Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire

- Published by Norman Lucey -

Church Street Rickmansworth

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A Short History

The name Rickmansworth comes from Ryckmer, which is a personal Saxon name and in the 1086 Domesday Survey it is known as The Manor of Prichemaresworde. Later variant spellings were Rykemarwurthe (1119-46), Richemaresworthe (1180), Rykemerewrthe (1248), Richemereworthe (1259), Rikesmareswrth (1287) and Rikmansworth (1382).

The Manor of Rickmansworth, was originally said to be granted to the Abbey of St. Albans by Offa (757-96) and was confirmed to the Abbey and convent by King John. In 1278 it was considered that Rickmansworth was ancient demesne of the Crown and had been from time immemorial and in possession of the abbots of St. Albans before the Conquest of England. At the time of the Dissolution the manor was in lease to John Palmer for 31 years. In 1550 it was granted to Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London, but when he was martyred at Oxford in 1555 after the execution of Lady Jane Grey, Queen Mary rewarded his persecutor and successor, Edmund Bonner, with the grant of the manor. His lands were in turn seized by Queen Elizabeth I, who deprived him of his office and granted the manor in 1572/3 to Margaret Palmer for 21 years beginning Michaelmas 1595. A further lease of 21 years was granted to Francis Palmer in 1588/9.

However in 1610 it was granted to Henry Prince of Wales and after his death held by trustees for Charles Prince of Wales in 1616. These trustees sold in February 1628 (the third year of the reign of King Charles I) to William the first Earl of Pembroke, Lord Stewart of His Majesty's Household. In July of the same year by a certain Deed of Grant or Letters Patent from the Crown this was confirmed. Liabilities relating to the demesne lands continued down to the year 1935 when the then owners on payment of a capital sum of £1,000 were released for all time from further liability, which was accepted by Hertfordshire County Council.

The Fotherleys had been resident in Rickmansworth from the 16th century. A Thomas Fotherley died on 23rd April 1624 and his only son Thomas Fotherley, living at Parsonage Farm, purchased the Manor from Philip, 4th Earl of Pembroke in 1632, the brother and heir of William who had died in 1630. Thomas Fotherley was knighted by Charles I in March 1640. He died in December 1649 and the Manor descended to his son John who moved to Ligance in Jamaica where he died in the earthquake of 1692. He left two sons Thomas and John, the elder dying without issue. In 1632 when Thomas Fotherley purchased the Manor, he was unable to live in the Bury as it had been leased to Sir Gilbert Wakering in 1610 for a 60 year period. Previous to this in 1608 it was occupied by Sir Francis Wolley. The land then passed to his younger son John Fotherley, who died on 14th January 1702/3 and as his children had pre-deceased him the Manor passed to his wife Dorothy (née Whitfield) who was buried on 3rd November 1709. After this the land passed to Temple Whitfield, grandson of her father Sir Ralph Whitfield. On his death in 1732 the land passed to his brother Henry and then to his son Henry who died in 1747. The Lord of the Manor then became his son Henry Fotherley Whitfield who mortgaged large portions of the estate in 1786 and built Rickmansworth Park House in c. 1805, as an improvement on the Bury. On his death in 1813 it passed to his wife Mary.

In 1818 certain lands forming the estate were sold by the trustees, John Forster and Thomas Deacon to Robert and William Williams and Thomas Lane, trustees of the will of Robert Williams the elder of Moor Park. They sold in 1829 to John Alliston of London who in the same year sold to William Windale who immediately mortgaged it. It was then sold by mortgage to William Dimes of London and in 1853 to his son William Percy Dimes who sold to Francis Thomas Guddon in 1858. Also in 1829 the Bury and the remainder of the estate was sold. Consequently, the Whitfield estate became sub-divided into separate properties where formerly it had consisted of nine messuages and 950 acres of land; that is to say: the Lordship of the Manor of Rickmansworth, the ownership of the Bury and the lands disposed of in 1815. In 1868 John Saunders Gilliat became Lord of the Manor. On 11th August 1876 Gilliat, Henry Bingham Mildmay and Edward Charles Baring mortgaged the land only to reconvey it on 11th August 1880. John Babington Gilliat aquired the land on 9th July 1912 and sold to the Syndicate on 14th July 1919. The Syndicate also purchased land when the Ebury estate was sold after the end of the first world war. Rickmansworth Park was purchased by the Masons in 1926. Chorleywood Common was also owned by the Gilliat family, as Lords of the Manor, up to 1914 when the "Chorleywood Cedars" property was sold to George Darvell. He sold it to James H. Batty who owned it from 1921 to 1929 when it was sold to Chorleywood Urban District Council. No one is quite sure why the owner of Chorleywood common never 'enclosed' it in the latter half of the 18th Century.

The Cedars Estate was named after the house of the same name. The "Chorleywood Cedars" was rebuilt on the site of a previous much smaller house in 1865. For many years this house had been the residence of the publisher William Longman (1813-1877) and was known as Chorleywood Place. It was bought by Mr. John Saunders Gilliat J.P. in 1860 and was named after the Cedars of Lebanon planted around 1670. In 1917 the house became Chorleywood College for the Blind, until they moved in July 1987 to Worcestershire. At the southern end of the estate was a house of similar name. "The Cedars", Money Hill, Rickmansworth was built in 1720 for Christopher Cock, the first of the high class auctioneers at Covent Garden. Later it became the home of Captain Saumerez who had sailed around the world with Lord Anson. In the 1860's it was a private school for boys and later became a training college for Ministers of the Congregational faith under the Principal, Dr. Herndall. After his death in 1884 the property was purchased by the Inebriates Society and it came under the care of Dr. Hogg. Later in the 1930's the property, located on the southern side of the junction of Park Way and Uxbridge Road, was demolished and redeveloped. Also at Money Hill, David Urquhart built England's first Turkish Bath at Riverside House (previously Bachelor's Hall) in late 1857; a bath in which his son William accidentally died a year later. Thomas Andrews, the designer of the Titanic, lived at Money Hill House (built c. 1722) until his death in 1912. Francis William Reckitt was also a resident of the town from 1904 and founded and built the Mount Pleasant Artists' Rest Home in 1929. He had earlier built his own studio on the site and also the Cricket Pavilion in 1924, both designed by his brother, the Architect Frank Norman Reckitt.

The Metropolitan Railway Country Estates Ltd., operated by the Metropolitan Railway, bought the Cedars Estate from the Syndicate for £40,000 in 1919 and advertised the new houses in their Metro-land brochures from 1919-1932. Many of the houses were designed by the railway company's own Architect, Charles Walter Clark. The Metropolitan Railway Country Estates Ltd., was not the only land company developing Rickmansworth at that time; there were two others. The Moor Park Estate Co. Ltd. a subsidiary set up by Lord Leverhulme for the development of Moor Park and Land and Estates Ltd., a company formed in 1922 when the Loudwater Estate was sold. A new company was formed in 1926 bearing the name of Morlands Concessions for this same purpose. Roads were constructed and building plots laid out but sales were slow when the average wage earner's weekly income averaged £2.8s.0d. for a 48-hour week. The average prices of houses at exclusive Loudwater ("The Troutstream Village of Rickmansworth") ranged from £1300 to £2000. These new houses were built in the grounds of Loudwater House and lake, which was originally built c. 1825. Nearby, Herbert Ingram publisher of The Illustrated London News, built his own house Glen Chess in the 1850's. Houses erected on the Moor Park Estate were priced from £1000 upwards. Aerial photographs taken in 1930 in the early stages of building show old field boundaries and rights of way. Particularly Belfry Lane which connects to Meadow and Winchfield Way, as the Mill End/Rickmansworth and Rickmansworth/Chorleywood parish boundaries. This boundary continues along the ends of gardens between Shepherd's and Pheasants Way. The original field boundary hedge remains at the top of Shepherd's Way where it meets Beacon Way. Other field boundaries run along the backs of gardens between Park Way and Elm Way, West Way and The Close, up to the rear of Shepherd's Way.

The hamlet of Mill End was centred on the public houses of "The Vine" and "Rose & Crown" (or "The Tree" as it was known) at the junction of the Uxbridge Road and Church Lane. The lane was formally known as Green Lane before St.Peters Church was constructed in 1875 to the designs of the Architect Richard Charles Sutton. Green Lane gave access to Shepherds Farm (once the site of the Express Dairy) named after Robert le Shepad in 1294. Further up Shepherds Lane, William Penn married Guilelma Springett on 4th April 1672 at King John's Farm, Chorleywood. In 1846 Feargus O'Connor started to construct Heronsgate, the Chartist cooperative settlement on the outskirts of Mill End, which came to be known as O'Connorville. Originally there were two roads which crossed at Rickmansworth. These two turnpike trusts were the Hatfield to Reading Trust and the Pinner Trust. The first, followed the A412 from Croxley, down Scots Hill to the High Street, Station Road and the A404 to Chorleywood. The earliest reference to this trust is 1770, and it expired in November 1880. The turnpike gate was by the "Gate" public House, Chorleywood. The second, the Pinner Trust, followed the A404 down Batchworth Hill to Church Street, High Street, and the A412 to Maple Cross and West Hyde. This trust ceased to exist after 1853. The turnpike gate was at the foot of Batchworth Hill.

The first by-pass from the station to Park Road was constructed in the 1930's. Other roadworks constructed between 1967-1971 by William Old Ltd were the Station, Ebury and Batchworth roundabouts, Rectory and Chorleywood Road dual carriageways and Riverside Drive. In 1921 the first housing scheme of the Local Authority began at Grove Road; the first ten houses being ready for occupation by October that year. Work was then begun at Colne Avenue and in 1926 at Springwell Avenue. In November 1921 the sewer system was extended to cope with the proposed new street systems that were to be cut into one-time farmland. With private development the population in 1929 was 10,850, an increase of nearly 2,000 over the 1926 figure. The approx. number of dwellings in 1923 was 1,764, increasing to 2,730 in 1929 and 5,875 when development stopped at the outbreak of war in 1939. Considering the census of 1971, which shows a population of 29,670 this indicates an increase of 21,000 in 46 years.

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Published by Norman Lucey
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Minor information added July 2018,
July 2020 & July 2023.