Richmond

2013.08.17 Sat 46Richmond is a beautiful market town in North Yorkshire, set atop the ‘great hill’ that inspired the Normans to build a castle there.  With its scenic woodland valleys, fast-flowing river, cobbled streets and period buildings, there is much to admire and explore in Richmond, as my husband and I discovered recently during a weekend break in the area.

We started our tour on the bridge across the River Swale at the bottom of Station Road, a location which affords a stunning view of the town, with the castle dominating from its hilltop position.

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Richmond Castle and Town

Climbing up the road, we turned left at the junction onto Frenchgate, which leads to the market place.  The church that sits in the centre of this cobbled ‘square’ is Holy Trinity Chapel, believed to have been founded in 1154, when it would have abutted the castle’s outer bailey.

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Holy Trinity Chapel

Over the centuries the church also served as a court, town hall, school and warehouse, and as a prison for the followers of Prince Charles Stuart after the Jacobite Rising of 1745.  It is now used as a museum for the Green Howards, a Yorkshire Regiment named after the colour of its uniform and the surname of its original colonel.

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Holy Trinity Chapel

Also of interest at Holy Trinity is a plaque commemorating the resting place in the south aisle of a Catholic martyr named John Acrige, who rebelled against Elizabeth I in the Northern Rising of 1569.  He fled abroad before returning to Richmond, his birthplace.  He died in a Hull prison in 1585.

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The resting place of John Acrige

Richmond Castle can be found along the narrow streets to the south of the market place.  Founded by Alan Rufus (a kinsman of William the Conqueror) in 1071, it is the oldest stone-built Norman castle in England.  The castle largely comprises extensive ruins, though the great ‘keep’ is well-preserved and still a formidable building.

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The keep of Richmond Castle

Back round to the market square, we emerged at the Victorian Market Hall, which continues to offer an indoor space for stallholders, in addition to the outdoor space which every Saturday is full of stalls proffering local and organic products.The Victorian Market

Further up the street is the Town Hall, which was built in 1756 as an Assembly Room, on the site of a Medieval Guildhall.  It houses an eighteenth century court-room which is open to the public.

The Town Hall

Also in the vicinity is the obelisk, which replaced the original market cross in 1771.

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The Market Obelisk

A short walk away is New Road, where Culloden Tower can be seen on the hill above the stone houses.  It dates back to 1746 and was built as a private folly by John Yorke, to commemorate the defeat of the Jacobites.  Today it can be hired as a holiday cottage.

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Culloden Tower

Having explored the interesting miscellanea in a nearby antiques shop, we returned to the market square, skirting round the eastern side until we came to Friars Wynd, a narrow lane that originally gave access from the castle bailey to the friary.  In the middle is part of the old town wall, the Postern Gate, around which remains the tramlines that were laid in 1895 to ease the movement of goods to the warehouses that were situated there.

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Postern Gate

At the end of Friars Wynd, on Victoria Road, is the recently-restored Theatre Royal.  Built in 1788, it is the most complete Georgian playhouse in Britain, and continues to be used in that capacity.

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The Georgian Playhouse

Round onto Queens Road is a park that was formerly the location of a Franciscan Friary.  Founded in 1258, the main surviving part (albiet in ruins) is the fifteenth-century Grey Friars Tower.  The Friary was dissolved in 1539 as part of the second phase of Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.

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Grey Friars Tower
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Grey Friars Tower
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Grey Friars Tower

We made our way back to the market square, and down via Millgate to the River Swale.  Said to be the fastest-flowing river in England (‘swale’ meaning ‘swirling’ in Old English), it rushes here over limestone slabs, creating a waterfall (called in Yorkshire a ‘force’ or ‘foss’).  This was the site of a medieval corn mill and later a nineteenth-century paper mill and gas works (Richmond being one of the first towns in Europe to be lit by gaslights).

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The Foss, River Swale

Finally, we followed the river path back to the bridge from whence our walk began.

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The River Swale

* * * * *

The sources for this article are a map I obtained in the Tourist Information office, the plaques around the town, and the Richmond websiteThe photographs are the author’s own.

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3 thoughts on “Richmond”

  1. Technically, Alan Rufus wasn’t Norman, he was Breton. His father Count Eudon Penteur was a double-cousin to Duke Robert I of Normandy and an older maternal first cousin to King Edward the Confessor.

    Eudon is called “Lord of Brittany” in the “Norman French” (actually Gallo) version of “The Song of Roland” kept at Oxford: good evidence that this was sung at Hastings, as Eudon contributed 5000, mostly professional, troops to William’s army, over a third of the total number. None of the Breton troops is named by the chroniclers, nor does the Ship List count the 100 vessels Eudon provided. The figures suggest a total allied force of 13000 soldiers. The conduct of the battle, particularly the disposition and changing effects of the archers over the course of the day suggest that Harold’s lines were much deeper and thus his numbers rather greater than some historians credit.

    Alan fought in many battles across England and northern France, leading such great men as William de Warenne.

    The only battle he did not win was the impossible Siege of Sainte Suzanne in which Alan’s 200 men fought against 300 defenders behind high walls who were supplemented by the greatest Knights of France. This was a costly three-year conflict (c 1082-1085) resolved as a draw by diplomacy.

    Perhaps his finest military achievement was the victory over the Rebellion of 1088 in which most of the Norman barons rebelled – at least in part against the ascendant Alan favouring the native English. William II intended to hang the rebels, but Alan counselled forgiveness.

    The ringleader, Bishop Odo of Bayeux was exiled, and continued his vindictiveness in Normandy. This could not be permitted to continue, so Alan sent the disgraced William de St Calais, Bishop of Durham (who had abandoned the Royal army in its darkest hour), into exile so his silver tongue could counter Odo’s advice to Duke Robert Curthose. The Norman government thus paralysed, in late 1090 a civic rebellion broke out in the capital, Rouen, which very nearly toppled the Duke. In late January 1091 Alan and William II were at Dover. A few days later the fleet sailed and the English army swiftly conquered Upper Normandy, to the cheers of the inhabitants. St Calais was retrieved and rewarded with full restitution.

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