days, in becoming the first person in Wheathampstead to own a car, a Humber. He installed a petrol pump in 1929, again one of the first in a small hamlet like Wheathampstead (although the first pumps were introduced as early as 1919).

Disaster struck when, after a walk with his old friend James Titmuss and his daughter Win to Leasey Bridge, the doctor met them to tell Fred to go home as Mickey was ill and had to go to hospital.  Mickey died, aged 12, in November 1935 with peritonitis. In January 1936 Fred died, aged 56, leaving Ollie once again on her own with her children.

In 1939 Jim Whent, who had married Fred Collins' stepdaughter Barbara, lost his job as chauffeur to the Tuke family at Ayot St Lawrence (Chairman of Barclays Bank): this was a result of the outbreak of the war, and it meant they had to leave the tied house they lived in.  So they and their baby, Chris, had to move into No.12 with Ollie, Ena and Sheila.  Barbara and Jim had the bedroom above what was the shop, and there was a 'nursery' in the back bedroom.

Jim went into the RAF in the glider division in this country and in 1944 Ena joined the WAAFs, leaving her job at Rothamsted.  She was posted all over the country, even at one time to Bletchley. She met her future husband John Holland, known as Jonny, in the Air Force. They used to come back on leave with Jonny sleeping under the stairs which doubled up as an air raid shelter.  At this time, Sheila had a friend who had been evacuated from London who used to stay at weekends: she remembered a house full of laughter, a happy place to be.  In 1946 Susan was born and in 1947 Ena and Jonny married at St. Helen's and moved to Chester.

Susan recalls that the floor in the front bedroom, over the shop, dipped as a wall had been taken down to make the shop bigger. It has now been put back and forms a corridor as you walk in through the front door.  The toilets are where the kitchen used to be. The house had a brick floor which dipped where the well and pump were; there wasn't a bathroom so the bath was stored under the sink.  Susan remembers sitting in the bath watching her Grandma cooking. In the outhouses, the lower floor was the washroom and she can remember turning the handle of the mangle for her Gran Ollie. Upstairs was full of interesting things.  Susan remembers “the back door where we went in; it would bring you into what is now the dentist’s downstairs waiting room. You went through a ‘lean-to’ to get to it and there were geraniums and plumbago growing in it.  The room was dominated by a huge fire with cupboards either side and a brass rod on chains where washing was sometimes hanging. There was a sideboard with barley twist legs and occasionally there were a few grapes on top of this sideboard, and I occasionally had one: a real treat back then”.

In 1950 Barbara, Jim, Chris and Susan moved into the bungalow they had built on land in East Lane known as "Riverside". This left Ollie and Sheila living in the house. Around this time a bathroom was made out of the nursery.  Ollie closed the shop in about 1960 and the room was made into a parlour. She and Sheila then made a trip to Canada to see Joan, her daughter.  In 1961 Sheila married Bill Vaughn and had the reception in what was the old shop; she then moved to Hertford.  A cushion was put on the bay windowsill and I can remember watching the bustling High Street from that window.  Ollie's life was cleaning the brass at the church, washing surplices and doing the flowers. She belonged to the WI most of her life.

Ollie passed away in 1980 and the building was sold. Sam Collins and Barbara Whent were the executors of the estate and Ena and Sheila, as Fred's surviving offspring, were the beneficiaries.

Briefly, it was an antique shop again, then an estate agency (who were also agents for a building society).The building at this time was owned by John Franklin.

In August 1991 Chris Ringrose bought the building and proceeded to renovate it. After Town Farm was pulled down in 1971, this house, like other properties in the High Street, was listed Grade II. The renovation therefore had to be within the boundaries of the listing, so it was a slow process. The dental practice opened on 28th May 1992.  The property is still owned by Chris Ringrose and  he and John Minnis run a dental  surgery there.


Researcher:  Elizabeth (Lizzie) Holland


Collins family records

Hertfordshire Yeomanry records

Church Commissioners Survey of 1799

Gilbert Smith's letter to Ruth Jeavons, April 1976

E.F.Holt’s Oil Painting ‘Hounds and horses by the Bull Hotel, Wheathampstead’,1902

National Benzole Company magazine

Conversations with:

Diane Davis (daughter of Bob Simons, the butcher)

Win Deans (nee Titmuss)

Susan Lyons (granddaughter of Ollie Collins)

Sheila Vaughan (daughter of Fred and Ollie Collins)


Property Images

past & present images for this property

Additional images, documents, audio and video files: