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Rickford Families - The Heathers

There have been Heathers in Worplesdon since the 1500’s, but our story starts with the Heathers who had lived in Alfold (south west of Cranleigh, and about 10 miles from Worplesdon) since at least 1725, and in particular, John Heather.  We know these details about him: 


  • 1796:  John Heather was born in Alfold.

  • 1819:  Married Hannah Smither in Guildford.  Hannah was born in Worplesdon (Perry Hill) in 1779, so was 17 years older than John, being aged 40 when married.

  • 1821:  Their son James was born in Worplesdon (given Hannah’s age, it is unsurprising that he was their only child).

  • 1830:  John witnessed George Boylett’s will.  His address was “Shop”, probably located at Rickford Cottage (now demolished).

  • 1838:  He purchased a Game Certificate (required if he owned a gun or dog for hunting).

  • C1840:  The tithe map shows John as owning and occupying Rickford Cottage.  I have not been able to trace how he managed to acquire the freehold of the     property.

  • 1841:  John, Hannah and James were living at Rickford.  John was a grocer.

  • 1851:  John and Hannah lived in the same dwelling (Rickford Cottage).  John was a farmer of 2 acres, recorded as having been born in “Albury”.

  • 1859:  Death of Hannah, aged 79.

  • 1861:  John was still living at Rickford Cottage as a retired gamekeeper, with his 18 year-old “grand-daughter and housekeeper”, Ellen Turner.  She was not his      grand-daughter at all, but was the daughter of George and Henrietta (nee Nunns) Turner, who had met when working together on a farm at Broad Street, married in 1842 (when Henrietta was 18), and produced Ellen a year later.  

  • 1861:  John died.  As noted earlier in the text, Rickford House passed to Ellen Turmer when he died, so perhaps the term “grand-daughter” was more a badge of friendship.

The next Heather we need to investigate is James Heather (John and Hannah’s son).  At the age of 20  he married Caroline Williams, aged 21, from Mitcham.  Caroline died in 1868, and 8 months later, James married Emma Turner from Linchmere, south of Haslemere.  James died in 1902.

James and Caroline had 4 children, of whom the youngest were twins.  James (junior),one of the twins, was born in 1849, and features in Rickford’s history, as we shall see.  His 2 elder siblings were John and Caroline.  Here is what we know about James (senior):


  • 1821:  Born in Worplesdon.

  • 1841:  Was living at Rickford as a grocer with his parents, John and Hannah Heather 

  • 1841:  Married Caroline Willans in Southwark, where he was living at the time of his marriage, giving his profession as a grocer.  This is something of a mystery though – there are facts that don’t correlate properly (see footnote at the end of this section).

  • 1849 - 1861:  Shopkeeper at Rickford with 3 children, John, Caroline and James (junior).  They owned and lived at Rickford House.

  • 1871:  Farmer of 25 acres, living at Brook Farm with his second wife, Emma, son James, and son-in-law.  He sold the freehold of Rickford House to John Christmas c 1873.

  • 1881:  Farmer of 9 acres, living in one of Oaklands cottages (near Goose Rye Farm) with Emma.

  • 1891-1902:  James and Emma had moved back to Rickford and were living at Deepdene.

  • 1902:  James died.

The final Heather in our story is James (junior), as he was recorded in the Electoral Register, son of James and Caroline.  His story is as follows:


  • 1849:  Born in Worplesdon (presumably at either Rickford House or Cottage).  He had a twin brother, Henry, who sadly only survived for 3 weeks.

  • 1851 – 1871:  Lived with his parents at Rickford House, and in 1871 at Brook Farm. 

  • 1863:  James’s elder brother died, aged 21.

  • 1881:  Farmer of 18 acres living at Brook Farm with his sister, Caroline and 2 year-old niece, Catherine (Caroline’s daughter).

  • 1890:  Married Louisa Margaret ("Maggie") Birkett in Guildford.  Maggie was born in Hackney and was 16 years younger than James.

  • 1901:  James and Maggie were living at Nightingale Cottage, just a few doors from his father.  James was a “general farm labourer”.  Meanwhile James’s sister Caroline had married a William Lunnon and they were living in Tottenham (with Catherine, whose surname was Heather, being William Lunnon’s step-dughter).

  • 1914:  James died at Nightingale Cottage “being well-known in Congregational circles and esteemed by all who knew him....the funeral was very largely attended”, according to a newspaper report.

Footnote:  The mystery of James Heather (senior):  

How and why was he married in Southwark only months after he was recorded as living in Rickford and Caroline living in Mitcham? Their marriage certificate gives their address as Church St, Southwark, which seems improbable.  Also James’s father is given as Robert, which suggests a different James Heather (there was indeed another James Heather who was born in Chobham, but lived in Worplesdon). 
Robert and Sarah lived in Worplesdon, but the censuses show that they lived apart from 1841 (and quite possibly earlier), and in 1871, Sarah described herself as unmarried.  They lived in various parts of Worplesdon, but not Rickford.  Robert was a labourer, and died at the Guildford Union (ie workhouse) in 1860, aged 74.  Sarah died in Guildford in 1872, aged 88.  It rather sounds as though they separated prior to 1841.  They had 5 children.  
The 2 James’s appear to have somehow been confused in the records.  One possible explanation is that James (son of John) was pretending to be someone else (James, son of Robert) when he was married.  Quite why he would do this escapes me.


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