Well I was right, the tyres were badly out of alignment and scrubbing badly... so badly the front two tyres wore almost completely smooth in 5 days (~500 miles)! So not only a puncture to replace but now the front two tyres so it had to be new tyres all round. Now I am glad I had already replaced the wheels so I could at least buy normally priced/sized tyres. Still not what I wanted to be doing right now. The tyres were shocking... I was shocked!
So (in the snow) I changed the tie rods, just in case they were not good before going for 4-wheel alignment. As always, should have been a simple job, just wheel off, undo two nuts holding ball joints on either end of tie rod and pop the joints out. But of course things never go smoothly on cars; the inner joints were impossibly seized. The nuts came off fine, but trying to separate the joints out the knuckles proved hard.
Once again I broke another ball joint separator tool (the scissors type) so went and armed myself with a couple of alternatives, the fork type (which you hammer between the joint to 'wedge' it out) and a claw type with a bolt to screw onto the joint stud. Access was awkward and I ended up using the fork wedge type to free them but it took about half an hour of constant hammering with a lump hammer and plenty of heat from the blow torch.
Advise here is to cut and remove the rubber boot if you are trying to use the fork wedge separator type tool so that the tool is acting metal on metal. The rubber will cushion the blows from the hammer and not work.
After an hour or so both sides had been replaced with new tie rods.
Next morning I go to Blackboots for my 4-wheel alignments (thru lots of snow!). When I get there, they get it up on the excellent Hawker Laser alignment system and show that everything except for toe is OK. Also, they tell me there is no other adjustment on this car! Therefore 4-wheel alignment is not possible. this just strengthens my hatred/mistrust of large 'fast-fit' organisations! So a bit of a waste of time. Well they aligned the toe but there was no need for the fancy laser alignment as all.
So when 'fast-fit' told me the car needed 4-wheel alignment, they were either trying to rip me off or didn't know what they were talking about. Both alternatives are not good. I wonder if the guy was there that day they would have done the 4-wheel alignment (obviously realising they couldn't adjust anything except toe) and charge me for it!?!
Still anyway, drives a LOT better now. There is still knocking from the front but this is now just the anti-roll bar drop links, which are an 'easy' quick fix and cheap and will not put the car out of alignment again, so they can be saved for a rainy day (preferably not raining). Also it still feels a little vague, like there is play in the steering mechanism but this is to be expected on an old car and I have read ways of taking up this slack, so I might look into that one day.