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Rickford Families - The Christmases

The Christmases of Worplesdon arrived from Windlesham c 1860 in the shape of James Christmas.  But let's first examine James's forebears.


James’s father, Daniel Christmas (born in Alton), was a “baker and grocer” in Windlesham and had been in charge of the local post office.  He died in 1883 aged 82, as “one of the oldest and most respected inhabitants” in the parish, working until the day before his death, “having retained all his faculties”, according to the newspaper of the day.

Daniel’s father (also Daniel) had been a butcher

The family’s forebears can be traced back to the mid 1600’s in Selborne, just south of Alton, the home of the naturalist, Gilbert White in the 1700’s.  Prior to that, an earlier forebear, Thomas Christmas, was living in Binsted, also near Alton, in the early 1500’s. 

Quite a dynasty, but now back to James.

When James Christmas arrived in Worplesdon c1860, he joined James Heather in the Rickford Bakery as a specialist baker.Within a few years James Heather had retired and moved out, and by 1870 James Christmas owned Rickford House, together with the bakery business.

As well as running his business, James was quite a public figure in Worplesdon.  Newspaper reports show that he was involved in an impressive number of activities, including (spoiler alert – this is a long and not very exciting list) being a local waywarden (a member of the local Highway Board, which was responsible for the upkeep of roads), assistant overseer (of the poor), member of the School Board, committee member of Worplesdon Hunt Cricket Club, committee member of the Worplesdon Agricultural Association, committee member of the Ripley & Knaphill Harriers, Secretary of the Worplesdon Conservative Association, vice-chairman of the Guildford Highways Board, member of the Worplesdon branch of the Ancient Order of Foresters (subsequently renamed the Modern Order of Foresters), Churchwarden (at St Mary’s), and General Secretary and Treasurer of the Jubilee Committee (1887).  

Judging by the reports, these positions required James’s attendance at numerous dinners (usually held at the New Inn, The Cricketers or The White Hart, but rarely at The Fox).  Invariably a good time was had by all at these dinners, which often included singing.  James was prominent by the number of toasts he made.  How did he find time to bake any bread?

2 of the more interesting stories concerning James follow:

In 1885, the (usually non-controversial) vote for the 5 members of the Worplesdon School Board engendered some excitement with the nomination of a sixth candidate (John Wonham, who lived close to James at Rickford Mill) in addition to the 5 sitting members, who included James Christmas. Newspaper ads were taken out, urging residents to vote against Mr Wonham.  On Election Day, the 5 sitting members “ran together working themselves hard throughout the day”.  One resident “lent his break and a pair of horses, accompanied by a gentleman who enlivened the day’s proceedings by constantly blowing a horn to announce the whereabouts of the conveyance.”  And all for the election of the local School Board.  The 5 sitting members were returned again, with James Christmas securing the highest vote.  Interestingly, the newspaper article points out that this was the first election by ballot which had ever been held in the parish, which possibly explains the hoopla.

In 1891, James sued a Pirbright farmer, who alleged a series of short deliveries from James and was withholding payment of £85 (£7,000 today).  The case was held at Guildford County Court and won by James after the judge had said “there was a want of truth on one side or the other”, and he believed that James was telling the truth.  An independent observation on James’s character perhaps?

James and his wife, Sarah, had 8 children, one of whom (Ernest Frank), continued the bakery business.  Here are some  facts about James’s life:

  • 1836:  Born in Windlesham, one of 9 children.  Windlesham is on the other side of the M3 at Junction 3, about 7 miles from Worplesdon.

  • 1859:  Married Sarah Davis at Windlesham

  • 1861:  Lived at Rickford House, along with James Heather and his family.

  • 1870:  Purchased Rickford House from James Heather for £50.

  • 1881 – 95:  Lived at Rickford House.

  • 1883:  James proved his father’s will after the latter’s death in Windlesham.

  • 1895:  Death of James at home in Rickford House.

When James died, his wife, Sarah, ran the business until her death in 1906.  Their son, Ernest Frank, then took over the business.  He was the 7th of the 8 children, but presumably baking in Rickford did not appeal to the others (although the 2nd child, Charles Edward, became a baker in Thursley). 

Ernest and his wife, Alice, followed in the Christmas family tradition of having big families (7 children).  Here is a summary of what we know about Ernest Frank:

  • 1874:  Born in Worplesdon.

  • 1908:  Married Alice Maude Walbridge at Southampton.

  • 1911:  Lived at Rickford House with their 3 young children (including a set of twin boys), a general servant, Alice’s sister, and 3 baking workers.  10 people in all, so quite a houseful.

  • 1939:  Still living in Rickford House.  A mere 6 people there now, comprising 5 family and Herbert Tucker, aged 69, who had been helping with the baking there since the 1890’s (according to his 1941 funeral notice in the Surrey Advertiser).

  • 1951:  Death of Alice.

  • 1956:  Death of Ernest.

When Ernest died, the bakery website tells us that the twins, James and Sid, carried on the business, but after 3 years, James bought Sid’s share and continued alone.  Facts about James are as follows:

  • 1911:  Born in Worplesdon. 

  • 1941:  Married Bertha Collyer in Pirbright.  Bertha (“Mrs Christmas”) became well-known and much liked by the bakery’s customers.

  • 1945 - 49:  Lived at Thursley, then Pirbright.

  • 1950 - 53:  Lived in the Fairlands Estate.

  • 1954 – 2010:  Lived at Rickford House.

  • 1990:  James died, leaving an estate valued at £360,000.

After James, I am reliant on the Bakery website for information:

  • 1990:  Tony and Ray continue the business after the death of James.

  • 2012:  Tony retires from the business.

  • 2015:  Ray retires from the business, leaving Helen, Kevin and Daren to continue.


Footnote:  The “other” Christmases of Worplesdon):  

In 1861 a John Christmas, born in Bramshott, Hampshire in 1810, was living at Burpham (or Burgham) Court (just off Clay Lane to the east of Jacob’s Well) as a farmer of 225 acres.  Previously he had farmed at Send, so clearly he didn’t mind working damp ground.  He remained at Burpham Court until his death in 1890.

His son, John, born in 1848, moved to Worplesdon in the 1870’s, and became the first (and only?) commercial wine maker in Worplesdon.  We have described his life and adventures with wine-making above.

His only son, Sydney (born 1882), moved into Holly Bank (Manesty today) with his wife, Edith.  He was a keen cricketer, and secretary of Worplesdon Cricket Club.  He must have been a very good bowler, as in 1913, he took 63 wickets at an average of 4.46, which is astonishingly good.  Sadly Sydney lost his life at Flanders in 1917, but Edith remained at Holly Bank until 1945.  She died at Tonbridge in 1966.  They had no children.

The big question is:  Were the 2 Christmas families related?  The answer is yes, as they shared a common ancestor, Daniel Christmas (1719-1785).  He was John (the winemaker)’s great-great grandfather.  He was also James (the baker)’s great-great-great grandfather.  He has born in Selborne, Hampshire, and died at East Worldham (about 4 miles away). 

A secondary question is:  Did John and James know that they were related?  They knew each other well, as they both sat on many of the same committees, and they lived close by for a while (at Nortons Farm and Rickford House respectively). But, given that internet-based research was not very practical in the 1890’s, I suspect not.  They probably worked out that they both originated from the same part of Hampshire, and guessed that there was a  connection, but they would have been hard pressed to have proved it, unless there were convenient family bibles with convenient family trees, which had happened to end up in John’s and James’s possession.

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