The Village Centre
The Old Bakery, Station Road
The core of this building is 16th century or earlier, with 17/18th century additions. It is now cased in painted brick and plaster. The rear of the building with its steeply pitched roof was formerly an open medieval hall house and is probably the oldest part. A cross-wing was added in the 1500's to give more living space and the three gabled front sections in the 17th century. The decorated plaster work is known as "pargetting".
This timber framed farmhouse is also known as Wheathampstead Place. It is a late medieval hall house, formerly with cross-wings at both ends. The left-hand wing has been demolished and the right-hand wing was heightened in the 16th century when new fire-places were put on both floors. In the mid 17th century a red-brick wing was added at the south-east when the entrance was moved to the south. Later in the 17th century the outside of the house was covered in plaster to imitate ashlar stone blocks.
Bomb damage during the Second World War blew off some of the plaster, revealing the orignal timbers.
The core of Wheathampstead Place is a late medieval house of the type associated with a manorial estate. In the 1500's it was probably the home of the Brackets (a local, land owning family which died out in the early 17th century). To the east of the house there is a timber framed barn dated to the late 17th or early 18th century. The walls around the house are mainly 19th century, but there are some 16th century bricks in the lower courses and the stone arch set in the wall is also 16th century.
|Old Corn Mill|
The Old Mill, High Street and Mill Walk
The former Cornmill harnessed the power of the River Lea to grind wheat for flour. The beginning of the mill race can be seen from the foot bridge on the left. There has been a mill here for many years, and this is probably the site of one of the four mills mentioned in the Domesday Survey. It was the property of Westminster Abbey and the miller had to send "sweet wheat" to the Abbey four times a year. The mill we see today is a 16/17th century timber framed building, which was cased in mauve brick in 1890-5. There are tall hoist doors (for lifting sacks) on the first floor at the front of the building.
|Mill Walk runs behind the Mill (left) and the Mill Bridge (right)|
The bridge was built to replace two fords, one outside the mill and the other in the yard of the BulL In 1729 the bridge is called "Tanners Gutter Bridge" (after another mill race which flowed through a nearby slaughter house). It was rebuilt at some time prior to 1867 at the expense of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster. Following flood damage in 1879, it was widened in 1895 at a cost of less than £200.
|No.2, High Street|
No.2, High Street
This chemist's shop used to be the Cornmill House. It is late 19th century. Behind is the old mill building itself.
No.4, High Street
This timber framed house was built by William Peacock, bricklayer, in 1742. Now occupied by an estate agent, it was until recently the post office. It has also been the telephone exchange, a garage and before that a tailor's shop.
The Bull Inn
The original timber framed core of this building is 16th century. The northern end of the long façade, curving away from the road above the River Lea, is late 17/18th century, and was originally two separate riverside cottages. There is some exposed 18th century framing at the north-east end, but the rest has been plastered over and colour washed.
By 1617 it had become the Bull Inn, with 119 acres of land. It was a favourite local fishing resort, and Izaak Walton is said to have been a guest here. In the 18th century it served also as a post office.
Nos.8 & 10, High Street
At the turn of the century this building, now a house and tea room, was the "Two Brewers" inn. It was built in an L-shape during the 17th century, though part of the tea room is earlier; it had a cross wing and predates the house on the left.
|St Helen's Church|
The former vicarage is set back from the road and is partially visible from King Edwards Place. Cased within 19th century red brick there is a 16th century timber framed building. The red brick chimney stack dates to the 17th century.
St. Helen's Parish Church
The building as it stands today dates from 1230-1330, when the earlier Saxon / Norman Church was rebuilt and embellished. In 1860 extensive rebuilding was carried out; this was when the lead spire and slate roof were added.
There is little to see of the Saxon / Norman church apart from traces of a round headed doorway in the wall of the south transept. More of the 13th century church survives, though heavily restored by the Victorians.
There is a local tradition that during his wars with the barons King John reviewed his army from the top of the tower.
Nos.32, 34 & 36 High Street
These were built in 1799 as workshops. They now have 19th century painted brick fronts.
White Cottage, No.41, High Street
Inside this cottage are the remains of a late medieval hall house open to the roof, with a crown post and beam dating from about 1490. There are traces of smoke blackening on some of the timbers, as there would have been no chimney and smoke had to escape through a hole in the roof.
The front of the house was rebuilt around 1630, when it was owned, together with the Bell and Crown, by Francis Sibley. On his death another inventory was drawn up for the house. Included was his "joined" chair, his book-shelf and "some few books"; and from his kitchen six brass kettles, brass pans and skillets, (pans with long handles, and short legs to stand in the ashes), "3 dripping pans, a Tin collander, Tin apple roaster and Tin pudding pan".
|White Cottage (left) and Lattimores (right)|
Lattimores, No.45, High Street
This as a 16th century or earlier timber framed house which was refronted in the 18th century. The parapet was a very fashionable feature at the time. However the steeply pitched roof betrays its earlier origins. Part of the building was an open hall house.
Lattimores, or Latimores, takes its name from a wealthy family who lived here and ran the Hope Brewery on Brewery Hill.
Behind Lattimores are the buildings that used to house the old malting floors. They are of timber frame construction, with red bricks added later as infill.
The Swan, High Street
The swan was built in about 1500 as an open hall of two bays with a further two buildings at each end. At this tlme buildings were constructed with wooden frames and the spaces filled with wattle and daub, or later on with brick. In 1744 it was owned by John House and had eleven acres attached to it, a house and a "malthouse, barn stables and maltlofts".
In 1756 the inn had two beds for travellers and stabling for horses. For many years a blacksmith worked from a shop attached to the Swan.
No.6, Church Street
"Rosewood Cottage" built in about 1500 was originally a timber framed hall house, with a central room which extended from the floor to the roof. The steeply pitched roof is typical of medieval buildings. The chimney was added in about 1600; before this the smoke would have escaped through a hole in the roof. During the 18th century the building was brought up to date by the addition of a brick front.
Cunnington Lighting Centre, Church Street
This shop and the house on the right were once the "Walnut Tree" pub; you can still see the wrought iron work from which the pub sign hung. This is a 17th century timber framed building, with a 20th century front extension in plastered brick. The pub may have taken its name from a prominent walnut tree mentioned in a poem on Wheathampstead that appeared in the Morning Post in 1778.
Gable Cottage, Church Street
This is another 17th century timber framed house, with a steeply pitched roof. It was refronted during the 19th century; the brick¬work is now painted.
This was originally known as "Ham well Hill", leading to (H)amwell. The name changed after 1781 when James Wilkins of Wheathampstead was granted land by the Abbey on which to build a brewery. The Old Brewhouse premises have now gone.
Nos.13-19, Brewhouse Hill
To the left, as you come up the hill, there is a building with a large red brick cellar with a segmental-arched cart entrance. The plot of land on which the brewery stood stretched up the hill to the end of the yard behind this building and its neighbours. These buildings have timber frames behind their later, 18/19th century, façades.
|The Old School|
The Old School, Church Street
This was built in 1869 of flint and brick, in the Decorated Gothic style so popular with the Victorians. A villager once recalled how he was able to leave school at the age of 12, on the day of Queen Victoria's Jubilee, having reached the required standard.
Nos.1 & 2, Bury Green
This pair of timber frame cottages was built in the late 1600's. A large red brick oven chimney stack was added to the left-hand side and soon afterwards another to the right-hand side in the 18th century. The then fashionable purple brick frontage was added in the 19th.
|Bury Farm Cottages|
Bury Farm Cottages, Ash Grove
This cottage range dates from the 16th century. It has a rough-cast frontage and the first floor is jettied (the upper floor overhangs the ground floor). These cottages originally formed one building from which the Abbey of Westminster administered the estate. Here the Steward would have provided visiting representatives of the Abbey with food and drink.
At one time, behind the Old School by Bury Green there stood a cottage known as Bury House, dating from the 17th century. This scheduled building was destroyed by fire in the 1960's. It is thought to have been the home of the Steward.
This is an earthwork on the eastern edge of the village. Up to 40 feet deep, and extending for several hundred yards, it probably dates from the first century BC. It is believed to have been constructed by the Catuvellauni tribe, who occupied the Wheathampstead area at the time, and it is possible that it was here that the Catuvellauni were defeated by Julius Caesar in 54BC.
Nomansland Common, as its name implies, lies outside Wheathampstead and is divided between the parishes of Wheathampstead and Sandridge.
It was probably considered of little value to either community because the soil here is particularly poor. The reason is that, during the last Ice Age, the valley in which the common lies was damned by a glacier and became a lake. When finally the glacier melted and the lake emptied, the water left behind only the thin, stony soil that remains to this day.
Despite its agricultural limitations, the Common has an interesting history.
- The Second Battle of St Albans was partly fought here during the War of the Roses.
- In the 17th century the area was notorious for highwaymen, including Lady Katherine Ferrers, after whom the nearby pub, the Wicked Lady, is named.
- In the 19th century the Common was used for horse racing, cock fighting and boxing.
The Common today is an important wildlife habitat and is popular with walkers and riders.