The Society publishes a monthly bulletin up to ten times a year. Each bulletin has a section about 'News and events' followed by a short article about an aspect of the history of Wheathampstead, researched and written by a member of the Society. Each of these 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.   




Private brewing in the 1700s

 Before the boom in commercial brewing that followed the 1830 Beerhouse Act, most breweries were privately owned. In this bulletin, Jon Mein shows that a reading of their wills reveals how two men of Wheathampstead, Isaac House and Francis Sibley, brewed beer to supply their inns, The Swan and The Bell respectively.



Garden House

 Garden House stood for nearly 100 years on the corner of Lamer Lane and Lower Luton Road, by the roundabout at the northern end of Station Road. It was built in the mid-1870s on land owned by the then-owner of Wheathampstead House, Reverend John Olive. His daughter Mary married Viscount Kilcoursie who later inherited the title 9th Earl Cavan and both houses. It was occupied by a series of distinguished tenants until sold to Albert Murphy in about 1930; he used it as offices for the Murphy Chemical Company after the Second World War. It was demolished at the end of the 1960s to make way for Garden Court. 







Visiting Mackerye End

 Some two hundred years ago, the writer Charles Lamb and his sister Mary found inspiration in the country lanes around Wheathampstead, in particular at the farmhouse at Mackerye End. Charles was a mere four years of age and in the care of his sister, older by eleven years, at the time of their first visit in 1779. He later claimed that this visit was his earliest memory and led to a lifelong love of Hertfordshire. In adult life, he sought to “escape dry drudgery at the desk's dead wood” whenever he could and got away from the “rushing tides of greasy citizenry” to the “rural solitudes” of the Hertfordshire countryside. Charles and Mary revisited Mackerye End in June 1815, nearly 40 years later, trying to recapture past memories of innocence and pleasure. Charles described this later visit in his essay Mackery End.



St Helen's revealed

 In this month's bulletin, Mike Smith summarises a recent paper by Daniel Secker of the Institute of Archaeology at UCL that throws new light on the early history of St Helen's Church. Working from clues in the archaeology, architecture and documented history of the church, Secker suggests that the earlier Saxon church was rebuilt in an unusual cruciform style in the late 11th century by the Abbey of Westminster, lords of the manor, as a small minster church providing outreach for the other six manors that Westminster held in Hertfordshire. The design, with its apsidal east end, is a smaller version of Westminster Abbey. Secker's original paper can be found on the 'Sources' page of this website.  



Town Farm

 In one of the most notorious events in the recent history of Wheathampstead, 15th century Town Farm was demolished on Saturday 8 May 1971. Unlike several other buildings in the village, it was not listed. A Temporary Preservation Order was posted to the owner, Maltglade Developments, on Tuesday 4 May but the postman could not deliver it because Maltglade had not put up a sign on their premises to confirm that it was their registered office, as is legally required. While St Albans Magistrates Court later convicted Maltglade of demolishing a preserved building, this verdict was overturned in the High Court.  



Chennells account book

 Among our archives is an enormous ledger, a gift from Wally Overman (born 1910) who worked at the Blackbridge Dump from 1935 to 1978.The ledger includes 144 pages of accounts, dating from 1902 to 1920, compiled by Mr Chennells the village grocer. They list every individual item, its cost, and the date when it was bought by his few account-holding customers, among whom are some interesting names including Mary Countess of Cavan, Rev. O.W. Davys and A. Harmsworth Esq., later Lord Northcliffe, the powerful press baron. Accounts like these are an important source for local history and can raise almost as many questions as answers. 




Wheathampstead schools

 Beech Hyde School celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021. This bulletin describes some of the earliest schools in the village, ranging from the Place School, which was recorded in 1689, to Gustard Wood School which opened in 1875 as a result of overcrowding in the original St Helen's School at Bury Green and closed in 1932 when new premises were opened for 11-14 year olds on the site of the existing St Helen's School.  




 If the new Boundary Commission proposals are approved Wheathampstead will no longer be part of the Harpenden and Hitchin ward for parliamentary elections but will join a new ward called ‘Berkhamsted and Harpenden'. While the geography of the new ward sounds unlikely there is an historic precedent. Wheathampstead was once part of the Danish Hundred that shares close similarities to the new ward. According to the Domesday book, Hertfordshire was divided into eight Hundreds. The Danish Hundred, later called Dacorum, was made up of 18 manors and Wheathampstead was rated the most valuable. 




 In one form or another, allotments have been a feature of the English landscape for hundreds of years, possibly from as far back as the Anglo-Saxon period, but the arrangements in force today, whereby local councils manage the system, have their origins in the 19th century. Wheathampstead Parish Council rents two allotment sites: Hitchens Field on Marford Road, rented from Hertfordshire County Council since 1919, and the neighbouring Glebe Field, rented from the Diocese of St Albans. The Council owns the allotments at The Folly and at The Slype in Gustard Wood, which are known as Baxendale allotments because the plot was owned by the Baxendales of Blackmore End who let it to the Council early in the 20th century. 



Crinkly old paper

 The National Archives website lists nearly 270 medieval documents about Wheathampstead. Many of these documents are reeves' annual accounts dating to the 13th and 14th century. The reeve was elected from the local peasant farmers and had the task of overseeing the manor and reporting back to the Abbot of Westminster. The reeves' accounts contain fascinating information about the medieval manor including details of the rents paid by the tenants, who are named, and the fines and charges levied on them. Most of these documents are held at HALS. Mike Smith has been doing a scoping exercise to see what the reeves' accounts look like and exploring the possibility of setting up a project to translate and interpret these important medieval documents.  



The Hill

  A recent application to build a terrace of three houses at the top of the east side of The Hill, behind nos.97-105, is the latest development in the long history of building in this part of Wheathampstead. On the east side, the Tithe Map of 1840 shows 15th century Town Farm and the first few houses at the bottom of The Hill, which date from the 17th century, and just two cottages between there and the King William (now The Wicked Lady). The arrival of the railway in Wheathampstead in 1860 transformed the local economy, making the area more attractive as a place to live and work. Several plots of land on both sides of The Hill were sold for building and development in the second half of the 19th century. By 1911 the houses and cottages on The Hill between Town Farm and the King William accommodated 46 households.



John Nash

  The Congregational Church on Brewhouse Hill, which is being converted into the Chapel Gym, has a number of stained glass windows. Most are in good condition but one is broken. Research has found that it was dedicated to the memory of Robert Smith and John Nash, respectively father and husband of Sarah Nash. John Nash was born at The Folly in 1876, fourth of eight children of Jabez and Hannah Nash. Aged 14, he was working as a ploughman but later became a fireman on the railway. He married Sarah Smith, a local girl, in 1903. They lived in Hendon where he worked as a stoker in a Poor Law asylum and she as a dressmaker. They returned to Wheathampstead in 1922 where John died aged 47 two years later. He left an estate valued for probate at £1,632 9s.1d., roughly equivalent to £100,000 today. Sarah died in 1942 leaving £2,952 6s.1d, equivalent to about £150,000 today. Research is needed to establish how a couple coming from humble origins left such large estates.



Saving Barton House

  The Brewhouse Cafe and Wheathampstead Wellbeing Centre occupy Barton House on Brewhouse Hill. The building dates from the 1780s and operated as a brewery until 1904. By 1908 it was occupied by residential tenants along with the three adjoining cottages. In 1938, the St Albans Rural District Council served it with a Clearance Order, requiring that it be demolished on the grounds that it was unfit for human habitation. The Order was deferred until after the war by which time Charlie Collins was using part of the building for his antiques business. He fought a campaign to preserve Barton House for use as a store and showroom for his business and with no residential usage. His efforts were finally rewarded in 1959 when permission was granted; Charlie repaired and refurbished the whole structure, including the underground tunnel, in the 1960s. Barton House was listed Grade II in 1971.  








Burn marks

at The Bull

  The marks in the photograph are on the mantle over the fireplace in The Bull inn in Wheathampstead. The mantle is part of the original 16th century timber frame of the building. Archaeologists of medieval and early modern buildings have made detailed studies of such marks. They have ruled out explanations such as the marks having been made by unattended candles or that they were made by hot pokers used to mull ale. They have concluded that the marks, which are most often found near openings such as doors, windows and hearths, are 'apotropaic', i.e. that they were made with the intention of averting the forces of evil by preventing evil spirits from entering the building. 



Wheathampstead House

  Wheathampstead House, which stands at the junction of Lamer Lane and Codicote Road by the roundabout, has a chequered history. Dury and Andrews map (1766) shows the site with a few small buildings and gardens. The 1840 tithe map shows a house occupying three sides of a square. In 1867, when the house was sold to the Reverend John Olive, rector of Ayot St Lawrence, it was described as a 'Small family residence' with five bedrooms and seven acres of gardens. This house was demolished sometime between 1867 and 1879 when the Ordnance Survey map shows a much larger house and gardens which were further extended in the next 40 years. The 9th Earl Cavan, John Olive's son-in-law, and his son the 10th Earl lived in the house until selling it in 1924. Having been the HQ of Murphy Chemical Ltd from 1940 to 1983, it was redeveloped in the early 1990s as offices for Polaroid UK. Since 2003, it has been the home of the Prep School of St Albans High School for Girls.       



Gerald Lee

  Gerald Lee was stationmaster in Wheathampstead from 1934 to 1957.The October 1939 LNER 'Return of staff employed' lists him as ‘Station master 4th class' earning £230 per annum and paying rent of 13/3 per week to live at Station House. He was a stalwart of the village community. As a dedicated Christian, he was actively involved in St Peter's Church in Gustard Wood and at St Helen's. He was lay reader at both churches and organist and choirmaster at St Helen's from 1941 to 1963, the longest serving organist in the history of the parish. He founded Wheathampstead Youth Club in 1941 and was Club President and Chairman of the management committee. He died aged 76 in March 1968 having been struck by a motor car in Marford Road.



Rectory Meadow

  At the end of March, Kris Lockyear, with members of the Community Archaeological Geophysics group (CAGG) and the Wheathampstead History Society, spent a day conducting a magnetometer survey of the Rectory Meadow. The survey was prompted by a visiting archaeologist who some years ago suggested that the ditch and bank that run parallel to the east of the Crinkle-Crankle wall might be the boundary of the Saxon settlement. The survey found no buildings or evidence of other activity, either Saxon or later. Perversely, finding nothing adds to the evidence because it suggests that the meadow was outside the envelope of the early medieval village. It backs up the idea that the ditch and bank, now overgrown and partially eroded, could be part of the defences of the early village. 




Bury Farm

  The names ‘Bury Green' and ‘Bury Farm Cottages' are the last traces of what was once the major farm in Wheathampstead; its origins date from the transfer of the manor of Wheathampstead to the Abbey of Westminster in the 11th century. The Yeoman map shows the layout of the farm buildings in 1758. The farmhouse was in what we now know as Bury Farm Cottages until the late 1870s when a new farmhouse was built further up the hill. Having changed hands several times, the farmhouse and the surrounding land were sold to Jarvis of Harpenden in the late 1960s and the whole area was developed as housing.   



Jubilee is in the air

  There have been only eight Royal Jubilees: George III (1), Victoria (2), George V (1), and Elizabeth II (4, including this month). Although fourteen British monarchs have reigned for more than twenty-five years, it was not until the reign of George III that a 'National Jubilee Celebration' was proposed and it was not until Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee that the now familiar assortment of souvenirs was produced. The mug on the left was made for George V's Silver Jubilee in 1935. It has 'Wheathampstead' stamped on the bottom. Was such a stamp unique to Wheathampstead or were many such mugs produced with a local stamp?