The Society publishes a monthly bulletin up to ten times a year. These are in two parts: 'News and events' and 'Notes and queries'. 'Notes and queries' includes short articles about aspects of the history of Wheathampstead, researched and written by members. They could be the basis for more substantial research.

Printed copies of each bulletin are distributed at the Society's meetings. 

To read a bulletin online, click on its title.





















   Bury House

 Bury House was a 16th century building that stood on the site of what is now Thomas Sparrow House on Brewhouse Hill. It burned down in November 1969 in suspicious circumstances but an official investigation could not establish the cause.



   Peace Day riot

in Luton

 'Peace Day' on 19 July 1919 was celebrated with parades and civic events in many towns but there was also widespread discontent about high levels of unemployment among ex-servicemen. In Luton, disputes about the celebrations culminated in a riot during which the Town Hall was burned down.






 This gravestone in St Helen's churchyard carries two names: Sarah Dorrington and Marian Barnes. Sarah Dorrington was an unmarried sister-in-law to the brewer William Higby Lattimore and Marian, who was nearly 40 years younger than Sarah and also unmarried, lived at their house, Lattimore's, for at least 30 years.  



Bert Cobb

 Albert Cobb was born in Gustard Wood in 1904. He was a gardener at Delaport and attended St Albans Art School for two evenings a week to learn figure drawing. He started the Serenaders concert party in 1933 and a dancing group after the war. In his eighties, he started drawing scenes from his childhood. This bulletin was written by his daughter, Rita Cobb, who has a collection of his drawings.   



Percy's Cross

 While updating the Herts Family History Society's survey of the graves in St Helen's churchyard, Margaret and Terry Pankhurst found this cross, inscribed 'Percy R Smith, died 30 October 1911, aged 12'. Their research found that he was the youngest son of a single mother in St Albans who, in 1911, was boarding with Mr and Mrs Tomlin in Wheathampstead. The St Helen's school logbook records that he died of diphtheria.  










Blackbridge Tip

 In the 1920s and 1930s, the Islington borough of North London sent its rubbish by rail to be dumped at Blackbridge Tip. The resulting smell was so bad that George Bernard Shaw, who lived at nearby Ayot St Lawrence, likened it to Stromboli, Etna, Vesuvius and Hell. Despite his complaints, the tip was not closed until the 1970s.




Maps of


 The 1060 charter describes the boundaries of the manor of Wheathampstead but the earliest map is that of Thomas Yeoman in 1758. Dury and Andrews (1766) map of Hertfordshire provides some local detail and Mumford (1799) mapped the manor for Westminster Abbey. The 1840 Tithe Map and apportionment shows landowners, tenants and land usage. The earliest Ordnance Survey maps of Wheathampstead date from the 1870s.  




Passive resisters

 The 1902 Education Act resulted in Church of England schools, such as St Helen's, receiving public funds for the first time. Nonconformists resisted the idea that they should subsidise church schools and refused to pay part of their rates. Wheathampstead nonconformists were enthusiastic 'Passive Resisters' and had some of their goods seized and sold at auction in lieu of rates.  




The Hoopers of

The Bull

 William Hooper took the licence of The Bull in 1818. It was subsequently held by his widow, three of his daughters and two sons-in-law until 1895 when the licence passed out of the family. Fourteen members of the Hooper family are buried in a group in the churchyard at St Helen's.




 Rose Lane and

Waddling Lane 

 The unmade road now known as Rose Lane was called 'Oxcutt Lane' in medieval times and was the first part of a road that led northwest to Mackerye End and Luton. It was called 'Occupation Road' in 1872. The area round the modern Waddling Lane was called 'Wadelslane' in a document dated 1315, 'Waddleing Close' in the 1758 Yeoman map and 'Waddling Close' in the 1840 Tithe Map. 




19th century


 Setting fire to barley and wheat stacks seems to have been a popular activity in Wheathampstead in the late 19th century. Reports of such fires and the response of the fire brigade often appeared in the Herts Advertiser. In 1884, Lord Kilcoursie, who was captain of the fire brigade, appealed for funds for new equipment such as hoses and fire hooks.




The Reading


 In 1859, there were 30 pubs in the parish of Wheathampstead-with-Harpenden; the population was less than 2,000. According to the newly-appointed rector, Canon Davys, 'dishonesty, immorality and everything that was bad were common'. He founded a branch of the Church of England Temperance Society in 1879 and in 1883 opened a teetotal Library and Reading Room in the premises now occupied by The Reading Rooms, a micro-pub.   





Air Display

 The people of Wheathampstead enjoyed an Air Display in 1935, 'by kind permission of the Hertfordshire Flying Club and the friendly assistance of the De Havilland Flying School'. Spectators enjoyed an Air Rally, Aerobatics, 'Six Gun Bill' and an Air Race, plus some other attractions.





the Great War

 Wheathampstead History Society, Wheathampstead Churches Together and Wheathampstead Parish Council worked together to commemorate the end of the Great War, with an exhibition in the Memorial Hall (see below), a Reflective Trail in St Helen's Church, and a special edition of The Pump.




 Great War


 More than 1,200 people visited the Society's Great War Exhibition which included a display of books from Wheathampstead Community Library, tea and cake provided by the WI, and a concert by the Clover Singing Club. To view the posters displayed at the exhibition, click here.










 19th century

timber auctions

 Managing and selling timber was an important part of the 19th century rural economy and many advertisements for auctions of timber appeared in the Herts Advertiser. Mature trees were sometimes sold 'pre-felled', ie while they were still standing, sometimes felled and lying in the woods, and sometimes ready sawn in a timber yard. Each type of tree had a particular use. Elm, for example, was used for wheel hubs, tool handles and wheelbarrows among other things.




 Nomansland in

the 19th century 

 Two photographs of the main road across Nomansland, taken in 1910, show how much the countryside has changed in the last hundred years. In particular, there were far fewer trees and much more open heathland. As animal grazing died out during the 20th century, so scrub and trees began to spread across the common. 




 John Bunyan's


 John Bunyan's Chimney stands in Coleman Green Lane, off the Marford Road. In 1882, members of the St Albans and Hertfordshire Architectural and Archaeological Society (the Arc and Arc) included it in a tour of local historical sites. Dr Griffith, vicar of Sandridge, gave a talk, reported at length in the Herts Advertiser, in which he concluded that the original cottage had definitely been visited by 'the famous John Bunyan'. 




Peggy Cory Wright

 'The First Lady of Wheathampstead' moved with her husband Douglas to Four Limes in 1932. She was local organiser for the Women's Voluntary Service, president of the local branches of the Red Cross and the British Legion, and a parish, district and county councillor. She and her husband moved to Mackerye End in 1951. In 1963 she served a term as Lord High Sheriff of Hertfordshire and was made a County Alderman. The village bypass is named after her. She died in 1987. 




The story of

Thomas Cockle

 An 18th century document in the National Archive shows that the rector, church wardens and overseers of the poor of Wheathampstead entered a plea for clemency for Thomas Cockle of Wheathampstead who had been sentenced to death for stealing five sheep and three lambs. He was hanged despite the plea, leaving a widow, Mary, and five children. Mary died two years later leaving four orphan children of whom at least three were less than 10 years old.






 The third edition of Pevsner's 'Hertfordshire' was published in March 2019. Revised and updated from earlier editions in 1953 and 1977, with a great deal of new material, it includes descriptions of St Helen's Church, the High Street, six of Wheathampstead's great houses, John Bunyan's Chimney and Devil's Dyke.




Portrait of Joseph


 Joseph Rolph was born in Kimpton in 1808. He married Hannah Wilsher in 1839 and they spent their married life in Gustard Wood where Joseph worked as an agricultural labourer and Hannah as a straw plaiter. Hannah died in 1895 and Joseph in 1898. The portrait photograph was taken in St Helen's Church by Frederick Thurston, a distinguished professional photographer, and was published in the Herts Advertiser in March 1898 with the caption 'A Wheathampstead Worthy'.   



   The Old Bakery

 Following unauthorised work on this Grade II listed building, a detailed report by Archaeological Solutions Ltd, showed that the back parts of the building date from the late 16th century, while the three gabled sections at the front are a mix of 17th, 18th and 19th century construction with some 20th century repairs.   

24  November  

 Victoria County


 The Society has acquired a set of the four volumes of the Victoria County History of Hertfordshire together with the index volume. The History was published between 1902 and 1914 with the Index following in 1923. It includes sections about the natural history of the county, its early history, sports, schools, earthworks, agriculture, social and economic history, industry, and the topography of each of the eight hundreds, including a description of each parish and the history of every manor.









First meeting of

the Parish Council

 Wheathampstead Parish Council held its first meeting on 2 January 1895. Councillors included Reverend Owen Davys, George Titmuss and Apsley Cherry-Garrard (senior). During its first year, subjects for discussion included allotments, the fire engine, the James Marshall charity, footpaths, sewerage, and the widening of Mill Bridge.







Murder at the pub

- fake news?

 When searching the online British Newspaper Archive for items about Wheathampstead, Jon Mein came across  a report in the Salisbury Journal of 15 April 1765 about a somewhat gruesome murder said to have taken place in a pub in Wheathampstead. However, online searches of the Assize records at the National Archives, coroners' bills at HALS, and burial records at Wheathampstead produced no records of any such event. Was this an early example of fake news? 





 The Wheathampstead branch of Oddfellows flourished in the village from 1844 to 1980, fulfilling its role as a friendly society and charitable organisation. From 1912 until 1948 the Oddfellows was an Approved Society administering National Insurance contributions and benefits on behalf of the state, alongside its friendly society role providing sickness and death benefits, widows' and orphans' pensions and medical treatment for members and their dependants on a voluntary basis. 







Old and new

style dates

 This gravestone in St Helen's churchyard commemorates Thomas Streete. The inscription tells us that he 'departed this life the 4th day of March 1716/17 in the 60th year of his age'. The apparent uncertainty about the year in which he died is explained by Britain's belated transition from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar which, though initiated by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, did not take place in Britain until 1752. 




The four mills of


 Many writers have repeated the story that, according to Domesday, there were four mills in the parish of Wheathampstead, located at Wheathampstead, Batford, Pickford and Hyde. In fact, Domesday does not record where these mills were located, nor how they were powered. In this bulletin, Mike Smith looks at the evidence and concludes that 'our thousand-year legacy of milling on four sites is distinctly shaky'. 





The Westwoods of



 Harry Westwood, the subject of this portrait, came from a family of blacksmiths and beerhouse keepers. Harry's father, James, took the licence of the Two Brewers in Wheathampstead in the late 19th century, together with the smithy behind. Harry and his sons Alf and Ted worked as blacksmiths in the village, first in Bull Yard and later in the building on The Meads, until late in the 20th century. Members of the family still live in the village today. Ted's daughter Sandi has presented this portrait, together with a portrait of Ted, to the Society.





  Wheathampstead has a rich heritage of historic areas, sites and buildings. This bulletin describes some of the ways in which this heritage is documented and protected, including conservation areas, character areas, national listing, local listing and the Hertfordshire Historic Environment Record.



The sword in the


 Generations of children have spotted the 'sword in the tree' in St Helen's churchyard and some may have dreamed that it was our local version of the sword in the stone from the legend of King Arthur. Terry Pankhurst has unearthed the true story behind this historic relic and it is no less interesting. 



The Lattimore snuff box

Charles Higby Lattimore (1808-1889) lived at Bride Hall and Wheathampstead Place (Place Farm) and was an active campaigner for the repeal of the Corn Law. Following a speech he made at Hertford in 1843, the 'tradesmen, mechanics and working men' of Hertford presented him with this solid silver snuff box.