Richmond, North Yorkshire

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Richmond, North Yorkshire - Richmond Online

Guide to Richmond » A Brief History

Pre-Historic settlers and later discoveries

Neolithic Period (-2000-4000 B.C.) Flints (shaped stones for hunting and shaping tools)
Excavated at Scorton near Richmond.

Bronze Age (-2500 - 2000 B.C.)
1992 Bronze Sword found near Catterick Bridge.

Iron Age (-700 B.C. - 1st Century A.D.)

Remains of ;
a. Major earthwork at Malden Castle near Healaugh, Swaledale.
b. Stanwick earthworks near Aldborough St. John, near Richmond, excavated in 1951-1952 by Sir Mortimer Wheeler. These fortifications were constructed by the Brigantes, The largest tribe in the North of England, in the Iron Age. Their Queen was Cartismadua, who is thought to have made a treaty with the Romans. Roman pottery and artifacts were excavated.


Roman Period (-43 A.D. - 400 A.D.)

1937 Robert Pedley of Grinton, Swaledale found roman pottery. Amongst this was Samian Ware, a reddish - coloured, high quality pottery of Roman/Gaul origin.

Caractonium - A roman site, possibly present Catterick. Wood writing slabs found at Hadrian's Wall show details of supply requirements sent to Caractonium.

Fremlington, Swaledale, finds of roman metal work - now in the British Museum.

Roman lead mining at Hurst, Swaledale, recorded.

1724 Major Roman hoard found in Richmond Castle bank, 620 silver Roman coins and spoons.

1956 More Roman coins found in the above area.


Other Local Finds

1930's Easby Cross (Christian) found at Easby near Richmond. A cast of the original cross is in Easby church. (The original is in the Victoria and Albert Museum.) more info here

1976 Gilling West, Richmond, Viking Sword Found in local beck. (This had a silver hilt.) It is now in Castle Museum, York.
Anglo-Saxon cross found in Gilling Beck.
10th Century Hog-Back Tombstone found at Gilling -West.
(Both are now in Richmondshire Museum.)

Roman road of Dere Street which is part of present A1 runs north via Catterick.
Watling Street Roman major road, runs north via Stanwick, Durham and Northumberland to Hadrian's Wall.


Invasions to Richmond / Swaledale (-500 A.D. -1000 A.D.)

The Romans gradual withdrawal to other parts of their Empire left England in a state of instability. In Richmond / Swaledale, Anglo-Saxon invaders first, then later the Danes and Norseman landed. The river Swale and hinterland became part of the kingdom of Deira. Later this was joined to The kingdom of Bernicia and formed the large kingdom of Northumbria.

570 A.D. Anglo-Saxon battle against local inhabitants at Cattraeth (generally accepted as present Catterick) Local defeat.
Christianity later came to the area when monk Paulinus baptised Edwin, King of Northumbria. Hundreds of people were later baptised in the River Swale at a point near Catterick. (known as The Holy River and the Jordan of England)


Origins of place names

Skeeby, Easby, Nr.Richmond (-BY ending means village)

Upper Swaledale Villages; Thwaite, Muker, Smarber, Satron, Gunnerside, Melbecks, Skaleflat.
Lower Swaledale; Marrick, Owlands, Applegarth.
Danish settlements in late 800 A.D. turned to arable farming in lowlands. Norse settlements kept to uplands farming, grazing sheep and cattle.


Norman Era 1066

Richmond, North Yorkshire is the Mother of all Richmonds throughout the world. There are 57 altogether. The word Richmond comes from the Norman Riche-Mont meaning Strong Hill.

1066 William I gave extensive lands to his followers, as a reward for their active support. Alan Rufus of Brittany, a kinsman of William, received the honour of Richmond, which spread over Yorkshire and throughout England, even to parts of Dorset.

1071 Alan Rufus began building the castle. It was built of stone from the outset. A defensive site was chosen on a steep hill above the fast flowing River Swale.

Mid 12th Century Conan 'The Little' Earl of Richmond and Duke of Brittany, added The Great Keep, which was finished by Henry II. It has never been besieged, but in 1174 it was used to imprison the Scottish King William The Lion.


Medieval Richmond - late 13th, 14th & 15th Centuries

Important growth in wealth led to Richmond becoming a chartered borough. It had 13 craft guilds (which controlled trade.) It had important markets and fairs. Two craft guilds exist to this present day. A market is still held every Saturday. (1441 Henry IV granted a royal charter to hold a Saturday market.)

1311 Defensive stone walls built to protect the town from Scottish raids. Two postern gates in the town wall still survive; The Bar postern at the top of Cornforth - Hill and in Friars Wynd the other Postern gate remains.

The Market Place A large area, was originally the outer bailey of the castle. At this time once stood The Stocks and Pillory, for punishing wrongdoers. Also the market cross was a feature in the market. It was a place to gather and a position for selling Butter and Cheese.

The Market Cross was replaced by the present Obelisk - see Georgian History

The Bubonic Plagues -14th and 15th Centuries Richmond and Swaledale had a series of very wet weather during these years, resulting poor harvests. Cattle and Sheep developed disease which led to the population in 1349 being devastated with Bubonic Plague. Lesser epidemics occurred for the next 100 years. A cemetery at Easby Church has a plague stone. This deadly disease wiped out many of the inhabitants and affected the trade and farming industry.

Medieval Religious Houses Richmond had three chapels in the Castle, Trinity Chapel in the Marketplace, later, St.Mary The Virgin Parish Church, three Chapels on the outskirts of the town, a College for Chantry Priests, two small Hospitals and an Anchorite's cell, (Maison Dieu Area.)

Important religious House of the Greyfriars (now only the Bell Tower remains) and the premonstratensian - order of The White Canons at Easby Abbey. A small chapel dedicated to St. James of Compestella existed in what is now St. James Chapel Wynd, which leads from the Green to Bargate.

1536/7 Henry VIII broke allegiance from Rome, which eventually resulted in England becoming English Catholics with Henry head of the Church. Following this, Henry caused the dissolution of the Monasteries, The Abbey at Easby and The Friary both had their roofs and alters shattered, as well as the kitchens laid waste. (Hence Easby Abbey ruins and the limited ruins of the Friary remain.)


Other Early Richmonds

1485 Henry VII held the title of Earl of Richmond. He re-named his royal palace at Sheen, Surrey, thus making a second Richmond. This one in Surrey is the second oldest and Richmond, Virginia is the third.

Have a look at our Richmonds of the World section on Richmond Online


Robert Willance

Robert Willance was a succesful Richmond merchant and who also had lead smelting and mining property at Clints in Swaledale. In 1608 he was made the first Alderman (the equivalent of Mayor) of Richmond. He survived a hunting accident on Whitcliffe Scar, just outside Richmond. The site is now known as Willance's Leap in commemoration of the event in 1606.
Robert Willance & the "Leap" (click for more info on ROL)


Richmond and the English Civil War

Mid 17th Century England was divided, some supporting the Monarchy (Charles I) and others, rule by Parliament.

Richmond, at this time, became the Headquarters of the Scottish Army, (Parliamentarians.) The local inhabitants suffered greatly under their harsh behaviour.

1660 Richmond rejoiced when Charles II was restored to the throne.

Late 17th Century Richmond gradually prospered and the two main industries which expanded in the outlying Dale were lead mining and knitting. The wool, which came from the Swaledale sheep, was rough but waterproof. The wool was brought into Richmond, the market town of the Dale. It was sold to buyers who passed it onto local knitters. (Whole family members; Men, Women and Children) made caps and stockings. These were exported to areas of need, such as, Holland and Belgium. (known as The Low Countries)


Georgian Richmond

Late 17th and 18th Centuries marked Richmond's Hey-Day new elegant Georgian housing and buildings replaced many of the older medieval buildings. Frenchgate and Newbiggin have Georgian buildings to present day.

Culloden Tower (click for more info on ROL) Built in 1746 by John Yorke, M.P. for Richmond, to commemorate the Hanovarian victory over the Jacobite Scots at Culloden Moor. Richmond Green during Medieval times was the area used for a Tannery, Corn and Fulling Mills, A Brewery and Nail Makers. During the Georgian period it was the site of the Yorke Mansion and Gardens, which now are the site of the Culloden Tower.


Social Scene

Well-to-do families came to Richmond to attend the horse races, which took place at Richmond Race Course. Assemblies, Card parties and Military Musters were other attractions. The King’s Head Hotel, still present in the market place, was the main accommodation for the wealthy tourists. The Kings Head Hotel was built in 1718 for the Bathhurst family, whose wealth came from lead-mining. The town house later became a Hotel in the mid 18th Century. Another leading Hotel - no longer existing, was The Blue Bell (now shops) situated at the bottom of the market place.

1756 The Town Hall Built as a Georgian assembly room.


Frances I'Anson - The Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill

1766 Born in Leyburn, Wensleydale. Association with Hill House Richmond, through her maternal grandparents who had occupied the house from 1750-1768. Frances married songwriter, Leonard McNally who composed the famous song, sometimes believed to be about Richmond Hill in Surrey!

The Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill

On Richmond Hill there lives a lass
More bright than May-day morn,
Whose charms all others maids' surpass,
A rose without a thorn.

This lass so neat,
With smiles so sweet,
Has won my right good will.
I'd crowns resign to call thee mine,
Sweet lass of Richmond Hill!
Sweet lass of Richmond Hill,
Sweet lass of Richmond Hill,
I'd crowns resign to call thee mine,
Sweet lass of Richmond Hill!

Ye zephyrs gay that fan the air,
And wonton through the grove,
O whisper to my charming fair,
I die for her I love.

How happy will the shepherd be
Who calls this nymph his own!
O may her choice be fix'd on me!
Mine's fix'd on her alone.


1768 John Wesley the founder of the non-conformist sect, preached in the market place. He preached again in 1774 at the east end of Newbiggin and finally in 1786 he preached in Frenchgate.

Castle Walk The Castle Walk was built around the walls . This provided level walking - or Promenading, for the wealthy visitors. Scenic views from the castle walk of the river Swale, Fosse waterfall and Billy Bank woods were greatly admired.

1787: Opening of the re-built building of the Georgian Theatre. Samuel Butler was both actor and Manager of players. This theatre was another popular asset.

Richmond Grammar School Refounded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1567 stood in the parish churchyard. Replaced by a much larger building (facing the Richmond Batts.) In 1850 two famous Georgian Headmasters; Anthony Temple 1724- 1795 and James Tate 1771-1843. Temple succeeded in getting 29 of his pupils sent to Oxford and Cambridge. James Tate was even more successful; becoming a nationally known school for classical learning. Tate sent up many scholars to Cambridge. (Known as Tate’s invincibles.) 21 become Fellows, 13 of them at Trinity College.) Later Whig Prime minister, Lord Grey, patronised Richmond Grammar School.

1844-46: Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Ludwidge Dodgson) author of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, attended Richmond Grammar School when his father was Rector at Croft on Tees church, near Richmond.

1771 Old Market Cross Replaced by the present obelisk. It was originally built over a large reservoir, which supplied the townsfolk with drinking water.

1788-9 The Green Bridge (called because it crosses over the river to the Richmond Green) was built. Dates and names of the Mayors of the time are carved on the centre of the bridge. Opposite on the other side is a milestone showing the distances to Askrigg and Lancaster. (This was the start of the Richmond - Lancaster turnpike road.) John Carr the renowned Yorkshire Georgian Architect designed the bridge.


19th Century

1817 Thomas Bradley map shows the result of The Enclosures Act of Parliament which affected Richmond, (The medieval three fields, West Field, The Gallowfield and East Field) ceased to be public. William Dawson supervised the sale of land. The burgage house owners, dominated by the Dundas family who were M.P.s were for the enclosure system.

Municiple Reform 1832 Parliament reformed system of representation.
Richmond now had a Mayor, 4 Aldermen and 12 Councillors. The vote was given to all rate-payers.

Richmond Gas Works 1830 A sub- committee formed to organise first street lighting; 12-18 Oil lamps positioned in various parts of the town.

1820 Gas-Light company was founded, site chosen was near the Fosse (waterfall) and the castle mill site. 1849 This private gas company was taken over by the Richmond Corporation. Richmond is credited as being a leader of radical reform and one of the first towns to have public street lighting.


The Coming of the Railways 1846

The Darlington to Stockton Railway was opened in 1825 A branch line was later extended in 1846 to Richmond chiefly looking for profits from the carriage of coal, lead and lime. The cost of transporting Swaledale lead to Stockton was cut by one third. The farming community benefitted, as grain and crops exported were also cheaper. Nine miles of track was completed in a few months running through Dalton, Moulton, Catterick Bridge, Richmond.

The bridge over the Swale and Station road leading up to the market place were built around the same time. The railway and station buildings boosted tourist trade into Richmond, also gave the ordinary townsfolk better facility to travel.


Richmond Water Supply 18th and 19th Century

From medieval wells and springs leading water from Westfields to the market place via a lead lined conduit and spring water led into hollowed-out Elm branches - Richmond progressed in 1749 to all lead pipes. Water supply was increased from Aislebeck Springs further to the west. Reservoir built on Westfields and 1771 the new obelisk replaced the old market cross with a large reservoir built below it (capable of holding 12,000 gallons of water.)

1837 Reservoir made at Colesgarth up Gallowfields to increase water supply needed for growth in population. Lord Dundas leased this area to the corporation for 990 years. It was named Victoria Water Supply after the reigning monarch. The new water supply gave 150 gallons per minute.


Catterick Camp Early 20th Century

Lord Baden Powell, (founder of the Boy- Scout Movement) Head of the Northern Division of the Territorials, while living in Richmond Barracks in the castle in 1908-1910, planned Catterick Camp, to be situated south of Richmond in the Hipswell area. The Camp's first troops occupied the area in 1915. Commander M.F. Rimmington was the officer in charge.

1915 5000 German prisoners of war were housed at the Camp, where they were employed in constructing the road leading out of Richmond Station - via St. Martins- Hipswell Road- The Camp.

1927 June 29th: Plaque in Reeth road records the Total Eclipse (click for more info on ROL).

1929 600th Anniversary of Town's charters. Celebrated with roasting an Ox in Richmond market place.


War Memorials: 1914-1918 1935-1945 and Museums

War Memorial situated in Friary Gardens. Green Howards War Memorial situated at the head of Frenchgate.

Green Howards Museum situated in Richmond market place.

Richmondshire Museum situated in Ryders Wynd

Georgian Theatre Royal with Museum situated between Fryers Wynd and Victoria Road.


Richmond and the First World War - WW1 Centerary page by the Green Howards Museum


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Please Note - This is not intended to be the definitive guide to the history of Richmond, we are willing to accept additional information or to be corrected where necessary. If you know something that may be of interest please use the contact form

Compiled by the late Joan Wyllie for Richmond OnLine.

Richmond Online
Produced by Moonburst

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