High Street Property Details

This building is located at the northern end of the High Street, opposite The Bull and next door to Ushers bakery (2020: Loafing).   It is a Grade II listed building built as two cottages by William Peacock in 1742. It is timber- framed and was originally timber-clad. The present exterior is of plaster and painted brick on the ground floor and with a roughcast upper floor. At a later date the roofline at the front of the building was altered with new casement windows set into dormer gables. Extensions have also been built to the rear of the premises. It currently houses Frosts Estate Agents on the ground floor, with private tenants upstairs and at the rear.

In December 1908 the then owner of the building, a Harry Willcox Barsley  (who was a tailor and cycle agent) sold the premises to Waters of Hatfield. Walter Waters, together with his sons George and Frederick, traded as Waters & Company, Motor Works. They continued to sell and repair bicycles. This may have been a very early 'branch' of what became W.Waters & Sons of Hatfield.

In May 1909 Waters leased part of the premises to The National Telephone Company and the building became Wheathampstead's first telephone exchange.  The initial lease was for three years at a cost of £20.00 per annum, however the telephone exchange remained in this building until 1937 when a new exchange was built in Marford Road (i).  Records show (ii) that, but with the exception of 1911 to 1913 (Harry Poynter) and 1923 to 1925 (a Mr and Mrs Sheard), the Exchange was managed by a Mrs Crook, who lived on the premises with her husband, George. Those who did not have a telephone at home in these early years could, with prior agreement, take incoming calls at the exchange at a pre-determined time. Presumably outgoing calls could be made on the same basis. 

It is not known how long Waters & Co owned No.4 High Street but former residents of the village, when recalling the shops and pubs in the High Street during the 1920s, recall this property as the Telephone Exchange, not Waters & Co.. References to Waters & Co disappear from Kelly’s Directories (ii) in the early 1920s, which suggests that Waters were here only until that date. The same publication shows a James Titmuss as a Cycle Dealer selling bicycles from Mill House (next door) in 1923. Another indication that Waters were no longer trading from the High Street is that in 1923 Barclays Bank had an agreement with a Mr. John Sheard, who was in charge of the Telephone Exchange at that time, to use the front room of the premises on a part-time basis. This was a short-term agreement and in 1924 Barclays Bank moved up to No.41, High Street (the White Cottage) and used the front room there on a similar basis. In 1937, when the Telephone Exchange moved to its new premises, the building was sold by the National Telephone Company.  

From 1939 this building housed the village Post Office; many older residents (iii) affectionately remember this building as the Old Post Office. Mr Harold Paull was the postmaster.  A well-known postman in the village from 1940 to 1949 was Arthur Wright. He is the ‘star’ of British Pathe’s short film 'The Postman’. (iv). This film shows another occupant of the building at this time, ‘The Spinning Wheel’ cafe, managed by an A.J. Bird. The café was in part of the building from 1939 until the 1950s. An advertisement in the 1946 Village Fair programme (v) reads 'H. Paull, the Spinning Wheel, Tobacconist, fancy goods, handbags, stationery.' Between 1949 and 1955 Charlie Cunnington, Electrical Engineer, ran his business selling radios and other small appliances from a small area within this building. This was one of many locations within the village where, at various times, Mr Cunnington traded. The shop is still trading in the village, located in Church Street. Mr Cunnington's  daughter Susan runs the shop, which specialises in lighting.

Harold Paull remained the postmaster until 1956, when Wilfred Openshaw took over the Post Office, also selling tobacco.  

A further change happened in 1962 with the arrival of Cyril and May Osborn. When Mr Osborn unexpectedly died in 1965, Mrs Osborn continued to run the Post Office with her son, Rob Gordon.

Another well-liked and fondly remembered village postman in the sixties was Ken (Whippet) Mayles. Ken is remembered as being very kind-hearted and helpful to the elderly residents on his rounds. Ken had acquired the nickname 'Whippet' from his footballing days. (iii)

In February 1973 the Post Office moved to new premises in Station Road, with Rob Gordon as postmaster, together with his wife Heather. The very popular Ken Mayles was one of the postmen that moved with the Post Office and continued working from there for many years until he retired. Mrs Osborn continued to run a shop at No.4, High Street, selling tobacco, sweets and greeting cards. The 1974 Telephone Directory (ii) describes 4, High Street as 'Gordon-Osborn - Toy Shop' .

From 1975 to 1979 the building was unoccupied. Helmets Ltd. owned the premises during this period and in 1975 used the property, for just a few weeks, to sell excess stocks of materials from their stores. Since 1980 this building  has been the ‘home’ of a series of estate agents, firstly Phillip Saggers (1980 – 1985), thenTruscotts (1986 – 1990), Homestead Property Services (1991 – 1998),  Withers Reed (1999 – 2011) and currently Frosts (2012 to present).


Researcher: Frederick (John) Roe



(i) Old Exchange House, Marford Road, next to the Fire Station.

(ii)  Kelly's Directories, Historic Telephone Directories, 1911 England Census,

(iii) memories from Mrs. Win Deans, Mrs. Susan Tattersall, Rob and Heather Gordon. 

(iv) 'The Postman’ (1940-1949) https://www.britishpathe.com/video/the-postman/query/wheathampstead

(v)  Village Fair programme, 1946




Property Images

past & present images for this property

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