High Street Property Details

The Old Bakery is a low white-fronted building with three steep gables and a tiled roof. The rear part of the shop is the oldest; it is very small in size and has a steeply pitched roof. Originally, this building was probably a small late medieval hall house, with an opening in the roof. A cross wing was added in the sixteenth century to give more living space and the three gabled front sections at some time in the seventeenth century. It then became a bakery.(i)

April 2020 update:   Research carried out in 2019 showed that this timber-framed building has a complex history (v).  Despite earlier suggestions that it was a late medieval hall house, there is no evidence to support this.  The back half is probably late 16th century but has been much modified over the years.  It may have started life as a bakery. At the front, the right-hand gable end is 18th century and has been ‘pushed out’ from an original 17th century building. The section behind the left-hand gable end is early 18th century but, like the rest of the building, has been rebuilt and altered many times. The middle section appears to have been added in the 19th century to fill the space between the two wings. Much of the frontage was rebuilt after a car crashed into it in 1989. The crude pargetting is therefore modern; there is some original pargetting on the upper  part of the north wall.

Over the twenty years of census returns from 1871 - 1891 Thomas Batchelor, baker, was listed here. By the 1901 census the bakery was run by William Gilbert.

Gilbert Smith remembers this building as ‘Gilbert the bakers’ and then later as ‘Cobb the bakers’.(ii)

In 1911 the bakery was run by Frederick William Cobb. Frederick and Harriet Cobb came to Wheathampstead in 1906 after their marriage in Worcestershire. He was from Northamptonshire and she was from Worcestershire. They had nine children while they lived at the bakery and Frederick served on the Parish and District Councils, plus the Boards of Guardians, at various times during his life. He left the bakery in 1937 and retired to live at the top of The Hill in the village, where he died in 1941.

A now elderly member of the Cobb family (their youngest son, Sidney) remembers that Simons, the butcher next door, made his sausages with Cobb's old bread and there was a trough at the rear of the bakehouse called a sausage trough.

Les G. Hall was a young married man of 26 when he took over the bakers in 1937. Les Hall had two delivery rounds in Wheathampstead: one was in the centre of the village and was undertaken by employee John Desborough from Kimpton, the other was done by Les himself and his baker’s boy Laurie Seymour in a van. During the Second World War, Les went into the army as a catering officer and while he was away the bakery was run by Mrs Hall with a relative of hers named Charlie Bloodworth. Les was lucky enough to meet Churchill, Montgomery and Mountbatten and claimed that when he asked Churchill to put out his cigar, Churchill obeyed instantly! Les  returned to the bakery with the rank of Captain.

In an article from the Herts Advertiser dated Friday 12th November 1982 Les said " My bread is identical to the bread I was making half a century ago; we still use the good old-fashioned flour and bake in the old style. I'm up at 4.00am each morning to fire the ovens and I begin to bake at about 4.30am. My bread doesn't come off a conveyor belt. It is placed in the ovens and watched with care. Some of my customers come miles for it." 

Barbara DeMornay remembers that "Mr Hall's bread and cakes were delicious. My poor mother never received a complete loaf if I had to shop for it as I would nibble the crust off as I walked home. Three times a week Mr Hall would deliver bread."(iii)

Nonwy Maw (iv) used to live in Rose Lane (the house has been demolished) but now lives in Marford Road. She remembers Mr Hall making buns and they were delicious. She said "Bob Simons used to provide turkeys for the Darby & Joan club and Mr Hall would cook them in his oven. Mr Hall used to put his bread in the oven and go up into the garden and sit on the summer seat while the bread baked. One day in 1984 he didn't return and somebody went up and sadly found  he had died there."

Chris Ackroyd took over the bakery after Les Hall died. In 1989 Chris escaped uninjured when a car smashed into his living room wall. He was the only person in the living room as his wife Diane was out at the time and their two children were asleep. 

The present owner, Maurice Shifrin, has been in the premises since 1997 running his carpet shop business from there.

April 2020 update

The carpet shop closed in 2018. The current owners are in discussion with St Albans District Council about obtaining permission to refurbish this listed building.


Researcher:  Susan Mary Brind (nee Sparshott)



(i) From the publication 'About Wheathampstead'  

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

(iii) Barbara DeMornay's memories as recounted to Ruth Jeavons, September 2013

(iv) Nonwy Maw, Marford Road

(v) Archaeological Solutions Ltd., HER Enquiry No. 189/18. January 2019.


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