"RICHMOND, is an ancient borough and market town, in the parish of its name, having separate jurisdiction, though locally in the western division of the wapentake of Hang, North Riding ; it is 229 miles from London, 93 n. from Manchester, and 44 n.w. from York. The town is beautifully situate on the eastern side of an acclivity, at the foot of which winds the river Swale, in a semi circular course, and the vale to which it gives name, and other parts of the country encompassing the town, are celebrated for their romantic and diversified scenery. The Swale was held sacred by the Saxons, from the circumstance of upwards of 10,000 persons having been baptized in it by Paulinus, archbishop of York, upon their first being converted to christianity. Richmond appears to have been founded in the reign of the Conqueror, by his nephew, Alan Rufus, to whom William granted the whole district called Richmondshire, with the title of Earl of Richmond, and who erected the castle, and gave the place the name of ' Rich Mount,' probably from the value he attached to it. The castle remained with the Earls of Richmond for more than two centuries, and ultimately fell to the crown, from Henry, Earl of Richmond, becoming king of England, by the title of Henry 7th ; after this it was suffered to fall into decay, and in the reign of Henry 8th it was in ruins. These remains overhang the river, which, at a short distance below, forms a picturesque cataract ; and about a mile eastward is the monastery of Saint Agatha. Charles 2nd bestowed the title of Duke of Richmond on his natural son, Charles Lenox, in whose descendants the dignity continues. The present is a neat well built town, chiefly of stone, and the princpal streets contain some good houses. The town is lighted with gas, and a handsome stone bridge of three arches crosses the river. It was formerly a place of consideration with respect to trade ; but the want of water communication with the Swale, and the grants of market charters to neighbouring towns, more favourably seated for commerce, have perhaps been the means of Richmond not maintaining its importance as a place of traffic. At one period knitted yarn stockings, and woollen caps for sailors, were manufactured to a considerable extent, but these branches have nearly, if not quite, ceased to exist. Its principal trade, now, is in agricultural produce, and that of a local nature, well sustained by its own inhabitants, and by the many genteel and opulent families resident in the vicinity of the town. There are two iron and brass founderies, several corn mills, and one for making paper.
Richmond is a borough by prescription as well as by several royal grants and charters : it was fully incorporated by Elizabeth, in the 19th of her reign, but did not send members until the 27th of the same reign. The members returned at the general election in 1832 (the present sitting ones), were the Hon. Charles Dundas and Sir Robert Lawrence Dundas. The mayor is the returning officer. The new Boundary Act (an appendage to the Reform Bill) defines the limits of the borough to comprise the respective parishes of Richmond and Easby. The same act appoints the town one of the stations for receiving votes at the election of members to represent the North Riding of the county. By a charter granted by Charles 2nd, the government of the town is vested in a mayor, recorder and twelve aldermen, assisted by a town clerk and subordinate officers. The mayor and the preceding one are justices of the peace. The general quarter sessions for the borough are held in the town hall, which is a handsome building erected by the corporation ; a court of record, which takes cognizance of actions under100, and a court baron for the liberty of Richmondshire, of which the Duke of Leeds is chief bailiff, are held once in three weeks, for the recovery of debts under 40s. Richmond is also an ecclesiastical diocese, and wills, &c. are here deposited.
The places of worship are the parish church, a chapel of ease, and others for methodists and Roman catholics. The church of St. Mary, which presents some portions of the Norman style, is supposed to have been erected about the time of Henry 3rd : it contains a few handsome monuments and armorial bearings, a beautiful font, and an excellent organ. The living is a rectory, in the patronage of the crown, and incumbency of the Rev. William Barnes ; the present curate is the Rev. J.B. Birtwhistle. The chapel of the Holy Trinity is supposed to have been the original parish church, and formerly belonged to the abbey of St. Mary, at York ; in 1740, it was repaired by the corporation, in whose gift is the curacy. The free grammar school here was founded in the 9th of Elizabeth, upon the petition of the then burgesses, and the appointment of the master is in the corporation : the present head master is the Rev. James Tate, jun. A.M. The other scholastic establishments are the ' Corporation Free School,' one upon the national plan, and a school of industry. The market is held on Saturday, and the annual fairs on Holyrood day, the Saturday before Palm Sunday, and the 2nd and 3rd of November. The last mentioned was established in 1833, the corporation having munificently made it toll free, and granted pasture for four days. Races are held here annually, on the first week in October ; they are well supported, and the meeting is most respectably attended. The parish of Richmond contained, by the returns in 1821, 3,546 inhabitants, and by those for 1831, 3,900. Before the Reform Bill passed, the borough and parish were co-extensive."
[Transcribed by Steve Garton ©2000 from
Pigot's directory (Yorkshire section) 1834]