High Street Property Details

These two premises, the shop and the cottage next to it, were built in the 17th century. They are Grade II listed.

In 1901, this was a beerhouse, the Two Brewers. The licensee, James Westwood, was also a blacksmith working in the smithy behind the cottage. He lived in the cottage with his wife, Mary Ann, four sons and a daughter. 

The licence of the Two Brewers was withdrawn in 1906 because there were too many beerhouses in Wheathampstead. James Westwood, who had held the licence for 32 years, died later that year. He was a well-respected person in the village and was a Pioneer-Sergeant in the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment. The regiment gave him a full military funeral at St.Helen's Church, including a three-volley salute over the open grave. He was also a popular member of the Wheathampstead fire brigade who attended the funeral in full uniform. The story goes that the coffin was taken out through the front window of the cottage. 

The Westwood family still lived in the cottage in 1911: Mary Ann, now a widow, sons Lionel, a whitesmith, Stanley, a blacksmith, and daughters Nellie, a charwoman ,and Ada, shop assistant. The smithy  behind the house was still in business, worked by Stanley and his brother George who had married and moved to Necton Road (New Marford).   

Gilbert Smith, in his letter (i) to Ruth Jeavons, remembers a Mr and Mrs Gray living in the cottage and Mr Westwood and sons, farriers and iron workers, living next to the cottage in the house that was originally a beerhouse and later became a newsagents run by Denis Pearce. Gilbert also remembers a tailor by the name of Barsley living here.

In 1929, 1933 and 1937 Denis Guy Pearce advertised in Kelly's directory that he was running a newsagents business from the shop and did so until 1946.  He married Marjorie Jeannie Willis, who came from Harpenden, in 1930. Denis and their son Ian worked in the shop. In the 1939 register, the shop is described as 'newsagent, tobacconist, wireless dealer'.   My brother-in-law Len Holloway did a paper round there in 1950 and Ian Pearce took Len and a young girl Kathleen Seymour who also worked in the shop up to London to see Bill Haley and the Comets.   Mr Pearce used to take his car to the village station every day to collect the newspapers from the train.  He had the distribution rights for papers and delivered them to other newsagents in the area.

In 1946 Reginald de Mornay-Davies rented the cottage as a solicitor's office, but did not live there: he lived in Marford Road. His children, Ian, Geoffrey, Barbara, Elizabeth and Phillip, were regular visitors to the office and some people thought they lived in the cottage.  Mr Westwood was Barbara's godfather and she recalls (ii) watching him shoe horses in his forge in East Lane. The solicitor moved in 1957 to the other side of the High Street.

Barbara De Mornay recalls: "After school I would go to my father's office which was next door to/part of the newsagents and get 3d (three old pence).  With this I would go to Mr Hall's, the baker, and if lucky would get a penny worth of broken tarts! then go onto Mrs Pateman's (the greengrocer) and for 2d (two pence) buy a Lyons Maid ice cream.  If I could not get any broken tarts I would get 3d. of Walls icecream." (ii)  

In August 1949  Marjorie Pearce changed her name back to Marjorie Willis, together with her sons Ian and Roger; it appears that she and Denis had divorced. She was running the shop in 1949 as Marjorie Willis and continued to do so until 1958 despite marrying Albert W. O'Brien in 1951. I heard a story of a young lad who was allowed a halfpenny for sweets each week: he would ask his mother for a penny and then go to the newsagents, which also sold sweets.  The sweet counter was towards the back of the shop: he would select his halfpenny of sweets and while the shopkeeper’s back was turned to get him his change  the young lad would help himself to another sweet, if no one else was watching!

In 1958 Stanley Moxley bought the shop from Ms Willis/O'Brien and continued to run it as a newsagents.   The Moxley family lived in the cottage from 1958 to 1962.  Stanley's wife was Maud and they had two sons Ken and Colin.  Ken had a band and they used to play in the barn behind the shop and were called the Barn Boys.

Stanley only ran the newsagents for a year, before leasing it to Brax Ltd. Then in 1966 N.S.S. leased it from Mr Moxley and later it was leased to Forbuoys. During this period Vic Lewis ran the shop and lived in the cottage.  He had two large Great Danes.  

In August 1992 Colin Moxley purchased the premises from his father and the shop continued to be leased to Forbuoys Newsagents.

In June 2001, the last people that I remember running the newsagents were a couple called Sue and Paul: they also lived in the cottage.  When the lease with Forbuoys ceased, the shop and cottage remained empty until December 2004.  Colin Moxley sold it to Iain Begg, who after a lot of restoration opened The ‘Brewhouse Cafe and Art Gallery’, which his wife Sarah ran until August 2008. The shop then became empty again until 2012, although the cottage was rented out separately.  During 2012, the shop was leased to Nonpareil Solutions as a Kitchen and Bathroom Showrooms, splendidly refitted, giving a good display of bathroom fittings. The cottage continued to be leased out separately as a private residence.

April 2020 update

1. The cottage part of the building is currently a private house while the shop premises are vacant.

2.  Since this research was completed in 2013, members of the History Society have researched the pubs and beerhouses of Wheathampstead from 1830 to 1914. For a history of the Two Brewers, click here.  


Researcher:  Edward Cornell



(i)  Gilbert Smith's letter to Ruth Jeavons, dated April 1976

(ii)   Barbara De Mornay 'memories' as recounted to Ruth Jeavons, September 2013



Kellys Directories

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