The Buildings in The Mill area
Rickford Mill & The Old Mill House (up to c1970)
The history of Rickford Mill and the current day Old Mill House is a little confusing. They are on opposite sides of the Guildford-Bagshot Road, but until 1924, they were (for most of the time) under single ownership. Accordingly I have considered them together in this section. With a little speculation (in addition to more reliable evidence) we have pieced together their long history.
Until 1970 The Mill (to the east of the road) was just that – a mill, with some outbuildings, but no dwelling attached. In the very early days (prior to 1800) it could be that the miller lived at the mill, but this is uncertain. The mill was a working mill until sometime after the Second World War.
The Old Mill House (to the west of the road) was known as “The Millhouse” or “Rickford Mill House” and was a dwelling, usually occupied by the miller. Generally the mill owner was an absentee landlord, but sometimes they lived in the Old Mill House as well as the miller.
Now to the detailed history, which we’ll deal with in 6 separate stages.
Stage 1: 1680 - 1818
The earliest documentary mention of this property is a mortgage in 1680 by Henry Clifton, gentleman, for 1,000 years for £500 to Nathaniel Woods of Shere. By modern day standards, this is a very generous mortgage term, but at the time, it was standard for a particular type of mortgage called a mortgage by demise. Several properties were secured by the mortgage, and they included a dwelling, barn, garden and orchard near Rickford Bridge. This was Rickford Millhouse, (now The Old Mill House) as it is on the west side of the Guildford – Bagshot Road, but doesn’t specifically mention the mill (on the other side of the road).
Although this was owned by Henry Clifton (our first example of an absentee landlord), it was occupied by Robert Cobbett and James Slade (presumably millers). It abutted east on the highway, west and south on the Common, north on land of Thomas Ockley.
Seventeen years later, in 1697, another deed is more specific. It covers a dwelling called “called Rickford House, watermill and millhouse adjoining called Rickford Mill”, parcels of 4 acres of meadow adjoining what was called Rickford House, and 3 closes of 13 acres of arable land on the south side of Rickford Brook.
So as well as 17 acres of land, this seems to cover 3 separate properties:
• Rickford House (today part of the Christmas Bakery complex and covered below)
• Rickford Mill
• The Old Mill House.
Although the Bakery, the Mill and the Old Millhouse are separately owned now, it is perhaps not too surprising that they were under common ownership 300 years ago. After all, the location would have been fairly isolated at the time, with the nearest settlements of Worplesdon and Pirbright each being about a mile distant, with only the occasional house or farm (usually set well back from the road) between them.
The transaction is the purchase of the property by Thomas and Sarah Hoad (the people who bought and gave their name to “Hoad’s Land” in Pirbright). It also covered some properties on the north side of Rickford Brook (29 acres in all, mainly in Pirbright). It seems that Thomas & Sarah took out a mortgage (from Lawrence Porter of Woking) to finance the purchase. Presumably Thomas and Sarah lived at Rickford House, and worked the mill, but also owned the 29 acres of fields as well as the 7 acres of Hoad’s Land – presumably to grow corn to supply the mill. Thomas was a sickle-maker, and would have been kept busy supplying his workforce with sharp sickles.
Rickford Mill is mentioned on the 1729 Senex map.
By 1752, after passing through a few different hands, the 3 properties (comprising “Rickford House, watermill and millhouse adjoining called Rickford Mill” and 12 additional acres) were owned by one Henry Harwood, a miller.
5 years later in 1757 the properties were split, with what was then called Rickford Millhouse (today The Old Mill House), “orchards, gardens, backsides, buildings, ponds, a 2 acre meadow, and 2 closes of 2 acres arable” and Rickford House being sold to John Legg, a yeoman of Worplesdon. The mill (with no land) was sold to John Hackman senior, of Cranleigh. By this time, Henry Harwood was an innkeeper in Guildford.
The buildings show clearly on the 1768 Rocque map.
But by 1782 the Mill and the Millhouse (but not Rickford House) had been re-combined under the ownership and occupation of John Newey, a miller. They were to remain under common ownership for the next 140 years. In 1782 the property included a small dwelling and a Meeting House, although it is not clear where these were.
On John Newey’s death in 1791 the Mill and the Millhouse passed to his wife, Elizabeth Bottrill. Rickford House was probably sold to a Francis Ottway.
27 years later, in 1818, Elizabeth Bottrill advertised the properties for sale (see below). A couple of details are worth noting:
A couple of details are worth noting:
First there is mention of a messuage (ie a dwelling) adjoining the Mill. This must be the “small dwelling” referred to in 1782. However in later years this does not seem to have been in use as a dwelling.
Secondly, The Millhouse is described as a “Cottage Residence”, which doesn’t describe at all well today’s house. This suggests that the original building was demolished in the first half of the 19th century, and the present building built in the Georgian style in its place.
1818 had one of the warmest, driest and longest summers in living memory, and perhaps this was part of the reason for the sale (mills needed flowing water to work).
Although the Mill and the Millhouse were advertised as 2 separate lots, they were both sold to Charles Clubbe (from Suffolk) and Ann Wyatt, a widow. This marks the first of a string of absentee landlords who owned the properties for the next 70 years.
Stage 2: The property owners 1818 - 1900
In 1833 it (the combined estate of the Mill and the Millhouse) was again advertised for sale, again as separate lots, and again the Millhouse was described as a cottage. It was purchased by Edward James Baker, from Guildford.
The tithe map of c1840 states that the properties were occupied by Henry Baker, who was probably Edward’s brother. The tithe map also shows that The Old Mill House is similar in size and shape to today’s building, and so it may well have been Edward Baker who was responsible for rebuilding it between 1833 and 1840.
Edward died in 1844 and his will specified that his freeholds and copyholds in Worplesdon should pass to his brother (Richard Henry) and nephew. However it appears that the lands were sold to the Manor of Bridley soon after Edward’s death.
The Lord of the Manor of Bridley at this time was James Bourdillon, a prominent solicitor, living in Winchester St, London until at least 1847.
After James Bourdillon’s death (date uncertain), Alexander Robertson purchased the manor of Bridley (including Rickford Mill and the Millhouse). Originally a ship-owning foreign merchantman, he became an MP in the 1820’s in Cornwall in a borough which was soon disenfranchised for corruption. He moved to Hoe Place, Woking, in the mid-1820’s, and traded in India, South America and Cuba amongst others.
He died in 1857, and in his will he directed all his estates to be sold. He left bequests of £80,000, which today would be worth well over £5 million – so presumably his commercial activities were successful. He left half of his wealth to his daughter Margaret, who according to his will was “of unsound mind and incapacitated from managing herself and her affairs” and who died a spinster in 1892, leaving £40,000 (worth around £3 million today).
Fortunately for us, a detailed map was produced to support the 1857 sale. Even better, the map is in excellent condition. An extract from the map (below) shows the area in detail. The Old Mill House was a dwelling (because it was coloured pink), but the Mill itself (and the “small dwelling” next to it was not (as it was coloured grey).
We know that a John (or Thomas) Baker was living in the vicinity in 1856 because he was sued by his neighbour Henry Eade (who was tenant of the Millhouse and the Mill) for damaging his crops. It seems that Baker's geese had got onto Eade's island (which you can see on the map at the rear of the Millhouse, numbered 364), and Baker trod down Eade's peas and beans in trying to rescue them. Sounds a rather trivial matter, but it managed to reach the local newspapers. A few weeks later, Baker was charged for abusing Henry Ede (Eade) whenever he left the church on a Sunday. I can’t trace who this John (or Thomas) Baker was, but maybe he was related to Edward Baker, a previous owner.
As an aside, Edward Baker’s grandson-in-law, James Goldsmith junior, who lived in Southsea, appeared on the electoral register as owning freehold land (but no buildings) in Worplesdon from 1869 until c1905. His father had been left property in Pirbright in Edward Baker’s will of 1844, but I can’t identify where this land was.
The Mill and the Millhouse were offered as a single lot by the executors of Alexander Robertson in 1857, but the whole Bridley estate was purchased by Sir William Fletcher Norton, who was the 3rd Lord Grantley. The Grantleys were significant landowners in Bramley, Wonersh and Dunsfold in the 1800’s. Fletcher, 3rd Lord Grantley, Baron of Markenfield, York, late of Grantley Hall, Yorkshire, Wonersh Park and 10, Wilton Place died in August 1875 with an estate less than £16,000 (worth £1 million today).
You can read about him and his predecessors on the Wonersh History Society website. It’s not a flattering description, but while you’re on the site, make sure you read about his brother, George – a particularly bad person.
In 1877, Major William Ewing purchased the entire Bridley estate. I can’t trace much about Major Ewing, but he was a retired major in The Tower Hamlets Militia, who died in the Hotel Continental, Paris on 22 April 1888 with a personal estate of £246,000 (worth around £20 million today). He came from a distinguished family, as outlined below.
His will was proved by his younger brother, Baronet Sir Archibald Orr Ewing of Ballinkinrain castle, Stirlingshire. Sir Archibald, was a Conservative MP for 24 years and was created the first baronet Orr Ewing of Ballikinrain (which is about 15 miles north of Glasgow).
His great grandson, Sir Ian Orr Ewing was a Conservative MP for 20 years, and was also created a baronet (of Hendon) in 1963. Both baronetcies still exist today, with both barons being in their 80’s.
After Major Ewing’s death in 1888, the entire Bridley estate was again auctioned off in lots, again with a detailed plan (not in quite such good condition), partially reproduced below.
As usual, there are things of interest in this plan. The Mill is now a dwelling (coloured pink), and there is another dwelling next to the Millhouse. The property now extends well into Pirbright, right up to Fox Corner (the sharp corner in the road just before The Fox pub). Brook Farm is now within the Bridley estate, but this is dealt with in a separate section below.
At the auction, Lot 5, including the Mill and the Millhouse, was bought by James Terry, a wheelwright and miller, and grandson of James Terry, who had owned a great deal of land in Worplesdon (including Brook Farm and Blanket Mill Farm) in the early part of the century. The Terry family is detailed here. The fields in Pirbright were auctioned off in 1890 as 8 plots of building land.
Thus, after a period of 70 years, the Mill ceased to be an investment property, instead being owned by the miller himself. This was not to last long though...
Stage 3: The tenants 1818 - 1900
Having dealt with ownership of the properties in the 19th century, let’s examine the tenants.
From 1824, the Mill and Millhouse were leased to a series of millers, starting with Richard Nunns, who erected a new mill on the site. After Richard Nunns came John Turner (1830’s), William Banham (1840’s), and Henry Eade (1850’s and 1860’s, of trodden peas fame – refer above).
At some stage in the 1860’s, William Foster (from Suffolk) became the tenant, forming a business, Foster & Son, which placed several newspaper advertisements for their corn-related products as far afield as Reading until his death in 1877. At that point his son took over the business and kept it running until 1891.
John Wonham, a miller, had also been living there and working in the business since 1881.
James Terry lived for only a short time at Rickford Mill House, as he died in 1900. However, in 1892 he had only been living there a couple of years when he and the other Rickford inhabitants must have been startled by a very distressing incident: The dead body of a new-born female child was found wrapped in a parcel, floating in the Rickford Mill stream.
The inquest was held at The Fox, and James Christmas (of Rickford House) was chosen as foreman of the jury (inquests were different in those days). This is what had happened:
When the body was discovered, James Terry (described as “the master of the mill”) was sent for (since presumably it was nearest to his land where the body was found). The local policeman, PC Upfold, carried the body to The Fox, where it was unwrapped. The baby had died of suffocation (not drowning) and had died 8-10 days earlier. It turns out that the baby belonged to a young girl, Emma Jarratt, who was visiting the area (she was a cousin of PC Upfold and was visiting her sister, who had been PC Upfold's housekeeper since Mrs Upfold had died. PC Upfold did not realise she was pregnant, or had given birth, although he knew she had been unwell). She said she had "rolled the body up and given it to one of those foreign boys selling onions. I asked him to throw it away."
The verdict was wilful murder, and she was committed for trial at the Central Criminal Court. There, she pleaded guilty to unlawfully endeavouring to conceal the birth of a child, and found guilty of that, and required to provide sureties (guarantees of future good behaviour). Presumably there was insufficient evidence to prove murder, or perhaps she was too young to be charged with that?
As an aside, Emma Nora Jarratt was born at Croydon in November 1876. She married Albert Stemp, a gardener, at Croydon in 1899 and they had a son, Albert. She died at Croydon in 1950.
Stage 4: 1900 - 1966
After James’s death in 1900, the Mill and Millhouse were auctioned as separate lots, but both were bought by Frederick Young from London, who set up his own business, Young & Co, millers. This was a brave career move, as prior to this he had been a “Licensed victualler” (ie pub landlord) in Kentish Town.
James Terry had retained John Wonham’s son, Thomas, in the business until his (James’s) death in 1900. Thomas remained for a few years, helping Frederick run the mill, but Thomas and his wife Naomi soon moved to Pirbright Cottages, and in 1911 Thomas was working as a miller at Heath Mill near Fox Corner.
In the 1911 census, Frederick gave his occupation as licensed victualler rather than miller, suggesting perhaps that his new career was not working out as well as he had hoped. The business had also changed its name to AM Young & Co. The initials were probably those of his wife (Alice Maud), suggesting that she was now running the business.
In 1912, the business placed an ad in the local newspaper, announcing that AM Young & Co (Rickford Mills Ltd) was opening a Guildford branch at 85, Woodbridge Rd (opposite the Cattle Market). They were selling corn, seed cake, “artificial manure” (which sounds unpleasant, but was simply decomposed straw, grass clippings, etc – what we now call compost), and hay & straw.
Below is a photo of the Mill at that time, proudly showing the name AM Young & Co. There is a barn-like building just behind and to the right of the Mill, which first appears on the 1915 OS map. Also, the Hoe Stream seems a lot wider and less congested than today!
However there seems to have been some unpleasantness within the Young family, since the following year, there was a clearance sale by the receiver “following the case of Young v AM Young & Co Ltd in the Chancery Court”. 2 Foden Steam wagons, horses, cattle, pigs, poultry, feed and 10 tons of steam coal were offered for sale. What was going on here? Why had Frederick brought a case against his wife’s business? Perhaps the Court had ruled in favour of Frederick, and this was the reason for the business collapsing? Whatever was happening, the Youngs soon left the area.
By 1916 the Mill was run by Daniel Taylor. Taylor & Sons was a milling business at Bramley, with shops at Bedford House in Onslow St and 10, Swan Lane, Guildford, selling poultry food, and must have been quite well known in the area. I presume that they bought the Mill and Millhouse from the Youngs.
The business had the distinction of installing one of the earliest telephones in Worplesdon – their phone number was Worplesdon 4. Taylor & Sons continued running the mill until after the Second World War. Below is a picture (courtesy of David Rose) of the mill some time when it was under Taylor & Sons ownership. It’s a very tranquil scene.
The Taylors ran Rickford Mill as a branch of their main Bramley business, and this allowed them to separate Rickford Mill from Rickford Mill House (as had happened in 1757 for a few years).
In 1951, 9 people were injured “when a motorcoach on its way from High Wycombe to Worthing collided with a ballast lorry at Rickford Mill”, as reported in The Times. The side of the coach was ripped off – the peaceful Rickford environment must have been startled somewhat.
I can find no record of the Taylors’ milling business after 1945. However, J Hillier in his 1951 book “Old Surrey Water-Mills” recounts his conversation with the miller (unnamed, but with many years of experience), so we can assume that it was still operating at that time. Hillier admired the mill’s construction, and estimated its age at 150-200 years (an understatement by at least 70 years). He also noted several old features within it, even though the wheel had been replaced by a turbine. His comments about Rickford Mill contrast strongly with those written about Heath Mill a few hundred yards away. He described the latter as having “no more pretensions to architecture than a sentry-box”.
Stage 5: The Old Mill House 1924 - date
In 1924, the Taylors decided to sell the Millhouse as a separate property, and a Lt Col Frederick Hugh Windrum from London (born in 1864) purchased it. He remained there until at least 1945, living alone, as his wife, Rose had died 14 years earlier. He maintained a flat very near Waterloo, which he presumably used as a convenient pied-a-terre for his social engagements in London. He died in Greenwich in 1952. Why had he chosen out-of-the-way Rickford as a home? Perhaps he had spent time based at Pirbright when he was a serving officer, and liked the area.
In 1954 Julian and Mary Huxtable moved into the Old Mill House. Julian was a successful insurance broker and Lloyds underwriter. In the 60’s he was a Vice President of Worplesdon Cricket Club and every year brought a side down from London to play Worplesdon. Apparently Worplesdon always won, because the visiting team, despite having better players, had been partying so much that by the time they arrived for a 2pm start on the Sunday, they were generally the worse for wear.
Julian and Mary’s daughter, Judy (born in 1942), was an actress who was married to Peter Cook for 16 years between 1973 and 1989. Each of them had been married once before, but according to Judy, it was Peter Cook’s drinking that caused their split and eventual divorce. In her interview with The Independent in 2011, she describes herself as “child of alcoholics, so I accepted things I otherwise might not have”.
The Huxtables remained at the Old Mill House until at least 1963. Julian died in 1970, and Mary in 1988.
In 1967, The Old Mill House was listed as a Grade II building. The listing particulars are:
“Mid C18 with C20 extensions and alterations. Red brick on part rendered plinth with hipped plain tiled roof. T shaped plan. 2 storeys with plat band over ground floor and moulded brick eaves stringcourse. Colourwashed stack to ridge of rear wing. Regular front of three bays, with 12-pane glazing bar sash windows under gauged brick heads. Central first floor window arched in wooden keystone frame. Central 6 panel door, top four panels fielded, under flat bracketed hood. One bay set back to right with single storey extension to right end.
Left hand return front: 6 fielded panel door under traceried transome light in an Ionic porch with fluted columns on pedestals - C20.”
The Old Mill House was put up for sale in 1992 and again in 2006. The estate agents’ sale particulars refer to 10 acres of riverside gardens, meadows and 5 paddocks, as well as 8 stables, other outbuildings, a swimming pool, fishing lake and island. Phew! A photo of it in 2001 is shown below:
Stage 6: Rickford Mill 1966 - date
In 1966, the Mill was put up for sale, with planning consent for conversion into a residence. The accompanying picture is shown below. The building behind the mill can be clearly seen now, and there is a lot less vegetation than previously.
An article in a property magazine in 1973 reported that such a conversion had happened “4 or 5 years ago”, and that the property was due to be offered for sale again later in the year. The advert for this sale (in The Times) is shown below.
The Mill has been a private residence ever since. The estate agents’ particulars in 1992 note that the property includes 4 bedrooms, a 500 foot frontage to Stanford Brook (ie The Hoe Stream), a guest cottage and 1.75 acres including a paddock.
The Christmas Bakery is probably the most well-known property in Rickford, and forms part of the property named Rickford House. The Christmas Bakery website tells the story of the bakery from the perspective of the business and its continued ownership by the Christmas family over 5 generations. It’s a great read, with some wonderful photographs.
But what do the records tell us about the building? And who started the business, and when?
Firstly, the origins of the building: The purchase of Rickford House is mentioned in deeds of 1697 and 1752, and is detailed in the section dealing with the Mill and Millhouse above (as both deeds cover all 3 properties). We won’t repeat those details here.
By 1770, all 3 properties were owned by John Legg. After he and his wife died, Rickford House was separated from the Mill and the Millhouse, and sold to Francis Ottway (or Ottaway) in 1777. Francis was born in Sutton (ie Sutton Green) in 1747, married Elizabeth Older in Worplesdon in October 1768, who gave birth to Martha in Send in January 1769, and 3 further daughters in the following years.
Francis died in 1818 and left his estate to his 4 daughters, which included Martha, who by that time had married Richard Huntingford, son of the Richard Huntingford who had been disinherited in his father’s will (refer Nightingale Cottage elsewhere on this site). Francis’s will was at pains to explain that Martha had been given some assets (not specified) prior to Francis’s death, and therefore her share of the deceased estate should be lower than her 3 sisters. It seems that these unspecified assets comprised Rickford House. Richard and Martha had been living there since c1805, and, in 1812, the property had been transferred to Richard.
Richard and Martha Huntingford lived in Rickford House until c1828, at which point they moved to Stoke (the area between Worplesdon and Guildford) and let out Rickford House. Martha died in 1831, and Richard in 1837, at which point Rickford House was sold.
The buyer was a Francis Jackson, who was an absentee landlord, living in Stoke, and the property was let out to various people. By 1851, the property had been purchased by James Heather, aged 30, whose father, John Heather, ran a shop next door at Rickford Cottage (see section below). At around this time, the property may have been rebuilt, as today’s building does not appear to be as old as those early property transactions suggest.
In 1861 James Heather (described in the census as a shopkeeper) still lived in Rickford House, but had recently been joined by James Christmas, a baker, who was the son of Daniel Christmas, a baker and grocer of Windlesham.
By 1870, James Christmas had purchased Rickford House (copyhold) from James Heather for £50 (about £3,500 in 2020 – a bargain if ever there was one). Now a master baker, he continued the bakery business, based at Rickford House
Let’s temporarily switch from the building to examine the origins of the business:
The earliest mention of a business is in 1830, when one John Heather witnessed a document and helpfully gave his address as “Shop”. In the 1841 census John Heather, aged 45, was a grocer in Rickford. The obvious assumption would be that John Heather ran some form of shop, but where was it? Was it on the site of the current bakery?
Neither the 1841 nor 1851 censuses are clear as to the exact location. But the c1840 Tithe Map shows a dwelling just to the north west of Rickford House with a small patch of land owned and occupied by John Heather, identified as No 362. It lay between Rickford House and the Millhouse, and was called Rickford Cottage (and is covered in the section below).
In 1851, John Heather was a farmer, and his son, James, was a shopkeeper, both in the vicinity of the mill. The Post Office directory in that year lists James as a “grocer and baker”, and the electoral rolls confirm that he owned a house and land in Rickford. The 1857 map of the sale of the Bridley estate clarifies that James Heather (aged 39) then lived in Rickford House. His father John (aged 63) lived next door at Rickford Cottage.
So what is the bigger picture behind all this?
One conclusion is that the original grocer’s shop was run at least from 1830 (and possibly before then) to 1841 from Rickford Cottage by John Heather. He handed the business over to his son, James Heather, and c1851 James moved the shop next door into Rickford House (which he had purchased freehold) and established himself there. Around 1861, he recruited James Christmas as a specialist baker, and within a few years James Heather had retired and moved out.
Back to Rickford House, which had been owned since 1870 by James Christmas. As well as being a baker and grocer, James also described himself as a farmer. In 1884, he advertised for a stockman to help “kill pigs, cure bacon, etc”, so he was presumably a pig farmer. He was a well-known public figure in Worplesdon life, with frequent mentions in the local newspapers, as described here.
In 1891, Rickford House was described as a “Bake House & Grocer Shop”.
James died in 1895, but Rickford House stayed within the Christmas family, enhanced over the years by various alterations and additions. After James’s death it passed to his widow, Sarah, and then through the generations to their son Ernest and his wife Alice, and their son James and his wife, Bertha. It remained within the family until at least 2010 and I presume still does. Above is a photo from 1907 (courtesy of the Christmas Bakery website), together with a more modern picture.
Rickford Cottage (now demolished)
As described above, Rickford Cottage was probably the original site of the shop at Rickford, run by John Heather before his son James moved it c1851 next door into Rickford House. I have no knowledge of it prior to 1840 (when it appeared on the tithe map).
John Heather continued to live at Rickford Cottage until his death in 1861, aged 67, at which time he described himself as a retired gamekeeper.
It looks as though the cottage was left by John Heather to Ellen Turner (aged 18), his “granddaughter” (as described here) and housekeeper who was living with him at the time of his death. In 1863 she was granted 4 rods (about 100 square metres) of waste ground by the manor of Worplesdon to the front of the house. The combined property was sold by her to George Turner (her father), a farm labourer aged 41, in 1864, the year she was married.
George and his family lived there until he died in 1890, leaving a personal estate of just £22. Henrietta, George’s wife and an invalid, was moved the Guildford Union (the workhouse in Warren Road) in 1891 and died there 2 years later.
Rickford Cottage was put up for sale by auction in 1891 as a 6-room cottage, with an outhouse and a good garden and seems to have been bought by William Gill, a labourer aged 59 and relative of the Turners.
There was, however, a very unfortunate incident connected with the property in 1904. At the time, Walter Turner (George’s youngest son) was living there, together with his grandfather, William Gill. William (who was “feeble and short-sighted”) was walking home from The Fox around 8pm, having had a quiet pint or 2, when he fell into the Hoe Stream by Rickford Mill. It was February, the weather was “rough and dark”, and the stream was “swollen with floods”.
Because of the flooded river, his body was not found until 2 days later. There was an open space next to the bridge, where drovers got water for their horses, and it was assumed he had entered the water at that point. His body was found 30 yards away, at the back of The Mill, with a bottle of stout, a half-penny, a tobacco-box and a knife about his person.
The coroner’s verdict was accidental death. A side-benefit was that it focused the local council’s attention to the poor state of the bridge and its railings, and the narrowness of the “lane”, especially as “traffic of all descriptions was increasing”. Tragic as this incident was, it gives us a vivid insight into a piece of Rickford life at the time.
Even though it was a brick-built building, the history of Rickford Cottage gives hints that it may not have been in the best condition, and by 1911 the cottage had been demolished. It does not appear on the 1911 census, or on the 1915 OS map. Perhaps it was purchased by Frederick Young of The Old Mill House before being demolished. Whatever happened, if there are any remains, then they are now somewhere beneath the garden of The Old Mill House.
Located between The Old Mill House and Rickford House, this house was built fairly recently.
Olive Cottage (now Windleberry Cottage)
The earliest reference to Olive Cottage is in 1911, when it was occupied by John Fry, a “miller’s merchant and traveller”. Presumably he worked for Frederick Young the miller at the next door mill. After the First World War, Robert and Sarah Luxford and their family moved in. They seem to have moved around the south of England quite a bit, and had arrived from Godalming. However they must have liked Rickford, because they decided to settle here, and remained there until c1954, when Robert died.
In 1931, Sarah and her daughter Ida had the misfortune to be attacked by an intruder. Sarah’s arm and wrist were broken in the attack. Ida had several cuts to her neck and face. One would suppose that the attacker would have had the sense to make himself scarce, but instead, he was found “at the top of a tall elm tree about a quarter of a mile away”. The 27 year-old attacker, Cyril Deeth, lived at Pirbright Green. He was charged with attempted murder of Ida. During the trial, it emerged that Ida had refused to become engaged to Deeth “because he had a bad temper”. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison. After he was released Mr Deeth married and settled in Farnham. He died in 1986, leaving an estate worth £100,000. Ida also married, settling in Mayford. She died in 1983.
After 1954 there isn’t much in the records to specify who lived at Olive Cottage, nor when (or why) it was renamed Windleberry Cottage.
I am not certain as to the origins of Brook Farm. It does not appear on the 1768 Rocque map, but Land Tax records suggest that in 1780 both Brook and Blanket Mill farms were owned by Mary Burlace, a 52 year-old widow, and occupied by a tenant farmer.
By 1784 the property had been split: The smaller of 2 fields had been passed to Mary’s son, Henry Burlace, aged 24. However the building and main field were bought by John Creuze, a jeweller from London, and Henry Burlace was the tenant farmer. This state of affairs was tidied 4 years later, when John Creuze bought Henry’s land off him.
Henry remained as tenant farmer until c1796, but perhaps he was dogged by ill health, because he gave up Brook Farm and died just 3 years later, aged 41. Two other tenant farmers, Timothy Woods and James Lucas farmed Brook Farm until 1818, and James Lucas worked alone until 1831 (and possibly longer).
By 1840, however, it was owned by James Terry, who also owned Blanket Mill Farm. It was occupied by Henry Cooke, who was farming 7 acres there. Henry was the father of Abraham Cooke (who owned Stonebridge Cottage from c1880 until his death in 1882).
James Terry died in 1859, and his properties appear to have passed to his son George. Brook Farm was immediately (in 1860) sold. It was described as “a desirable small compact farm with 18 acres of excellent meadow & arable land”. The increase in size from 7 acres back in 1840 had arisen through the addition of 2 adjacent fields also owned by James Terry. The purchaser was Sarah Marshall of Godalming, widow of George Marshall, a wealthy timber merchant and property owner, who had died in 1854.
In 1874, Sarah Marshall died, and her estate was valued at “under £35,000”. Although this sounds a modest amount, it was in fact a large sum, equivalent to a few million pounds today. As an illustration, at that time it would have bought well over 2,000 horses.
After the death of Sarah Marshall, the freehold was sold, with James Heather (the shopkeeper who had lived in Rickford House) as the sitting tenant (which he was for at least 4 years before then, and continued to be up to at least 1881).
Presumably it was bought by the Bridley estate, since in 1888, Brook Farm was sold as part of the sale of the entire Bridley estate. It can be seen on the sale plan produced at the time, which is shown in the section above on Rickford Mill and Millhouse.
At the time it was being let to Messrs T & W Slaughter. They stayed there for just 2 years (1887-88) and placed an advert in the 1887 Kelly’s Directory.
In 1891 Brook Farm was occupied by a retired naval pensioner, James Wallis, and his family. At some stage during the following 10 years the Wallis’s moved to the newly-built Cook’s Cottages (see the page dealing with the houses on the Guildford – Bagshot Road), and the family then remained in Rickford for the ensuing 80 years.
During the 1890’s a market gardener, Job Cooke, and his wife Elizabeth moved into Brook Farm. If the surname seems familiar, Job was the son of Abraham Cooke, who was the son of Henry Cooke, who had lived in Brook Farm in 1840. Job’s brothers included Moses and Aaron, so it was clearly another family who liked biblical names (the Terrys seemed quite partial to them as well).
Job and his wife stayed at Brook Farm until c1923, when they moved to Chertsey. Job died in 1940, without having had any children.
Brook farm was then purchased by William and Winifred Enever. William had been born at Fernside, and was the brother of Albert, whose recollections of life in early 20th century Rickford we have quoted several times on these pages. William and Winifred remained in Brook Farm until the Second World War, at which point they moved out of the area to Shackleford.
In the early 1950’s, the Ellis’s moved into Brook Farm. They were a set of 3 brothers (Gilbert, Donald and Frederick), who were born in the early 20th century in Cove, Frimley. Frederick Ellis was the owner of Brook Farm. They operated a growers business (J Ellis & Sons) with their parents out of Brook Farm and Lantana (which is just north of Rickford Malthouse on the Guildford – Bagshot Road). The author of these pages remembers buying a Bramley apple tree in the early 1990’s from the Ellises, and it is still going strong today.
None of the Ellis brothers married, and they died in 1982 (Frederick), 1995 (Gilbert) and 2000 (Donald). At that point Brook Farm was sold to the owner of Crastock Manor. In recent years 3 dwellings have been built next to the farmhouse.
Norton Farm (sometimes referred to as Norton’s Farm)
Norton Farm was the largest property in Rickford, and remains one of the largest today.
I can only find one early reference to Norton Farm, this time from 1743, when Bach and Handel were still alive and composing their music. It was the subject of a marriage settlement in which Edward Ford undertook to transfer “Norton at Rickford Bridge in the manor of Worplesdon” to the trustees of his wife-to-be, Olivia Place.
It appears on the 1768 Rocque map, and by 1780 it was owned by a John Field, and occupied by John Collins. By 1787 it was owned by William Collins, and it remained within the Collins family for over 70 years.
William never married, and after his death in 1814, the farm passed down the generations, for periods of relatively short ownership. First it went to his nephew Henry. Henry died in 1826, and the farm then passed to his son William, until his death in 1841, then William’s son William until 1860. At this time the farm was 100 acres. William (the youngest) died in 1863, leaving his wife, Hannah, who went to live with her late husband’s brother and his family at Whipley Farm on the other side of Worplesdon. She died in 1875.
After 1860 the farm was bought by Charles Peyto Shrubb, and became part of his Merrist Wood estate. Charles was one of a line of wealthy Guildford landowners, and was living in Hampshire. He was rapidly expanding the size of Merrist Wood by buying surrounding properties. Norton Farm was recorded as 150 acres at the time of purchase.
After 1860, Charles remained as an absentee landlord, and the farm was occupied by various different tenants: Thomas Gladwin until c 1873, and then John Christmas junior from 1884 until his death in 1903. John Christmas is one of Worplesdon’s most famous residents, having used Norton Farm as a base from which to make an exciting range of wines. For the details of this story, please switch to the relevant page on this site.
Charles Peyto Shrubb died in 1899 (at Merrist Wood), and the estate continued to be owned by his family. For 35 years after 1903 there was a succession of relatively short tenancies.
In 1933 there was an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease at the farm, which caused a restriction order to be placed over an area with a radius of 15 miles from the farm. It is ironic (and maybe fortunate) that the outbreak was less than a mile from the UK’s leading research centre into the disease (which had started its research just 8 years previously). The disease was not very common at that time, and the measures taken to control the outbreak locally were effective, as the order was lifted after just 3 weeks. There were over 30 similar outbreaks in the south east of England at the time, most of which apparently originated from a loading bank at Reading.
The Merrist Wood estate was bought by Surrey County Council in 1939. The intention was to use Merrist Wood House as a mental institution but World War II intervened, and after the cessation of hostilities it was decided that here was the perfect site for the County Farm Institute, which opened in 1945. I assume that the farm continued to be run by tenant farmers at this time.
In 1963 the farm was sold by Surrey County Council after extensive modernisation for £8,800. It was described as “originally 3 Elizabethan cottages”. The farm was sold with 13 acres.
In 1995 the property received some unwelcome media attention during a court case brought by the well-known footballer Graeme Souness against The People newspaper, which had printed allegations of poor treatment of his wife. Souness had bought Norton Farm for his wife Danielle and their children (in the late 1980’s?) after his marriage breakdown. The purchase (for several hundred thousand pounds) was made through a trust, the CFJ Trust, which was named after his 3 children.
In 2020 the house was offered for sale as 7 bedrooms, 5 reception rooms, outbuildings and 12.5 acres. The initial asking price was close to £4 million. Pictures of Norton Farm in 1959 and 2020 are shown below. Clearly some gardening work has been done in the intervening 61 years.