Bulletins     

 

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.

 

 

Number    

Date  

 

 

   

Subject                                                                                       

 Abstract

 

 

 2023  

 

   

 

    57     

                 January

 

                             

 A missing legend?

 Many churchyards in Hertfordshire have 18th or 19th century table tombs surrounded by iron railings. In some cases, a tree has grown inside these railings and this has given rise to a legend that the individual buried there was an atheist who declared before decease that if there was an afterlife a tree would grow out of their tomb. In the mid-1970s, there stood on the north side of St Helen's Church a magnificent ash tree which had demolished a table tomb and devoured portions of its railings. Today the spot is marked only by the tree stump and smashed grave slabs. Is there a local legend associated with this tree?

58

February

 

Des Thomas

 John Desmond Thomas was headmaster of Wheathampstead School from the day it opened in 1965 until he retired in 1986. ‘Des' was born in Llan Ffestiniog, North Wales, in 1926, the third of seven children. He won a place at grammar school and, after serving as a Bevan boy, he was awarded a degree at Bangor Normal College and a scholarship at the Sorbonne. Following two teaching jobs in London, he was appointed Head at Wheathampstead at the age of 39.

59

March

 

The Thrale family

 

 These initials and the date (1893), which can be seen on the east-facing wall of the mill, are those of Norman Thrale (1832-1900). The earliest record of the Thrale family dates from 1309 and they owned various farms in the district from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Norman worked as a miller and stonemason at Wheathampstead Mill and probably worked on the cladding of the mill in brick in the 1890s.  

60

April

 

Doodlebug

 

 ‘At 01.45 hours this morning a Flying Bomb burst 60 yds West of Bury Farm house. Damage was caused but there were no casualties.'  This entry appears in the St Helen's School logbook dated 27 June 1944. It goes on to describe the damage to the school buildings (broken windows, roof damage, cracks in ceilings and ‘bell turret moved'). It is the only contemporary record we have of this major incident in Wheathampstead's war but it was clearly remembered by local people in later years.

61

May

 

10th Earl of Cavan

 Frederick Rudolph Lambart, 10th Earl of Cavan, (1865- 1946) was a distinguished past resident of Wheathampstead with a remarkable military career from 2nd Lieutenant in 1885 to Chief of the Imperial General Staff in 1922 and Field Marshal in 1932, but he certainly divided opinion. “Bone from the neck up”, “Ignorant, pompous, vain and narrow”, “Undoubtedly one of the great successes of the war”. He lived in Wheathampstead House for most of his life and, when not on active service, led the classic life of a Victorian/Edwardian gentleman with a focus on hunting, shooting, fishing and golf.

62

June

Devil's Dyke

 

 The debate about the origins of Devil's Dyke and its place in history has continued ever since Sir Mortimer Wheeler published his conclusions from excavations he made in and near the Dyke in 1932, reinforced by post-war Ordnance Survey maps describing the site as a “Belgic Oppidum”. This bulletin summarises the research of historians and archaeologists in recent years, including the latest evidence from LiDAR, all of which cast doubt on Wheeler's suggestion that the Dyke was the site of a battle between Julius Caesar and Cassivellaunus, leader of the Catuvellauni, in 54 BCE. The debate highlights the issue of how legends and myths relate to and should be balanced with historical evidence.  

63

July

Pubs in the 1930s

 Our book about the history of the pubs of Wheathampstead ended in 1914 but sales figures for fourteen of these pubs in 1936/7 have recently come to light. The figures provide a firm understanding of the hierarchy of the trade at that time. Sorted by barrels sold, the figures show the Swan at the top of the list, selling most beer for consumption in the pub itself. And that by a long distance when compared with its competitors in the village, especially the Bell & Crown. Sales at the Bull were surprisingly low.

64

September

The Palm-cup

 The most important historic relic ever found in Wheathampstead is probably the 7th century bronze ewer that is now in the British Museum, recorded as having been found in 1887. Society member Ray Wilson has been researching a much less well-known object, a palm-cup that apparently was found at the same time as the ewer. Basing his conclusion on evidence in a number of documents, Ray surmises that the Wheathampstead palm-cup was found in fragments in December 1884 by the Griffith brothers from Sandridge, was restored by them, and reunited with the Wheathampstead Ewer at the British Museum in 1910. Which prompts a question. The ewer and the palm-cup were found in a considerable cemetery of Saxon times”. What else was there and has been lost forever?

65 

October