The Valuation Survey, undertaken in period just prior to, and in the first part of, the Great War, recorded a large glasshouse nursey in Wickhamford. The details of the business were taken on 13th January 1915 and the owner was Hubert Lindsell Richards.
The nursery was on the East side of Manor Road, in an area of 1½ acres, where Penelope Close and Wickham Close are now situated. There were three blocks of glasshouses, built in 1906 and 1907, totalling 37,230 sq. ft and heated by hot water pipes from three boilers. In all, there were eleven glasshouses – three of 150ft x 15ft, four of 150ft x 30ft and four of 130ft x 30ft. Other buildings included an office, wind pump, a store and a stable. There was a 16ft deep open pit well and a good ash road giving access to the main street. The gross value of the site was £2,100. Hubert Richards took out an Insurance policy against hail damage to his glasshouses on 22nd February 1907. He sold the nursery to William Pearce not long after the Valuation Survey and a range of pictures of the business can be seen in the article on the Pearce Family Nursery.
At the 1911 census, Hubert Richards was living with Robert Taylor and his family at Rose Bank, Pitchers Hill, Wickhamford (now 16 Pitchers Hill). He was recorded as a boarder, aged 32, and a “grower of flowers and fruit under glass (employer)”. When the Valuation Survey was done in 1915, his address was given as “Bench Hill”, Evesham - obviously “Bengehill”.
In 1915 there were a few smaller glasshouses in the area, but Richards seems to have built the largest enterprise at that time.
Hubert Lindsell Richards’ Family Background
Hubert Richards was born in Solihull, Warwickshire on 6th December 1876 and baptised on the following 14th January. He was the son of William Francis and Fanny Eliza Richards and at the 1881 census his family were still in Solihull. William Richards was a Hardware Merchant and he had been born in Italy; Fanny had been born in South Africa - (other records show Naples and Cape Colony). Hubert had two older brothers, Arthur, aged 14 and Bernard, aged 6 and a 9-month-old younger sister, Gwendolen. There were four servants living with the family.
Hubert’s life seems to have been one of much travelling. In 1891 he was living with his uncle, Henry Richards, in Kensington. Henry’s wife, Caroline, had been born in South Africa. In 1901, he was living back with his family in Folkestone, Kent, where he was recorded as a Timber Merchant’s Clerk and now aged 24.
It would seem that Hubert Richards travelled to South Africa in 1898, as he is recorded as arriving back in Southampton on 17th March. There are other passenger lists showing him going to Durban, S. Africa in March 1903 and Cape Town in July 1905.
William Francis Richards died in Folkestone on 2nd July 1902 and Fanny Eliza Richards died in Cheltenham in 1907.
The Great War
Hubert Lindsell Richards saw service in the Great War by joining the Red Cross. He joined in May 1916, aged almost 40, presumably after selling his Wickhamford nursery, and he was an Assistant Commandant at Barford Hill Hospital, Warwick, and Brabyns Hall Auxiliary Hospital, Marple Bridge, until August 1918. He then returned to Evesham, as he was living at ‘The Club’ in the town in late 1918, and was a Quartermaster in November 1918, as the War ended.
There is no record of Hubert Richards ever marrying and when the 1939 Register was compiled, he was living in Copton, Faversham, Kent, with a farmer. His occupation was given as a Timber Merchant’s Clerk, the same role he had in 1901. One further shipping passenger list shows him sailing to Valparaiso, Chile in 1927 and another shows him returning from Puerto Rico, in 1933.
Hubert Lindsell Richards died in Kent on 10th November 1955, at St Margaret’s Nursing Home, Whitstable. It would appear from the records that his main job was in the timber business, but he must have had considerable financial resources to travel abroad on a number of occasions and to set up the Wickhamford glasshouse nursery.
Probate was granted on 31st January 1956 and his name was given as Hubert Lindsell Richards, “otherwise Hubert Lindsel, otherwise Herbert Lindsell”. He left effects to the value of £20,537 16s 7d, a not inconsiderable sum at that time.
The article, Wickhamford Market Gardening 1945 – aerial view, clearly shows the location and size of the nursery.
Tom Locke – January 2021