Rickford Common is an area of about 50 acres, heavily wooded, lying in the V between the Guildford-Bagshot Road and The Avenue. Most of it lies south of Goose Rye Road, but it also extends northwards, abutting houses like Rickford Cottage and White Lodge. As noted elsewhere on these pages, the common hosted a cricket green in the very early 1900’s.
There are 2 obvious questions one might ask about Rickford Common:
Why hasn’t it been built on?
Who owns it?
The first question is easily answered by walking through the common in winter. Wellington boots are recommended. I imagine that the advent of Green Belt restrictions has also dissuaded attempts to develop the area.
The second question is more difficult. Virtually all common land has an owner, and one obvious owner would be the Manor of Worplesdon, which had granted some limited development of waste ground in the area in the 19th century, but this is not the case. So who does own it?
It is not very well known that a 1965 Act of Parliament requires all pieces of common land to be registered, and the ownership of each piece decided case-by-case by a “Commons Commissioner”. Over 500 pieces of common land in Surrey are registered, 30 of which are in Worplesdon. The ownership of Rickford Common was decided by the Commons Commissioner in 1979: It is owned by Surrey County Council (which, coincidentally, keeps the Register of Common Land). The 2-page report by the Commissioner is available on the https://www.acraew.org.uk/commissioners-decisions/surrey website, and includes his reasons for rejecting a claim to a small amount of the common land by the then owner of Great Oaks..
The reason cited by the commissioner for deciding ownership was a conveyance in 1957 by FW Smallpiece to Surrey County Council of about 65% of Rickford Common to Surrey County Council “as a gift”.
Fair enough, but who was this FW Smallpiece, and how did he come to own such a large part of Rickford Common?
These are unanswered questions. It seems that a Frederick W Smallpiece (born 1885 in Claygate) lived in Cheam right up to the 1960’s. It is quite possible that he was the donor, but we don’t know how he acquired the land. As noted elsewhere on this site, in 1911 Blanket Mill was owned by a Humphrey Smallpeice, who was clerk to the Guildford Borough Magistrates. Could Frederick be related to Humphrey? Humphrey died in 1920, single, aged 62, so it would appear unlikely. Perhaps the common had been originally owned by Worplesdon Manor, and was sold to Frederick Smallpiece during the 20th century. This is possible, but quite why someone who lived in Cheam would want to buy Rickford Common is hard to answer. (PS The author of this site spent the first 25 years of his life in Cheam).
As an aside, there are a few apple trees on either side of Goose Rye Road, one of which is quite large, and produces rather good fruit. The easiest time to identify them is at blossom time. I can only imagine they are self-sown, for which our thanks are due to the local bird population.