The Story of 48 High Street

From a reference on the Tithe Award map of 1843 to Harpenden Books in 2016

Introduction: occupants before the present parade of shops was built

The Tithe Award Map of 1843, shows land belonging to Frances Kingston at plot 559.

Harpenden Tithe Award – tracing of Village – Church Green, Island. 559 is occupied by Jane Kingston. Credit: LHS archives

We believe this to have been the site of Mr Smith’s School, for which an advertisement was found in the Bodlean Library, though the drawing may not be accurate. (2)

An early photograph of the High Street, looking south from the Cock Pond and Cock Inn, shows the boundary wall of what may have been Mrs Kingston’s properties. (3)

A photograph from a similar viewpoint show’s “Mr Lockhart’s house” in the 1880s. It is not clear if he built a new house, or incorporated the buildings already on the site. (4)

In 1886 Island Cottage (“tenant Mr Lockhart”) was up for sale (sold for £1620) It was described as “a double-gabled house with 11 rooms, gardens and coach-house, belonging to Mr Lockhart”. He moved to Lea House, at the corner of Ox Lane and Westfield Road (now a block of flats).

In 1887 Thomas Elmes (who lived at Coleswood, East Common) acquired properties at the corner of High Street and Church Green, now nos. 38 to 50 High Street and 1, 2 and 3 Church Green, which included Island Cottage. He was presumably instrumental in the building of this range of shops and flats – known at the time as “Elmes’s Folly”. This modernisation or urbanisation was not popular with older residents – nor were the telegraph poles erected in 1893 through Harpenden, several years before local telephone services were started in 1901. (5)

In September 1953, according to a report in the Harpenden Free Press, these properties (whose tenants included National Provincial Bank, W H Smiths, Home & Colonial Stores, Whitehouse’s newsagents, Buttons outfitters and Mandley & Sparrow, estate agents) were sold to a single purchaser for an undisclosed price – believed to the highest price ever realised for any single property transaction in Harpenden. The sale was by direction of the trustees of George Elmes (1875-1948) who was the youngest son of Thomas Elmes of Coleswood.

Occupants of the present building – selling clothes to gentlemen, then to ladies

By 1895 Daniel Skillman was established at 46 High Street (in Norwich House), with post-office and stationers (later Whitehouses, currently Martin’s newsagents. Kelly’s Directories for 1901 and 1903 indicate that the neighbouring premises may have been occupied by James and Elmes, veterinary surgeons.

1906-1927 : By 1906 James Pestell, tailor and outfitter moved from c.40 High Street. He traded at no.48 until 1923. (6). His advertisement made it look as though he occupied 46-50!

1923-1987 :Button Brothers, gents outfitters, were established for over 50 years.(7 & 8)

1988–1998 : Moss Brothers, trading as the Suit Company who continued a

The past 20 years have seen many more changes:

Harpenden Books, April 2016. Credit: Alan Bunting for LHS archives

1998 : Charity shop while vacant (10)

1998-2004: United Colours of Benetton (11)

2004-2005 : The Calendar Club – over the Christmas and New Year season (12, 13)

2005-2011 : Woosters (14)

2011-2015 : East (15)

2016- the future : Harpenden Books

Comments about this page

  • I’m Brett Hoskins’ brother. I was born in the flat above the Home and Colonial store at 42 High Street in 1957. Behind that window on the right as you look up apparently.

    By Alun Hoskins (22/06/2018)
  • Home and Colonial Stores was at 42 High Street. I lived with my family in the flat above from 1956 to 1958 as my father was the manager.

    Ed. Thank you for sharing this information. We do have plans, over time, to do histories of many more High Street shops and businesses.

    By Brett Hoskins (21/05/2018)
  • If it can be assumed that a J has been misinterpreted as an I and that there has been a variation in the spelling of the name ‘Stancell’, Mr Smith’s school and Island Cottage were most likely the same building or at least on the same site.  In the poll books for 1802 and 1805 a John Smith is listed under Harpenden while that for 1832 records a John Stantial Smith as being qualified because he owned a Freehold House, Island Cottage.  The schedule for the 1843 Tithe awards states that plot 559 (house and garden) was owned by John Stancell Smith (Frances Kingston was the occupier) and that is the plot on the corner of the High Street and what is now Church Green ie where Mr Lockhart’s house stands in the photograph 4.

    By Diana Parrott (03/02/2018)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *