Albert Edward Benjamin Rickards
|3rd The King's Own Hussars|
Lance Corporal 16379
|Died 11th April 1918|
Albert Rickards' Parents
Albert Edward Benjamin Rickards was one of only two children born to Albert Rickards (senior) and Ellen (née Holland).
Albert Rickards (senior)
Albert (sen) was born in London, the seventh of ten children. Their father was an umbrella maker but died before Albert (senior) was 10 years old. The family lived in the east end of London, with addresses in Whitechapel (1871 census) and Bethnal Green (1881). By 1891, when Albert (senior) was 20, he had moved to Bath and the census lists him as living as a lodger at 2, Manvers Place. This address used to be on the north side of what is now Orchard Street, roughly where the entrance to the Marks & Spencer delivery area is. Another lodger, Charles Hawkins of Clifton, was also lodging at the same address. He and Albert (sen) were both ‘portmanteau makers’; it is likely that they worked together.
Ellen HollandAlbert (junior)’s mother was Ellen Holland, who was born in Bath, the middle child of three. Her father was a porter and the family lived at 10, Hetling Court. Hetling Court is near the Cross Bath.
10 Hetling Court, seen here in 1964. This was the childhood home of Albert's mother Ellen. The building no longer stands. [Image: Bath In Time]
In 1891 the census lists Ellen Holland as a domestic parlour-maid at a house called Rosslyn Villa in Park Gardens, in what is now called Weston Park
The Rickards Family
Albert (sen) and Ellen married at Bath Register Office in 1893.It’s not known where Albert (sen) and Ellen lived in the first years of their marriage. As they do not appear in Directories until 1897, it is likely that they rented rooms in the centre of Bath.
Their daughter Beatrice was born in 1894 and Albert (jun) in 1896. Perhaps due to the expanded family, or because they could afford to move to their own home, the Rickards relocated to Oldfield Park.
During the 1890s, the area then known as South Twerton (around West Avenue, Herbert Road etc. and now part of Oldfield Park) was being built. The Rickards family therefore moved into the area when it was a ‘new-build’ estate.
The Bath Directory shows the family living at 4 Claude Avenue (1897) and then at 18 Cynthia Road (1901) and 6 Lyndhurst Road (1902-5).
Newspaper reports of the early 1900s show Albert's sister Beatrice among the prize recipients at the newly-built (1902) Oldfield Park Baptist Church and receiving her Grade 1 pianoforte certificate from the Bath Society of Musicians. Several pieces of information point to the fact that the family were regulars at the Baptist church.
The Rickards luggage business first appears in the Bath Directory at 17 Union Passage (was 'Arcania' until recently) in 1905, with the family also listed in the Directory as living at this address here. In 1907, the premises on the corner, 11 Union Passage (later re-numbered 11 Northumberland Passage), became the new home for the business.
The Rickards business carried on at 11 Union Passage for over 100 years (although sold by the Rickards family many years before), closing in 2014.
The results of the 1908 Scripture Exams published in the newspaper reveal that Albert (jun), now living in the city centre, was attending Manvers Street Sunday School, but Beatrice was still active with the Oldfield Park Baptist Sunday School in 1911. In the same year, on the occasion of the Coronation of King George V, when a civic procession was held, their father Albert (sen) represented the Bath Sunday Schools Union.
By 1910, the Bath Directory listing for Albert Rickards (sen) is ‘Portmanteau maker, 11 Union Passage, residence ‘Stover’, Bloomfield Road’. ‘Stover’, named after a country seat in Devon, was a detached residence on the western side of Bloomfield Road, just above the junction with Englishcombe Lane.
'Stover', now 162 Bloomfield Road
It appears that the owners of Westfield House (the large house on this corner plot) began selling parcels of its land for development at around this time and that ‘Stover’ was built on one such plot (the whole street of Westfield Close was later built on a more extensive portion of the Westfield House grounds). ‘Stover’ would probably have been new built when the Rickards took possession. This move to a large, detached residence is indicative of the success of the Rickards luggage-making business.
In common with many owners of businesses at that time, Albert Rickards (sen) was also engaged in civic life. He was an active supporter of the local Conservative party, and was mentioned in 1908 as having been in charge of the motor vehicle that formed part of the electioneering process in that year. In 1911, he stood for office as Liberal candidate for Lyncombe (which included the area in Bloomfield Road where the family lived) in the local elections. He came last, but the newspaper of the time relates his cheery good humour in the face of defeat:
Mr Rickards said “I must thank the electors of Lyncombe Ward for putting me at the bottom of the poll (loud laughter). I am sure it has been a very fair and straight fight. Although we have lost, we are not disheartened, especially considering the circumstances under which we fought. Next time, if we fight again, no doubt we shall try to do better than we have done this time! (cheers)”.
Also in 1911, when the congregation of the Odd Down Mission church (later to become St Philip & St James) presented a leather robe case to their departing vicar, the case was made by Rickards.
The 1911 census showed all four family members’ professions as being involved in the business.
In addition to his interests in the business, political and church life of the city, Albert Rickards (sen) took a keen interest in sport. In 1912, he made a presentation to the departing organiser of the Oldfield Park Baptist Athletic Club (including a portmanteau!) and in the same year he facilitated the installation of new tennis courts ‘on the site of the old Griffin Works’. These are now part of the Wansdyke Business Centre on Oldfield Lane and the tennis courts were roughly where St John's school's all-weather sport pitch is.
Beatrice, meanwhile, was also engaged in sporting pursuits, representing Bath Dolphins Swimming Club. Albert (jun) was turning out for Oldfield Park Baptist football team (playing alongside my great uncle George Nixey! – JB).
The leadership of Oldfield Park Baptist Church in 1913.
Albert Rickards (sen) is top right.
[Many thanks to Simon Rogers for this and other old Rickards photos used here.]
Being a pillar of the community did not prevent Mr Rickards from being fined 5 shillings in 1913 for obstructing Union Passage. Policemen of the time were very strict on such offences, with fines sometimes issued to shopkeepers if their outdoor displays encroached on the footway, or if they were too slow to take deliveries into their premises.
We know that Albert (jun) joined the family business prior to the outbreak of war.
|A 1913 advertisement for the Rickards company. The man at the centre rear of the left-hand photograph is Albert Rickards senior.|
Albert Rickards in WW1
3rd The King's Own Hussars & the Royal Fusiliers
We know (from the Bath Chronicle announcement of his death) that Albert enlisted in 1914 with the 3rd Hussars (4th Cavalry Division) at Shorncliffe in Kent and that he later transferred to the 7th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. We need to undertake more research about Albert's movements during the war, especially as there is also mention of his having been injured at the landings at Suvla Bay, part of the Gallipoli campaign. The problem is that neither the 3rd Hussars nor the 7th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers were deployed to Gallipoli. So there are other circumstances that we need to understand in order to have a good idea what Albert did in the war.1915
In 1915 we know that Albert was involved in the Suvla Bay landings as part of the Gallipoli campaign, where he was 'slightly wounded', according to a later newspaper comment. The landings took place in August 1915. The report then states that he was in hospital in Cairo for seven months, which would take us through to spring 1916.
Events Back at Home: 1915-1916
Back at home, we know that Albert's sister Beatrice married in 1915 in Bath and became Beatrice Stone. One wonders whether Albert managed to come home on leave for the wedding prior to being posted to Greece.
The Rickards luggage business was carrying on its business, which was significantly affected by the war: the large scale movement of people caused by the war increased demand for suitcases, trunks etc., but the absence of men of working age through military service made it difficult to recruit a work force.
Regular adverts appeared for girls to work at ‘Hope Works’, the former ‘Hope Chapel’, which is still in existence next to St James Park (‘Pigeon Park’) on Lower Borough Walls.
Girls at work on the rivetting machines in the Rickards factory in Hope Chapel. Note the shape of the windows... compared with this external view of Hope Chapel from St James' Park, today (below)
Advertisements for staff appeared increasingly regularly in the local press, and moves were also afoot to hang on to staff who might otherwise have gone to serve in the armed forces. Tribunals were held regularly to decide whether or not certain men must heed the call to military service. Many appeals against the draft came from the men themselves, who cited financial or other grounds (such as dependent family members) as a reason why they could not serve. Such appeals were also sometimes submitted by employers who made claims of the indispensable nature of some employees. Here is the report from the Bath Chronicle & Weekly Gazette of Saturday 26th August 1916:
ON GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS.
A. Rickards, 11 Union Passage, applied for W. J. Morrell (39), 6 Charmouth Road, leather cutter. He said he had sixteen men in his employment before the war; now he had only two men and a boy and 100 girls. Morrell would be practically working altogether on a Government contract for two months. Colonel Clayton said he should not object to exemption while Morrell was employed on war work. Certificate [of exemption issued] for three months, on condition that the man works three-quarters of his time on Government orders.
Albert’s father was also in the news again in 1916 for obstructing the highway in Lower Borough Walls with his car. It was only a certain class of person who had a car in 1916; Mr Rickards was clearly a well-to-do businessman!
Above: Girls at work using the stitching machines in the Rickards works
Below: Men cut the fibre boards that form the basis of the cases
1916: The Battle of the Somme
We know that Albert was involved in the Capture of Trônes Wood, an action that took place as part of the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. But we don't know what unit he was with at this point.
Events Back at Home: 1917
In February 1917, the captain of Bath City football club, Arthur Crump, was killed in service. The notice in the Bath Chronicle & Weekly Gazette stated that Crump had been apprenticed at Rickards’ and was in their employment when he enlisted for military service. It is not known how many other employees of the company were killed in service.
We don't know when Albert tranferred between units, but at the time of his death he was serving with the 7th Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers.
Albert Rickards' Death
|Albert was killed on 11th April 1918.|
The news of Albert’s death was reported in the Bath Chronicle & Weekly Gazette of 20th April 1918:
There is a tantalising mention in the above article of Albert having 'kept a diary of his campaigning experiences'. It would be amazing to track this down (and we will try!)
An announcement also appeared in the Chronicle's ‘Roll of Honour’ column, from which we know that he was known as 'Bert':
A week later, Albert’s photograph appeared among the many men of Bath whose deaths were reported in the newspaper.
EnglebelmerAlbert Rickards is buried at Englebelmer Communal Cemetery Extension, France.
From the Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
"The village of Englebelmer was in Allied hand during the whole of the War, and it was used as a Field Ambulance station; but until the autumn of 1916, and again in the summer of 1918, it was liable to occasional shelling. It was later "adopted" by the City of Winchester.
The Extension was begun in October, 1916, closed in March, 1917, and used again in 1918; and after the Armistice graves were brought from the battlefields immediately North and East of Englebelmer and the following cemeteries:-
BEAUSSART COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION, in a hamlet of Mailly-Maillet, was used at intervals from April, 1916, to May, 1918, and contained the graves of 18 soldiers from the United Kingdom and nine from New Zealand.
There are now over 100, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. Of these, a small number are unidentified and special memorials are erected to two United Kingdom soldiers, buried at Beaussart, whose graves could not be found. "
In July 2017, the grave of Albert Rickards was visited by Mike Sumsion of Bath, who kindly supplied us with the above photograph of Englebelmer cemetery, which Mike tells us is fairly hidden away and not easy to find. We are grateful to Mike for keeping the memory of Oldfield Park's fallen WW1 soldiers alive and for the below photograph of Albert's grave, whose headstone is sadly quite weathered and hard to read.
Albert would have received the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal 1914-18 and the Allied Victory Medal posthumously.
|1914-15 Star||British War Medal 1914-18||Allied Victory Medal|
In addition to his commemoration on the South Twerton School memorial, Albert Rickards is commemorated as follows:
Bath War Memorial
See separate page for details of the Bath War Memorial. Albert Rickards' inscription:
Oldfield Park Baptist Church Memorial
Albert Rickards is also commemorated in the church with which his family was connected. More information on this page.
St. Luke's Church Memorial
Albert Rickards is also among the names commemorated in his local church of St. Luke in what was then known as South Lyncombe. Also commemorated on this plaque are the vicar of the church, Capt Doudney (who died while acting as a chaplain to the troops at the front in 1915) and the two Captain Hatts, sons of Bath's mayor.
|City of Bath Boys School (now at Beechen Cliff School)|
Having attended the City of Bath Boys (Grammar) School, Albert Rickards is commemorated on this plaque, which is now in the stairwell at Beechen Cliff School at Alexandra Park.
Bath YMCA Memorial, YMCA HQ, Broad StAlbert Rickards was commemorated on a plaque which was dedicated and installed at the YMCA in Broad Street in 1920 to honour fallen members. In the intervening years, the YMCA has lost this plaque and another honouring Bath Scouts which was also installed there. See separate page giving details of the YMCA memorial.
'Soldiers Died in the Great War'Note that Albert Rickards' name is mis-spelt as 'Richards' in this official national list of those killed in the war.
The Family After 1918
Albert (sen) also contributed to a fund, started in 1918, to fund free transport on Bath's trams for servicemen injured in the war.
In the 1920s, Albert (sen) continued his engagement as a pillar of the local community. He was a deacon at Oldfield Park Baptist Church, which at the time was expanding its building to create what is now the Church Hall. He was also President of the Alexandra Park Bowls Club. In this latter context, we learn something else of Albert Rickards’ views: in a debate as to whether it was ‘appropriate’ for women to play bowls, Albert wrote a piece in the local newspaper setting out the case in favour. Immediately below, his view was juxtaposed with that of an opponent, namely that women should not ‘intermingle’! There had also been numerous complaints about the state of the bowling green itself at Alexandra Park and in 1927, for whatever reason, Albert Rickards was the driving force behind the new formation of ‘Devonshire Park Bowling Club’, which later became Bloomfield Bowls Club on Wellsway, near to the Rickards home. This club is still active today.The luggage shop founded by Albert Rickards (senior) was in existence at the junction of Union Passage and Northumberland Place until 2014, when it finally ceased trading. At the last, it was one of the dwindling number of family businesses remaining in Bath, although it no longer belonged to the Rickards family.
We enquired of the owners in 2013 whether there were any relatives of the Rickards family still involved in the business, but this was not the case. They knew that the original founder's intention had been for his son to take on the running of the family business, but that the son had been killed in World War 1. The company was sold in the 1930s, but retained the name. It was then sold again to the Rogers family in the 1950s and was in the Rogers family’s hands until its closure. We were told that, for a long time, some elderly ladies used to pop in on the rare occasions they were in Bath, saying that they were related to the old Rickards family; these visits had long since stopped.
The Rickards shop, opened in 1907, that closed in 2014.
Albert Rickards' sister Beatrice and her husband Albert Stone celebrated their Silver Wedding in Bath in 1940
Albert Rickards senior died in Bath in 1942.
It would be great to hear from any living relatives of Albert Rickards (jun). His sister Beatrice, having married in 1915, had children whose families had the names Stone, Page and Bissenden.
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