Richmond is a small market town located on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and is the administrative centre for the Richmondshire district. The River Swale, which is the fastest flowing river in the UK, is one of the many features which makes Richmond a magnet for tourists. Richmond Castle, which dates from 1086, overlooks the town's cobbled market place.
Richmond was founded in 1071 by the Breton Alan Rufus, on lands granted to him by William the Conqueror. It was a huge estate from Durham to London, covering 11 counties including Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorset, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.
The prosperity of the medieval market town and centre of the Swaledale wool industry greatly increased in the late 17th and 18th centuries with the burgeoning lead mining industry in nearby Arkengarthdale. Europe’s first gas works was built in the town in 1830. Richmond was one of first towns in the North to get gas street lighting.
Richmond Castle is an imposing edifice overlooking the fast-flowing River Swale. It is situated in the town centre and is a major tourist attraction. During the English Civil War, the Covenanter Army led by David Leslie, Lord Newark, took over the castle, and conflict between local Catholics and Scottish Presbyterians ensued. During World War 1, the Castle served as a barracks for soldiers, and 16 conscientious objectors were imprisoned there. The Keep is one of finest in the UK. It is over 100 feet high with walls 11 feet thick to hold the structure intact. Scolland’s Hall is the gatehouse.
Middleham Castle; Although not in the town, this is a suitable place to describe this Castle, also built by Alan Rufus in 1190. The castle remained in royal hands until the reign of James 1, when it was sold. It fell into disuse and disrepair during the 17th Century. It was garrisoned during the Civil War, but saw no action. The ruins are now in the care of English Heritage.
The cobbled market place is one of the largest in England, and is of French design. Prince Charles calls Richmond the ‘Siena of the North’. He visited in 2005 with the Duchess of Cornwall.
Based in the old Trinity Church in the centre of the town’s market place is The Green Howards Museum which narrates the story of this regiment, now known as the Yorkshire Regiment.
The town is also home to the Richmondshire Museum which features an ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ TV set and a Fenwicks Store. The latter is a business that started in Richmond in 1876 and grew to be a national department store; there is still a Fenwicks in York. A replica 1950’s post office shop was built in the museum in 2007, and new interactive facilities opened in 2013.
The Georgian Theatre Royal, founded in 1788 by the actor Samuel Butler, is just off the market place. A decline in the fortunes of theatre led to its closure in 1848, and it was used as a warehouse for many years. In 1963 the theatre was restored and reopened, with a theatre museum added in 1979. It was extended in 2003, with the addition of a new block providing services and access next to the original auditorium. It is the oldest working Georgian Theatre in the UK, and has seen many famous actors perform on its stage.
The Station, a community-based social enterprise, was formerly Richmond railway station. With a restaurant, 2-screen cinema, art gallery and heritage centre, as well as a bakery, cheese maker, micro brewery, ice-cream parlour and fudge house, it averages 300,000 visitors a year, and is the fourth largest tourist attraction in Yorkshire. In 2008, it won the National Rail Heritage, Ian Allan Publishing award.
The Antient Silver Arrow; Once described as ‘The Daddy of all Sporting Fixtures,’ The Antient Silver Arrow is the World’s longest established and oldest recorded sporting event, dating back to 1673. It was first shot for in Scorton Village, Richmond, North Yorkshire.
Among the many customs of great interest in the Town of Richmond, the Septennial Boundary Riding is perhaps the one of greatest interest. This custom takes the form of a “perambulation,” as the appearance of those who have afterwards been permitted to sign the Roll (as having completed the walk) testifies.