All the talks take place on a Wednesday in the Mead Hall in East Lane, Wheathampstead

       (behind The Bull, next to the free car park, starting at 7.30 pm).

         Admission is £1.00 for members and £3.00 for non-members and guests.



Note: Members of the Society are reciprocal members of the Welwyn Archaeological Society with free access

to their meetings. Click here for the WAS programme.


17 January


  Peter Burley "Two Royal Burials in St Albans"

In this, the first talk of our 2018 programme, Peter reminded us that Humphrey, 1st Duke of Gloucester (1390-1447), son, brother and uncle of kings, is buried in St Albans Cathedral. His splendid tomb, which is next to the shrine of St Alban, was lost for many years but rediscovered in 1703. However, it is less well known that there was - and may still be - a second royal burial at the Cathedral, that of Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, who was killed in the First Battle of St Albans (1455) and buried in the Lady Chapel. His remains are not there now and   Peter has been researching what may have happened to them. Telling the stories   of each of these two men in their historical context, Peter presented his theory of where in the   Cathedral precincts Somerset's grave is located.   

21 February


Rudi Newman "From Scythes to Suburbia: the Socio-economic Impacts of the Coming of the                                Railways to the Chilterns"

In this detailed and informative talk, Dr Newman's core thesis was that the railways that were built in the years of 'railway mania' in the mid-19th century, facilitated and quickened social and economic changes that were already happening, rather than causing them. After a brief account of the history of the railways in this period. Dr Newman focused on three main areas of socio-   economic change - population, occupation and urbanisation, and land use and ownership. The   full text of this talk can be found here.  

21 March


Kate Morris "Behind Closed Doors: the Inside Story of some St Albans Buildings"   

After a 'whistle-stop' history of the major buildings of St Albans from Roman times to the present day, Kate showed how changing economic and business activity in the town from the 18th century onwards influenced the building of great houses and the families who lived in them, such as 3,High Street (now Cote restaurant), Ivy House (see picture), Romeland House, St Michael's Manor, Bleak House (aka Dalton's Folly'), and several more. Kate's book 'St Albans in 50 Buildings' was published by Amberley Publishing in February.

18 April


Philip Sheail "The 3rd Earl Cowper's Grand Tour: 1756 - 1760"

George Nassau Clavering-Cowper, 3rd Earl Cowper (1738 - 1789) (Viscount Fordwich before he inherited the Cowper peerage) was one of the most colourful members of the Hertfordshire nobility. In this entertaining and scholarly talk (not an easy combination!), Philip gave us an account of his Lordship's Grand Tour of Europe in the 1750s, based on a translation of the diaries of his tutor, Jean Chastellain, that are in the archives at HALS. The diaries are in French and Italian and translating them has been a labour of love for Philip, Sheila White, Gill Cordingley and other members of HALH. For the full story, see 'Lord Fordwich's  Grand Tour 1756-1760' edited by Sheila White and Philip Sheail; Hertfordshire Record  Publications 2015. 

 The talk was preceded by the Society's Annual General Meeting.

16 May


  Jane Kelsall "Christina of Markyate: c.1096 - 1155/60"

Using a range of contemporary and later sources, Jane told the story of Christina of Markyate's remarkable life. Born to wealthy Anglo-Saxon parents in Huntingdon, she committed herself to the religious life at the age of about 12. Having been absolved of an unwelcome betrothal, she spent 16 years in isolation as an anchoress before taking vows as a nun and joining the newly-founded Sopwell Nunnery in St Albans and later becoming prioress of Markyate Priory. 


Saturday 2 June


Welwyn Archaeological Society outing to West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village and Bury St Edmunds or Grime's Graves Flint Mines. Coach pick-up at Wheathampstead Memorial Hall at 8.45. For details, click here.


 20 June



 Andy Gibbs "The Poor Child's Friend: Joseph Lancaster's Educational Revolution"

In a lively talk that made full use of a variety of visual aids ranging from a child's slate to a top hat, Andy showed us why Joseph Lancaster is regarded as the pioneer of elementary education for the poor in the 19th century. Born in 1778 in the slums of Southwark, by his twenties he had developed the 'monitorial' method of teaching and learning and opened hundreds of schools. As a Quaker, he often found himself at odds with the established church but was nevertheless given an audience with King George III. By 1826, the 'Lancastrian system' had been  adopted in 21 countries but, beset by mental health problems, Joseph died in obscurity in New  York in 1838. The British Schools Museum in Hitchin houses the last Lancaster-designed  schoolroom. Click here for information about the Museum.

 Sunday 1 July


On a particularly hot summer's morning, Clive Hammersley of the Battlefields Trust led a group of Society members on a walk around Devil's Dyke, one of the possible sites of Julius Caesar's battle with Cassivellaunus in 54 BC. We discussed Caesar's campaign and other possible sites of the battle. 

18 July


  Simon West “The Archaeology of Wheathampstead, A Quarter Century of Highlights”

Simon described how the archaeology of the Wheathampstead area has revealed a host of new information in the last 25 years, including sites such as Turners Hall Farm, the Roman gold coin hoard from Nomansland, the Byzantine coin from Oaklands College and most recently the site for the New School at Batford. He explained how each of these sites and the associated finds can be interpreted to illustrate significant points in the history of Wheathampstead. 




19 September 


  Elizabeth Eastwood "Constance and Mary: the Battle for Female Suffrage: Lady Constance   Bulwer Lytton and Mary Augusta Ward"

In this talk, Elizabeth contrasted how these two ladies approached the issue of women's suffrage in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Constance Bulwer-Lytton was a daughter of the 1st Earl of Lytton who became Viceroy of India. She was an activist campaigner for votes for women, working with the leaders of the Women's Social and Political Union. She was also involved in prison reform and the birth control movement.

Mary Augusta Ward (better known as novelist Mrs Humphry Ward) came from a distinguished family, including the Arnolds and the Huxleys. She was vigorously opposed to women having the vote and was founding president of the Women's National Anti-Suffrage League. She spent much of her life campaigning for education for the poor and was instrumental in the founding of the women-only Somerville College, Oxford in 1879.

17 October


Helen George "Business as Usual? The First World War and retail businesses in Watford    1914-1920"  This fascinating talk gave us a new angle on the Great War. Drawing on extracts from local newspapers, Helen showed us how the shops in Watford responded to the impact of the war on day-to-day life. As the war progressed, it created a variety of new business opportunities of which enterprising retailers tried to take advantage, as well as creating shortages that led to rationing, especially in 1917 "The Year of Hunger" when the German U-boat campaign was at its height.    

21 November



Members' 10-minute talks

 In a full and lively evening, we heard Sandra Wood's update about the Great War   commemoration project, Peter Jefferys' short history of the Park Hotel (now known as the   Wicked Lady), John Anstice on the POW camp in Batford, Stuart Lawson on 1940s prefabs   (including his own in Marford Road), and Mike Smith's evidence from old maps, documents and   LIDAR that there was a fulling mill on what is now Melissa Field at The Folly. The evening   ended with a quiz in which Patrick McNeill showed close-ups of 17 dates that can be seen on   buildings in and around the village and asked us to identify where they are and what they   commemorate.

19 December


  Christmas party 

Our annual fish-and-chip supper, with wine and mince pies. You are invited to bring along an object of historical interest and tell us all about it. Please let us know that you would like to come so we can plan the catering etc. Ruth has emailed all members with details.  email


Click here and scroll down for links to our neighbouring History Societies, all of which have their own programmes of events.