There were some large mansions near Valley End. Some of the owners, such as Julia Seymour Bathurst or Henry Pige Leschalles, were philanthropists, supporting ventures that ranged from building a new church to establishing a cricket club. They employed a large number of staff, which swelled the local population.
One of these influential houses was Ribsden.
Looking back to the history of Ribsden, Chertsey Road in the 19th and early 20th centuries. By Sally Clark.
Ribsden House was originally built for Henry Rothery, a lawyer and botanical collector, in the late 1870s. The land sold on which the house was built, north of the present Chertsey Road, formed part of the Fuel Allotments to the poor in the Enclosure Act of 1814, where they were allowed to carry away “turves, furze, fern or other fuel.” The money raised from the sale to Henry Rothery was used, until a few years ago, “for the distribution of the “Ribsden Coals” at Christmas, mainly to senior citizens or to other needy persons in the village.” The Ribsden Coal Charity has now been incorporated into The Poor Allotments Charity, covering Bagshot, Lightwater and Windlesham (an article in respect of which appeared in the December 2013 edition of the Windlesham Magazine.)
Ribsden House. (Photo courtesy J. End.)
In 1867 Rothery was appointed by the Government as their Commissioner enquiring into maritime losses and casualties, which enabled him to travel extensively to Australia, British Guiana, Dominica and Madagascar and pursue his keen interest in botany, particularly ferns, at the same time. He died at Ribsden on 2nd August 1888 but was survived by his wife Madelaine Rothery who continued to live at Ribsden until her death in October 1891.
The Surrey Heath Museum retains Mr Rothery’s accounts book for 1879 / 1880 and an entry in 1879 shows the following costs recorded:
“Coal and Wood 2 shillings; Help and luggage to the station 4 shillings 6 pence; Stable broom 2 shilings 6 pence; Telegram 1 shiling.”
A second notebook records various remedies for the horses, including how to make a poultice for wounds of the joints or tendons:
“sal-ammoniac powder – 4oz; sugar of lead – 4oz; vinegar – 3 pints water – 3 pints.
Ribsden House. (Photo courtesy J. End.)
Ribsden was subesquently bought by Richard Coply Christie and his wife Mary Helen in circa 1891 / 1892. Educated at Oxford, Richard Christie was called to the bar in Lincoln’s Inn in 1857 and in 1872 he became chancellor of the diocese of Manchester, a post he retained until 1893. He was appointed trustee of the Estate of the industrialist, Sir Joseph Whitworth. Funds from this estate were used to build a home for people with cancer – and was renamed the Christie Hospital in their honour. Confronted with new diseases such as mule spinners’ cancer and chimney sweeps’ cancer, doctors started to look for possible links to machine oils and airborne soot. The first use of x-rays in 1901 and radium in 1905 were developed at this hospital.
On moving to Windlesham the Christies brought with them their groom, Harry Carnell, who was the grandfather of local resident, Joan Weymouth.
The library at Ribsden. (Photo courtesy J. End.)
In 1901 Harry Carnell is recorded as living in accommodation above the stables and coach house at Ribsden with his wife, sister-in-law and daughter Ellen of 2 years, and employed in the position of groom and coachman.
Richard Christie died on 9 January 1901 at Ribsden and in honour of his memory Mary Helen Christie donated funds to the Windlesham Institute, which were used to develop the building to include a stage to enable concerts and theatre performances. The entrance door to the theatre bears a plaque “1901.”
On 1 February 1911 Mary Helen Christie died at Ribsden leaving no issue. Her estate was held in trust, one of the trustees being her father, Samuel Fletcher MP and subsequently sold by public auction. At the time Harry Carnell was still employed as their coachman and is recorded on the census in 1911 as living at Ribsden Cottage with his family. A second daughter Lillian, the mother of Joan Weymouth, has now been born.
First published in the Windlesham Magazine, Feb. 2014.
With thanks to Sally Clark and the Windlesham Magazine.