"RICHMOND, a parish, market town, municipal and parliamentary borough in the wapentake of West Gilling, North Riding county York, 44 miles N.W. of York, and 233 N.W. of London by road, or 240 by the Great Northern, and 268 by the London and North-Western railways. It is situated on elevated ground near the river Swale. It is supposed to have derived its name from Richmont, on account of its natural attractions, and appears to have been a place of considerable importance at the time of the Norman conquest, for William I. gave the title of Earl of Richmond to his kinsman, Alan Rufus, son of Hoel, Count of Bretagne, on his obtaining the estates of the Saxon earl, Edwin, which then comprised 200 manors, called Richmondshire extending over nearly a third of the North Riding of Yorkshire. This Alan Rufus is generally believed to have rebuilt the town, as well as the castle. When Henry VII. came to the throne, these possessions reverted to the crown. Henry VIII. gave it to his natural son Henry, by a daughter of Sir John Blount, and more than a century later King Charles II. gave the title to the Lennoxes, with whose descendants it still remains. The castle has long been in ruins, though the Norman keep with pinnacled corner towers is still intact, the walls of which are upwards of 100 feet high and 11 feet thick. At the S.E. corner is the ruin of a smaller tower, beneath which is a dungeon 15 feet deep, and at the S.W. corner is a tower of considerable height. The castle originally covered five acres, and was built on almost a perpendicular rock, 100 feet above the level of the river Swale. This castle, from the advantages of its position and its complete fortifications, was considered inaccessible, and without a rival either in extent or strength. The North York Rifles have converted a portion of the castle into a store for arms, and several houses in the Gothic style have been built for the convenience of the staff. Until about three centuries after the Norman conquest, Richmond is generally supposed to have carried on a good trade, but little is now done except in agricultural produce, and in retail trade for the supply of the agricultural district in the midst of which it is situated. The want of water communication, owing to the natural obstructions of the river Swale, and the privileges granted by various sovereigns to neighbouring towns, have, no doubt, contributed to this result. The only manufactories are a large paper-mill, and an iron and brass foundry. There are several corn-mills, and tanning is carried on to a small extent. Queen Elizabeth granted the first charter to the town, and under the Municipal Corporations Act it is governed by a mayor, who is also returning officer, four aldermen, and twelve councillors, with the style of "mayor and aldermen of the borough of Richmond." The population in 1851 was 4,106, with 843 inhabited houses, which in 1861 had increased to 4,290, with 863 inhabited houses, but the parliamentary bounds are rather more extensive, comprising 5,734 inhabitants. It returns two members to parliament, and is also a polling-place for the North Riding. The town is lighted with gas, and has a good supply of water. Several houses have been erected of late, and many landed proprietors and county families reside in the environs, whose seats add greatly to the attractions of the place. The principal public buildings are the townhall, situated in the market-place, containing an assembly room and court room, where the business of the town is chiefly transacted, and where quarter and petty sessions are held as well for the borough as for the West Gilling division of the North Riding; the borough gaol, an ancient stone edifice situated in Newbeggin; the savings-bank, situated in Low Channel, contains, besides the bank offices, the library of the Richmond scientific society, the mechanics' institute, and the subscription newsrooms; the union poorhouse is capable of accommodating 120 paupers, where the board of guardians meet every Saturday; the market-house was built at the expense of the corporation in 1854, for butter and poultry, the corn market being held in the market-place adjoining; there are also two branch banks, gas and water works, and several insurance agencies. The railway station and the bridge over the Swale are handsome structures, the latter is built of stone and has three arches. A county court is held monthly, also a court of record for the borough. The Richmond Poor-law Union comprises 41 parishes and townships The Richmond and Ripon Chronicle is published on Saturday. The living is a rectory* in the diocese of Ripon, value £470, in the patronage of the bishop. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, is an ancient stone structure, principally Gothic, but with traces of Norman architecture; it has been enlarged at different times, and has a square tower containing six bells. There is a curious old monument to the Hutton family. There is also a district church, the living of which is a perpetual curacy, value £120. The church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, is an old structure, with a tower containing one bell; it has been partially restored, and the N. aisle, in which until recently the consistory court of the Archdeaconry of Richmond was held, has been added to the church. The Roman Catholic chapel was built in 1811 by Sir J. Lawson, and enlarged in 1855; the Independents and Wesleyans have each a place of worship. The free grammar school was founded and endowed in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, by whom it was incorporated, and has two scholarships at Trinity College, Cambridge; the present building was erected in 1850, and has an income of nearly £300 per annum. There are also the corporation school, built in 1851, National, Sunday, and infant schools. Several of the resident gentry have training stables near the race-course, which is about a mile from the town, and where there is a commodious grand stand. The principal antiquities are the ruins of the castle above described, now the property of the Duke of Richmond, the remains of the Grey Friars' monastery, founded in 1258 by Ralph Fitz-Randal, and situated at the back of Frenchgate, consisting of a steeple, now crumbling to decay; and about a mile from the town, some remains of the monastery of St. Martin and of the abbey of St. Agatha, on the N. bank of the river in the adjoining parish of Easby. Greathead, the inventor of the life-boat, was a native. In the neighbourhood of Richmond, Roman coins have been found. Saturday is market day for corn and provisions, &c., and a fortnightly market for cattle has been held since 1852. There are several fairs for pedlary, and a large stock and cattle fair held on the 2nd and 3rd of November. Races take place annually in the beginning of October."
The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland
by Colin Hinson ©2013