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Residents explore Wheathampstead's changing High Street at Memorial Hall exhibition
A project to share the story of the changing face of Wheathampstead High Street over one hundred years has been showcased at an exhibition in the village.
More than 500 visitors turned out to admire the work of the village history society’s Heritage Lottery project ‘The story of our changing High Street’ at the Memorial Hall on Sunday, January 26.
Since March last year, 22 project researchers have interviewed many residents, delved through directories and pored over newspapers to discover stories that have moved them, challenged them and cheered them.
Commenting on the day events, project organiser Sandra Wood said: "It was amazing, we have had some really good comments and feedback.
"It was a surprise because it was such awful weather but people still turned out. It has been great and we have had a lot of support from all different people in the village.
"There was hundreds through the door and at any one time we had 150 to 200 people in the hall. It was lovely, because as a result of the day, we were able to introduce lots of people to relatives they haven’t seen for years. It was really brilliant because they were able to catch up and exchange numbers."
People from far and wide, including Australia and Canada, have also been in contact with memories to contribute to the project, which is funded by a grant of £7,100 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The project explores the changes and similarities of the village High Street, both in how people live, work and shop, in the 1900s compared to today.
The population growth of the village since the 1950s may have reduced the feeling of community but many families such as Collins, Simons, Titmuss and Westwood, whose names can be found in the earliest census returns, were constant in the village story over the past 100 years.
The story of their adaptations to the changing times takes the best of the past and marries it with the best of the present. Ms Wood said: "It has opened up the opportunity for us to archive and research things that we would never have done before.
"It is a living story in a sense, as we go on. The more we look at the history of Wheathampstead, it is the home to an amazing history.
"At the beginning of 1900s we had three farms in the village. Although most of the shops are physically the same, they have changed to meet the needs of the people in our village.
"One hundred years ago we had seven to eight pubs on the High Street and now we only have two."
Listed High Street buildings are also explored in the project to show how in some cases their character may have slowly eroded by the changes in detail, including loss of original features such as timber windows.
Although the project has now come to a close the history society plans to carry on exploring various different aspects of the High Street. These include the Brewing industry, The Maltings and the affect the opening and closure of the railway station had on the village.
Ms Wood added: "The beauty of this project is that if people have specific interests, they can carry on their own research and as a history society we will support them."
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