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.



We will alert all members to forthcoming talks by email and by putting up posters in the village.





18 January


The Simons: village butchers in the 19th century

Richard Simons       




 Professor emeritus Richard Simons gave a fascinating account of how unexplained wealth in the eighteenth century enabled the Simons family to set up a butcher's shop and abattoir in Abbots Langley. Later, in the mid-nineteenth century, they expanded into Wheathamp-stead to a site that later became Garden Cottage. In the 1870s they moved to a site in Station Road and traded there as a butcher and abattoir until the 1980s when George Simons retired. The premises are now Marley's tea shop.

15 February


The rise and fall of Wheathampstead School 1965 to 1988

Patrick McNeill and Kris Schug


 In this talk, Patrick explained how the rise and fall of the school was driven by a rise in the number of births in the mid/late 1950s and a steep fall from 1967 to 1977. Kris presented Lizzie Holland's memories of the school in the late 1960s and his own from his time as a pupil from 1983 to 1988. Patrick described the ultimately unsuccessful campaign to save the school from closure and its merger with Marshalswick School, now Sandringham, in St Albans.

15 March


Talking in class: an oral history of the Hitchin British Schools

Andy Gibbs




  In an entertaining talk, Andy told us about the history of the British Schools, illustrated with recordings of past pupils and teachers reminiscing about their time at the school in the early part of the 20th century. He emphasised how people's memories are stimulated by revisiting particular rooms and features of buildings. Founded in 1810 and with new buildings added at various dates in the 19th century, the Grade 2 listed Schools were bought from Herts County Council by the Hitchin British Schools Trust in 1994. The British Schools Museum is now open to inform visitors about education and childhood in various eras. See  

19 April


Wheathampstead in twelve photos

Mike Smith



  Starting with a brief history of photography from 1838 explaining how Louis Daguerre, William Fox Talbot, Julia Margaret Cameron and George Eastman produced the earliest photographs using copper iodine and hot mercury, wet plate collodium and glass negatives, Mike went on to show several of the earliest photos of Wheathampstead: the mill, Simons butchers, Latchford's barber's shop and Riddells the saddlers. He enlarged details in the photos that helped date them and pointed out how census returns and the history of cars, bicycles, clothes and special trees (such as the Wellingtonia) can all help date a photograph.

17 May



Wheathampstead and other treasures in Herts archives 


Julie Gregson

(Hertfordshire Archives

       and Local Studies)                   


  The archive at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies holds many 'treasures' including the oldest document in the collection - the original document whereby King Edward the Confessor gave 'ten hides of land' in Wheathampstead ('hwaethamstede') to the Abbey of Westminster in 1060. Julie explained more about the history of this document and several others and described the facilities and research opportunities available at HALS, both online and at their premises at County Hall, including talks, visits, events and a range of other services. Go to    

21 June



Abbot John of Wheathampstead

Stephen de Silva


  Stephen is a Senior Guide at St Albans Cathedral and has been centrally involved in the discovery of the grave of Abbot John in 2017 and the follow-up activity. In an engrossing talk, he told us about John's life from his birth at Mackerye End to his death in 1465, including his two periods as Abbot, about how his brick-lined tomb was found with the three seals from papal bulls that enabled his remains to be identified, how his face was reconstructed, and about the research and religious devotion that ensured that his reburial in the vault of Humphrey Duke of Gloucester in 2022 observed appropriate medieval liturgy.     

19 July


Scandals, Slander and Gossip

Elizabeth Eastwood


  In a wide-ranging talk about members of the aristocracy of Hertfordshire in the 18th and 19th centuries, Elizabeth told us stories of bigamy, adultery, divorce, elopement, illegitimacy, breach of promise, violent husbands, "the frolicsome Dame", "criminal conversations", extra-marital affairs, royal mistresses, naughty nuns, pretend marriages, clandestine marriages, bawdy courts and the unfortunate William Cowper who said his marriage was "the epitome of hell". A talk about long and happy marriages in the aristocracy, with faithful spouses, might be relatively short.   




 There will not be a meeting in August


20 September


Dad's Army in Wheathampstead 

Mike Smith


 This talk was triggered when Lizzie Holland', one of our members, donated an original group photo of the local Home Guard to our Society's archive.  

What do we know about the Home Guard in Wheathampstead during the Second World War?  The answer might surprise you.  Also, what are the stories behind the men in the group photograph?  How close did the Home Guard in Wheathampstead mirror the popular classic TV series ‘Dad's Army'?

18 October



99 years of Collins Antiques in Wheathampstead

Anne Atton   


 From 1907 to 2006, Collins Antiques and the Collins family played a central role in the life of the village. The business started in the yard of the Railway Hotel (later the Abbot John and now a private house), moved to the corner of Church Street in the 1920s, and acquired Barton House on Brewhouse Hill in the 1950s. Anne, née Collins, will tell the story.

15 November




The Cavans of Wheathampstead

Ruth Jeavons and

         Patrick McNeill                   



 The title 'Earl Cavan' is in the Peerage of Ireland and was created in 1647. The 9th Earl, then Viscount Kilcoursie, married Mary Olive, daughter of the rector of Ayot St Lawrence, who had rebuilt Wheathampstead House in the 1870s. He inherited the House in due course. The 10th Earl moved there when he was a child and inherited the House in 1900. He led a vigorous social life in the county 'set' and had a distinguished military career. He sold Wheathampstead House in 1924.

This talk will draw on archive material recently donated to the Society.




There will not be a meeting in   December.  




The following local and national societies offer a wide variety of online talks. 


The St Albans History Society (SAHAAS), better known as the 'Arc & Arc'. Click here  


The Hertfordshire Association for Local History (HALH). Click here


The Institute for Historical Research (IHR). Click here.


The National Archives. Click here


Gresham Lectures. Click here.