Rickmansworth

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Rickmansworth is the administrative seat of the Three Rivers District Council in Hertfordshire, England. With a population of 14,571 recorded at the 2001 frence)census, Rickmansworth is a small town in South-West Hertfordshire, located mainly to the north of the Grand Union Canal and the River Colne. The nearest large town is Watford, 5.3 miles (8.5 km) to the east. It grew dramatically during the Victorian era, and then again during the 1920s and 1930s as part of the Metro-land area, due to the extension of Metropolitan Railway, and became a commuter town. Chiltern Main Line diesel-express trains from Marylebone station, London, via Harrow-on-the Hill, to Aylesbury–change for Birmingham–and fast, electric Metropolitan trains from the City of London, via Baker Street, to Amersham-on-the-Hill (all stopping at Rickmansworth station) together with the rural surroundings, have all contributed to the growth of Rickmansworth.

The M25 motorway – Junctions 17 and 18 – are within the perimeter of Rickmansworth and give access to Heathrow Airport, and the national motorway network.

The name of the local authority is derived from the confluence of three rivers within the perimeter of Rickmansworth. The River Gade and the Grand Union Canal join the upper River Colne near the eastern boundary of Rickmansworth. They are then joined in turn at a confluence with the River Chess near Rickmansworth town centre. The now much larger Colne flows south to form a major tributary of the River Thames.

The name Rickmansworth comes from the Saxon name “Ryckmer”, the local magnate, and “worth” meaning farm or stockade but there was a settlement in this part of the Colne valley in the Stone age. In the Domesday Book of 1086 it is known as The Manor of Prichemaresworde. Later spellings are Rykemarwurthe (1119–46), Richemaresworthe (1180), Rykemerewrthe (1248), Richemereworthe (1259), Rikesmareswrth (1287) and Rikmansworth (1382).

Around the time of the Domesday Book there may have been as few as 200 people in the vicinity; then it was called Prichemareworth, one of the five local manors with which the great Abbey of St Albans had been endowed when founded in 793 by King Offa. Local tithes supported the abbey, which in turn provided clergy to serve the local people until the Dissolution of 1539.

Cardinal Wolsey, in his capacity as Abbot of St Albans, held the Manor of le More in the valley, now vanished but superseded by the hill-top mansion of Moor Park, once the residence of Admiral Lord Anson and the Barons Ebury, and now the Golf Club House. The wider area, including Croxley Green, Moor Park, Batchworth, Mill End, West Hyde and Chorleywood, formed the original parish of Rickmansworth.

In 1851, this had a population of only 4,800, but even that represented great growth necessitating division of the parish. St Mary’s Church today serves a parish area concentrated around the town and extending over Batchworth and parts of Moor Park. Today, the town has an ever-growing number of residents in many new apartments and houses.

The three rivers referred to in the name of the district, the River Colne, River Chess and River Gade, provided the water for the watercress trade and motive power for corn milling, silk weaving, paper making and brewing, all long gone. Other industries have included leather-tanning, soft drinks, soya processing, laundry, straw-plaiting and stocking production. Now there are commercial offices and commuter homes, and the rivers, canal and flooded gravel pits provide for recreation.

There was a water mill, West Mill, at Rickmansworth at the time of the Domesday Survey. It belonged to the abbot and convent of St. Albans, and was leased by them to Ralph Bukberd for a term of years ending in 1539. In 1533, they leased it from the end of this term for twenty-six years to Richard Wilson of Watford. He was to keep in repair the mill and also two millstones, 10 inches (25 centimetres) thick, and 4 ft 8 in (142 cm) in breadth. The mill was leased in 1544 to William Hutchinson, yeoman of the spicery, and Janet his wife for their lives. It afterwards came to John Wilson, and was granted in 1576–77 to Richard Master. There was also a water-mill called Batchworth Mill, and a fishery called Blacketts Mill in Rickmansworth. Batchworth Mill was later used as a cotton mill, but was bought in 1820 by Messrs. John Dickinson & Co., and converted into paper mills, now the site of Veolia Water. Scotsbridge Mill was also productive but now is home to a restaurant with the unusual feature of a salmon run. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries many of the principal inhabitants were described as ‘clothiers,’ from which it may be inferred that the manufacture of cloth was at one time carried on in the parish, but this industry has long since ceased. There were also silk and flock mills here, described in 1808 as recently built.

There was a long-running dispute over water levels in the Batchford area, following construction of the Grand Junction Canal, which were resolved in 1825, when an 8.2-foot (2.5 m) obelisk was erected in a pond, to act as a water gauge. The obelisk records the agreement made between the canal company, John Dickinson who was the miller at Batchworth Mill, and R. Williams of Moor Park, who was the landowner.

In July 1860 Lord Ebury obtained powers to construct a 4.5 mile single track line between Watford and Rickmansworth which opened in October 1862. The Rickmansworth terminus was located opposite the church to the south of the town where interchange sidings were provided with the nearby Grand Union Canal, these have now become a builders merchant timber yard, but a track-sized path to the left of the new buildings allows access to the new rambling and cycle path Ebury Way, which follows the route of the original lines all the way to the existent but disused Croxley Green branch lines. The line had two other stations at Watford Junction and Watford High Street and its depot was situated on Wiggenhall Road in Watford. A further Parliamentary authorisation was obtained a year later to construct an extension from Rickmansworth to Uxbridge to connect with the Great Western Railway’s Uxbridge branch, but this was never realised.

Despite hopes that the railway would bring further economic development to Rickmansworth and would serve the small factories and warehouses which had developed along the Grand Union Canal, it was Watford which grew at a faster pace and drew business from Rickmansworth. The construction of the railway was dogged with financial problems and a further Act of Parliament had to be passed in 1863 to authorise the issue of further shares to the value of £30,000 (£40,000 worth of shares had already been issued). Initially there were five daily trains each way from Rickmansworth to Watford. The line was worked from the outset by the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) who paid the WRR 50% of the gross earnings of the line.

The railway was never particularly successful financially, and the Official Receiver was called in only four years after opening. They tried to raise money by opening several freight branches, the most notable being to the Croxley printers and to the Grand Union Canal at Croxley Green. The company was eventually absorbed in 1881 by the burgeoning LNWR whose station it shared at Watford Junction. The old railway track now forms the Ebury Way between Rickmansworth and Watford.

Rickmansworth has a large public park called the Aquadrome. Covering 41 hectares (100 acres), the Aquadrome Local Nature Reserve consists of Batchworth Lake, Bury Lake, open grassland, areas of woodland, large free car park and a children’s play area. The Aquadrome boundaries are to the north, the River Colne, the east and south, the Grand Union Canal, and to the west, Stockers Lake. In July 2009, the Aquadrome received a Green Flag award, which is given to parks and open spaces with meet certain high standards. A new café opened in the Aquadrome earlier in the same year.

The lakes are old gravel quarries that have been filled with water and fish. Some of the gravel from the site was used to build Wembley Stadium in 1923. Both lakes are suitable for fishing. Batchworth Lake is popular for water skiing events and hosts the Rickmansworth Water Ski Club. Bury Lake is home to BLYM, a sailing club and also an RYA-recognised teaching establishment.

The considerably larger Stockers Lake, to the west of the Aquadrome, is also a nature reserve.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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