Richmond, Yorkshire

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Richmond is a market town and civil parish on the River Swale in North Yorkshire, England and is the administrative centre of the district of Richmondshire. It is situated on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and serves as the Park’s main tourist centre. It is the most duplicated UK placename, with 57 occurrences worldwide.

The Rough Guide describes the entire town as ‘an absolute gem’. Betty James wrote that “without any doubt Richmond is the most romantic place in the whole of the North East [of England]”. Joseph E Morris agreed, although went further to say “Richmond is, beyond all question, the most romantic town in the North of England”. The town was named the UK town of the year for 2009.

The centre of the town is a conservation area: all the roads radiating from the cobbled Market Place – which is one of the biggest in England – are included, as is Newbiggin.  The immediate environs of the racecourse form another conservation area.

Richmond Castle situated in the town centre overlooking the River Swale is a major tourist attraction. Scolland’s Hall is the gatehouse and was staffed by the Lords of Bedale, such as Bryan FitzAlan, Lord FitzAlan, and Miles Stapleton, Founder KG. Other staff residences were Constable Burton and Thornton Steward. Also, Richmond had an extended Wensleydale castlery initially consisting of Middleham Castle, Ravensworth and Snape (Baron FitzHugh & Neville Baron Latymer). The Conyers, Wyville, Gascoigne, Stapleton and Lovell families were all notable gentry.

According to Richmond Online, throughout the year, Markets are held in the Town both indoors in the Market hall and outside in the Market Place. The Saturday Market is held outside all year and is a major attraction for visitors and local people. A wide variety of goods are offered for sale from farm produce to crafts and toys. The Indoor Markets are held in the Town’s Market Hall Monday to Saturday, again selling a wide variety of goods. A Farmers Market – is held every 3rd Saturday of the Month in the Market Place. On Sundays, from Easter through to Autumn, the Market Hall is the venue for Craft fairs. There is always a wide variety of Arts and Crafts on sale here, which makes this an interesting place to spend some time. Markets particularly outdoor markets form a valuable part of our heritage, they pre-date shops as we know them today, and relatively speaking supermarkets are the newcomers to the the retail scene. The indoor and outdoor markets in Richmond can trace their roots back to the Town Charter given by Elizabeth I, which are still retained by the Town.  The town’s first recorded royal charter allowing it to hold a market dates from 1155 in the reign of Henry II; another dates from 1441 in the reign of Henry IV. As well as the markets, the old charters give the town the right to hold fairs, these were events when folk from the surrounding villages in the dales gathered for a time of celebration. A travelling fair still comes to Richmond in early summer.

The town of Richemont in Normandy (now in the Seine-Maritime département, Haute-Normandie region) was the origin of the name Richmond. This Richmond was the eponymous honour of the Earls of Richmond (or comtes de Richemont), a dignity normally also held by the Duke of Brittany from 1136 to 1399.

Richmond was founded in 1071 by the Breton Alan Rufus, on lands granted to him by William the Conqueror. Richmond Castle, completed in 1086, consisted of a keep with walls encompassing the area now known as the Market Place.

The constitutional ambiguity of Dukes of Brittany as vassals of both Valois France (in right of Brittany) and Plantagenet England (in right of Richmond) was the source of much tension in Breton and Northern English history, particularly during the great Breton War of Succession and Wars of the Roses.

Richmond was eventually willed by Francis II, Duke of Brittany to Henry VII of England, whose grandson Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset was independent Richmond’s first duke, to distinguish from an earlier junior status as county. Richmondshire’s unification with the Principality of Wales and Kingdom of England into England and Wales was part of the same period as the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542, paralleled by the 1532 Union between Brittany and France, under Francis III, Duke of Brittany. Richmondshire had previous participation in the Statute of Rhuddlan, during which preceding conflict the Lord of Bedale became a seasoned soldier that aided in his promotion to a Viceroy of Edward I in the Scottish Lowlands. Richmond has been joined with the Welsh Marches since the time of Esmé Stewart, 3rd Duke of Lennox and Richmond’s relations with Mercia, go back to the time when Edwin, Earl of Mercia, held the old manor of Gilling West (an enclave within Northumbria), that was moved by the Bretons to Richmond. Richmond’s inclusion into the royal body politic of England was opposed by locals for over a century, through numerous plots and rebellions, Spanish confederations and Jesuit missions, finally cracking in the Civil War period. The most notable personages of this faction, were the Lords Baltimore, who had to retreat to Ireland and the American colonies for their peace of religion.

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. It is from this period that the town’s attractive Georgian architecture originates, the most notable examples of which are to be found on Newbiggin and in Frenchgate. One of Europe’s first gas works was built in the town in 1830.

The Green Howards Regimental Museum is based in the old Trinity Church in the centre of the town’s market place; the town is also home to the Richmondshire Museum.

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. More recently, the theatre has become the Georgian Theatre Royal and was extended in 2003 with the addition of a new block providing services and access next to the original auditorium. It is one of Britain’s oldest extant theatres.

Richmond has been used as a filming location for a significant number of TV programmes & films including The Fast Show, Century Falls, Earthfasts, A Woman of Substance (1984) and All Creatures Great and Small amongst others.

Tourism is important to the local economy, but the single largest influence is the Catterick Garrison army base, which is rapidly becoming the largest population centre in Richmondshire.

In the town centre there are many independent shops, as well as a small Co-op, WH Smith, Boots, Heron Foods and Edinburgh Woollen Mill. There is a large Co-op situated just outside the town centre.

The Station food, film and art centre admits 300,000 tourists a year. It was formerly Richmond railway station. It has a restaurant, cinema, art gallery and heritage centre, as well as a bakery, cheese-maker, micro brewery, ice-cream parlour, fudge house and honey-maker.

The stone terminus of Richmond Railway Station, built in a Tudor/Elizabethan style, opened in 1846 and closed in 1968, a year before the branch line itself was taken out of service. After the station closed, the building was used for many years as a garden centre. It has now been renovated by the Richmondshire Building Preservation Trust and opened in late 2007 – retitled, simply, The Station – as a mixed-use space for community and commercial activities. The newly-renovated station is home to two cinema screens, an art gallery and a restaurant and café. There are also artisan food makers on the premises: The Angel’s Share, Archer’s Jersey Ice Cream, Lacey’s Cheese, Richmond Brewing Company and Velvet Heaven.

Nearly 200 years ago some soldiers found an entrance to a tunnel underneath the castle keep. They could not fit into the tunnel so they elected to send a regimental drummer boy. The boy was asked to walk along the tunnel and beat his drum so that above ground the soldiers could follow the noise. They did this for 3 miles before the sound stopped unexpectedly. This was never explained until centuries later, when people now believe that the roof of the tunnel collapsed on top of the drummer boy, whilst drumming along. Today a stone marks the spot the noise stopped. The entrance to the tunnel is still there, but is forbidden for anyone to go in. Today schools celebrate this local legend with children marching through town annually. Legend claims that on some cold nights you can hear the faint sound of the drummer boy still.

Richmond is twinned with Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier, France; and Vinstra, Norway.

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