High Street Property Details

The Mill  (Mill Race Shops)

The Mill stands next to the bridge across the River Lea, just across from The Bull public house, and was powered by water from the river.   There has been a mill on this site for over 1000 years and one is mentioned in the Domesday Book.   The current mill has a timber frame dating possibly from the 16th or 17th century and is now a Grade II listed building.

Just before 1870 George Titmuss took over the lease of Wheathampstead Mill from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, to whom he paid a rent.   Viscount Kilcoursie, later 9th Earl of Cavan, was allowed to buy some land from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners  on condition he bought the mill as well.  He wanted the land to improve his privacy at Wheathampstead House but did not want the mill so in 1882 he sold it on to George Titmuss for the sum of £1500.  In 1870 George was only about 21 years old and had served a five year apprenticeship with his uncle.   The 1861 census shows George aged 13 as an apprentice with George Garrett at Lemsford Mills.

When George bought the mill it had white weather-boarding.  Around the turn of the century George took away the weather-boarding and built brick walls.  You could have the date and your initials cut into a brick for 1/- (5p).   Some of these bricks can still be seen on the road side of the mill.  For example:-







At about the same time he bought a mill at Batford and installed modern machinery – rollers instead of stones – and turned the Wheathampstead mill entirely over to grinding animal feed.   The Wheathampstead Mill was known as Bridge Mills.

The 1901 census shows George Titmuss aged 52, corn and coal merchant, his wife Mary Anne aged 53, their daughter Alice aged 24 and son James W., miller and cycle agent, all living at Mill House (which is now Manor Pharmacy).  George served on Wheathampstead Parish Council from about 1911 to 1914. His son James married Georgiana Simons, a daughter of the village butcher.   James did not fight in the First World War, 1914-1918, as he was exempt for health reasons.  In 1923 George moved out of the Mill House and James and his family moved in: his daughter Winifred (Win) was then eight years old.

Win's mother helped in the mill during the war years.   Win and her brother George (known as Peter) were not allowed in the mill as it was not thought to be a place for children. 

Country flour mills started closing down in the 1920s because the country mills could not compete with the big mills being built at the ports where foreign corn was delivered.

In the 1920s the mill was used for selling barley meal, farm food and fodder.   The mill at this time still used grinding stones which were on the second floor.   The barley meal came down from a chute and was then shovelled into sacks.   Farmers brought their barley to be milled.   Win got on well with her father and used to go for long walks with him and talk about all sorts.  On one occasion he told her about the Chapel parson who wanted 28lbs of flour for the Harvest Festival.   It was given to him to carry back to the Chapel but Win’s father felt sorry for him having to carry it and sent one of his boys to help him.

Wholemeal flour was ground at the mill.  In the 1920s about four men worked in the mill. They worked long hours.  The mill closed at midnight on a Saturday and re-opened at midnight on a Sunday.   The sluice gate had to be opened every day at 5pm so that the water could flow down the bypass channel.  Then at 7.30am the next morning it would be closed and the water would go under the mill to drive the mill wheel.

In the late 1920s the mill closed because it wasn’t making any money. Win remembers dancing to gramophone records on the second floor of the mill when it had closed down. Her brother Peter was very good at mathematics and might have studied accounting.   

When milling ceased at the mill in 1929 much of the flow of water was directed down the bypass towards and under Station Road.  The mill was then used as a grain store.   Difficulties with transport in the village centre caused the business to transfer to Gustard Wood and Mr Titmuss looked at how to reuse the original building.  He wanted to retain employment within the village so that the centre would remain a viable community.   The business at New Mill, Lamer Lane, Gustard Wood is now carried on by Peter’s son John and grandson Stuart.

In 1935, although James Titmuss was against it,  his son Peter re-opened the mill: he was only 16 years old.   It was needed during the war when farming was important.

During the Second World War, 1939-1945, Win worked for her brother.

From about 1987 to 1989 Peter Titmuss and a number of employees worked on the restoration of the mill. The roof was completely refurbished, a new floor added where there had only been walkways between the grain silos, and the building was divided up into shops and flats. Much of the ancient timber structure is still visible inside the shops and flats.   One flat has a large beam across the living space which needs either  to be climbed over or ducked under.   The mill now houses four shops, offices and three flats with the address of Mill Walk.  An article in the St Albans Observer in October 1989 quotes Peter Titmuss as saying “It was a labour of love but I think we owe it to the village.”

The first occupants of Mill Walk were A D Practice Architects Ltd., who moved in in 1989, and are the only original occupants still in the Mill in 2014. David Parry (of A D Practice)  was involved with the conversion of the mill, which he remembers was difficult due to the historic nature and fabric of the building.   It had low ceilings, lots of machinery, missing floors, grain hoppers and a major infestation of rats.

Rachel Jeffrey is a jeweller who has run her business in No. 1 & 2A Mill Walk for the last eight years.  The floorboards can be lifted and the river can be seen underneath.  The premises have flooded twice but Rachel says the Environment Agency are very helpful and give plenty of warnings about the river.   The tenant before Rachel was a Fine Painter (Artist) called Jackie Stevens.

Le Moulin, a restaurant, is at No. 3 Mill Walk. It is the only shop with a flat directly linked to it.   Le Moulin has been there for twelve years. 

Since the conversion, No. 4 Mill Walk has been a butcher's shop, although with a series of different tenants.  Mark, of Brimark Butchers, has been the butcher there since 1994.

In 1993 the wheel and most of the ancillary equipment was removed from the mill. 

Following the Mill conversion, one unit was originally rented by Thames Water who were going to carry out work to the water-course underneath the mill, but this scheme was then shelved by them.

In January 2014 the Environment Agency applied for Listed Building Consent  to modify the weir underneath the mill to reduce the risk of flooding in the future.  The work is expected to be carried out in Summer 2014.


Researchers:    Janet Holmes-Walker & Joyce Munden (et al) 


April 2020 update

The work to lower the weir under the mill was completed by the Environment Agency in 2014 and has had the desired effect of reducing flooding upstream.



·      England Census for 1861 and 1901

·      Kelly’s Directories

·      ‘Wheathampstead and Harpenden’,  a Workers Educational Association publication of 1973

·      1974 interview with John Matthews

·      The Review newspaper, 26th August 1982

·      St Albans Observer newspaper, 25th October 1989.

·      Wheathampstead Pump 1990

·      Cross Section of Mill dated 31st March 1997

·      conversations with Win Deans, Rachel Jeffrey, David Parry and John Titmuss

·      History Society notes of talk by Hugh Howes on “The Mills of Hertfordshire”, 17th July 2013,

·      Environment Agency proposals for work in 2014


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