Scope of this site
The area within our scope lies within Worplesdon parish and was recorded in earlier times as “Rickford”. The area still is often referred to as Rickford, and a stretch of the Guildford – Bagshot Road has been designated “Rickford”.
The area is bounded on the north by the Hoe Stream, and to the south by Norton Farm and the junction of the Guildford Road with Rickford Hill. The north-westerly point is the Old Mill House at Rickford, and it stretches to the east as far as Blanket Mill Farm. It covers all the buildings between The Old Mill House and Rickford Hill, and the buildings along Goose Rye Road as far as Layton Cottage.
However in the past the boundaries of Rickford were not always drawn consistently. In the 1800’s some of the houses along the Guildford road were sometimes referred to as being in Perry Hill, rather than Rickford. And some of the houses along Goose Rye Road were described as being in Goose Rye. Also some properties just north of the Hoe Stream in Pirbright and Woking were sometimes recorded as being in Rickford, notably the Malthouse. All rather confusing.
Where did the name Rickford originate?
The short answer is that nobody knows for sure. Miss Evelyn Thompson, in her “Notes on the History of Worplesdon” (1921) records that Rikeford or Rykeford is mentioned in records as early as 1298. It is tempting to deduce that these names referred to a ford across a waterway, namely what we now call The Hoe Stream. But is this correct? We probably never will know.
Rickford now appears to be the name of the Guildford – Bagshot Road between the Fox Corner roundabout and Perry Hill.
Rickford history in brief
Rickford lies between Worplesdon and Pirbright, and its earliest development may have started with single farmsteads having to laboriously clear the heath to graze a few beasts to support a single family. Even in the most fertile areas, the soil would not have been good enough to support large farms or clusters of smallholdings. Hence in early times, Rickford comprised individual farms (Blanket Mill and Norton) scattered amongst areas of heathland. This pattern of development can still be seen today in parts of Pirbright and Worplesdon.
In 1582, Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne, and Shakespeare was married to Anne Hathway. But of greater significance to this site was a legal case (Vyne v Vyne) in the Chancery Court, which dealt with ownership of “Three messuages and 200 acres of land with the appurtenances, in Westwood and Rickford [Rickford Common], Surrey”, which suggests that such development had already started to occur by then. The Vyne family were involved in 2 other property-related cases around this time – perhaps there was hot competition for some of this land.
The Hoe Stream formed something of a fertile valley amidst a large expanse of heathland, and it is not surprising that the mill and millhouse were also among the earliest buildings. A few dwellings appeared later on the Guildford-Chertsey road, but in its early days, Rickford was dominated by the mill and 2 farms, without many other buildings of substance.
Agricultural production across the UK was growing rapidly in the 1600’s and 1700’s, and it is not at all surprising that the Rickford population were mainly agriculturally based. The local farmers would have improved their yields through methods such as improved ploughing machinery, implementing the new idea of crop rotation, and draining some otherwise unusable land.
There were few (or indeed any?) wealthy inhabitants in the immediate area. Some of the larger properties were owned by wealthy (non-resident) Londoners.
Until the 1780’s, there was only one form of transporting farm produce: Horse-drawn wagons. These wagons must have travelled along the Guildford – Bagshot road frequently, and the Rickford bridge must have been something of a pinch point.
The Basingstoke canal was completed in 1794, running only 2 miles north of Rickford. This would have enabled local agricultural suppliers to ship their produce to a wider population more economically. Of course it would have also introduced more competition from outside to local producers – so it was a two-edged sword.
And 50 years later, the coming of the railways would have had a similar double-edged impact on local businesses. The London and Southampton Railway opened in 1840, the Woking – Guildford line opened in 1845, and the Guildford – Portsmouth line opened in 1858. Local stations at Brookwood (1864) and Worplesdon (1883) soon followed.
By this time, the Industrial Revolution in England had caused a significant population flow over the course of 100 years or more from the country to cities, and Rickford would have experienced this strongly, especially given its proximity to London.
One or two small shops existed in Rickford at the beginning of the 19th century, but only one remains – the well-known Christmas Bakery. The Congregational Chapel was built in 1822, and this attracted some house-building activity around it at the beginning and early part of the 20th century. In that period the chapel seemed to be very much a focal point of the Rickford inhabitants.
The area is now designated as green belt, and there has been relatively little new development since the early 20th century. The mill ceased operating after the second world war, and the influence of the Chapel has declined significantly over recent years, such that its closure was announced in late 2020.
Tracing the detailed history of the area is not easy before 1900, because of the scarcity of records. However the Surrey History Centre has deeds relating to some of the older properties, which help us paint a picture of the main buildings in the area in earlier times.
In the 1800’s, most formal documents recorded addresses simply as “Rickford”, with no distinction between houses, which makes it difficult to specify who lived where.
However we do have 2 unique and invaluable sources of “soft” data in the early 1900’s:
The caricatures of, and occasional musings about, some local inhabitants drawn by Sidney Sime. Sidney (1865 – 1941) was a well-known artist who lived at Crown Cottage near Worplesdon Green. In his later years he was something of a recluse, but frequented the New Inn (on the site of the current White Lyon) and drew (not very flattering) caricatures of many of the locals there, some of whom lived in Rickford. I have included copies of these caricatures in the relevant places in this narrative. They were obtained courtesy of The Sidney Sime Memorial Gallery at the Village Hall, where you can see many of these caricatures, as well as a substantial number of his paintings. It’s well worth a visit (currently by appointment).
Personal recollections of Rickford in the period 1905 to 1925, written by Albert Enever (who was born in and grew up in Rickford) when he returned to his home village, 50 years after having emigrated to Australia in 1925, aged 24. These tell us things which aren’t in any official documents, and again I have included some of them in this narrative. This invaluable document was obtained courtesy of the Perry Hill Chapel website (although it wasn’t found in a loft as stated on the site – it was given to Geoff Burch by Albert).
The first detailed map of the area is the Tithe Map of c1840, which for the first time enables us to have a good idea of what buildings were in existence, and the ownership (and occupation) thereof. In 1873 the first Ordnance Survey map of the area was published, and regular updates have appeared ever since.
The Hoe Stream is a waterway which marks the northern boundary of Rickford. It rises in the heaths to the west of Pirbright and enters our area at Fox Corner. In our area of interest, it can be seen as it passes just south of Christmas Bakery flowing under the Guildford Road. It flows eastwards into the Wey between Ripley and Pyrford. The Wey flows into the Thames just north of Weybridge.
South of the Hoe Stream, Rickford itself forms part of a low-lying plateau running west to east, parallel to the Hoe Stream. Further south, the land rises gently in the form of Perry Hill, leading to Worplesdon.
The underlying geology of the area is not particularly interesting, being part of the Bagshot Beds, comprising sand, silt and clays laid down in shallow seas in the Palaeogene period of the Tertiary era, roughly 50 million years ago. The bedrock is not exposed anywhere other than in new diggings. In some areas, eg on the heaths, the underlying clay can result in poor drainage, particularly noticeable in winter!