RICHMOND: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1835.
"RICHMOND, a parish and borough and market-town, having separate jurisdiction, though locally in the western division of the wapentake of Gilling, North riding of the county of YORK, 44 miles N.W. from York, and 234 N.N.W. from London, containing 3546 inhabitants. This place appears to have been founded in the reign of William the Conqueror, by his nephew Alan Rufus, to whom he granted the whole district called Richmondshire, with the title of Earl of Richmond, and who built the castle, and gave the place the name of " Rich Mount," indicating, it is presumed, the value he attached to it. The castle appears to have been inaccessible, from its situation and immense artificial strength, but was suffered to fall into decay at an early period, as, when Leland wrote his itinerary, in the reign of Henry VIII., it was in ruins; the town at the same period retained its walls, but the three gates, called French, Finkel, and Bar gates, were destroyed. The discovery of a, great number of Roman silver coins near the castle, in 1720, led to the conjecture that the town was of Roman origin, but there is no farther confirmation of this opinion. Richmond is beautifully situated on the declivity of a hill, at the foot of which the river Swale winds in a semicircular course, and the vale to which it gives name, and the other parts of the country surrounding the town, are celebrated for their romantic and diversified beauties. It is a neat well-built town, chiefly of stone, and the society consists in a great degree of persons of independent property j the beauty of the town and surrounding country, and the moderate rate at which the necessary articles of consump- tion can be procured, attracting many of this class. The principal streets contain some good houses; the town is lighted with gas, and a handsome stone bridge of three arches, crossing the river Swale, was erected in 1789, at the joint expense of the corporation and the inhabitants of the North riding. In the market-place, where are some very good houses and handsome shops, is a column, under which a reservoir has been constructed, capable of containing about twelve thousand gallons of water, brought by pipes from Aislabeck spring, and conveyed in the same manner to the different parts of the town: there is also another'reservoir, containing about three thousand gallons, at the spring head. From the period of its foundation, during several successive reigns, Richmond appears to have been a place of very considerable trade; but the grant of charters for markets to some of the neighbouring towns, and other causes, interrupted its prosperity, and the want of a water communication (the Swale from its rocky bed not being navigable) is a great bar to the increase of its trade, which is now principally in corn and lead, the latter being brought from the mines about fourteen miles westward; there are also some quarries of good stone. A very considerable trade in knitted yarn stockings, and woollen caps for sailors, was formerly carried on; they were manufactured here, and exported to Holland and the Netherlands, but it has nearly ceased. The market is on Saturday, and great quantities of corn are sold at it to the corn-factors and millers of the adjacent grazing and mining districts: there are three fairs, on the Saturday before Palm-Sunday, granted by Queen Elizabeth; on the Saturday before the feast of St. Thomas a Becket, and on the feast of the Holy Rood, granted by Edward I.; the first and last are for cattle, woollen goods, and various kinds of merchandise, and are numerously attended. The town, which is a borough by prescription, as well as by divers royal grants and charters, was fully incorporated by Queen Elizabeth, in the 19th year of her reign: and in the 27th of the same reign it first sent members to parliament. By a charter granted by Charles II., in 1668, the government is vested in a mayor, recorder, twelve aldermen, a town clerk, twenty-four common council-men, and subordinate officers; the mayor and late mayor are justices of the peace. A court of record is held every alternate Tuesday before the mayor, recorder, and three aldermen, at which actions under £100 may be tried. A meeting of magistrates is held every Monday, and a court leet at Easter and Michaelmas. The general quarter sessions for the borough are held in the town hall, which is a handsome building, erected by the corporation. The gaol for debtors, arrested by warrant from the sheriff of the county, directed to the chief bailiff, formerly belonged to the Earls of Richmond, and is now the property of Lord Dundas, and rented by the Duke of Leeds, as high steward and chief bailiff of the liberty and franchise of Richmond and Richmondshire, in which capacity His Grace has peculiar jurisdiction, with power of appointing courts and holding pleas of civil action under 40s. There is also a borough gaol. The borough first sent members to parliament in the reign of Elizabeth; the right of election is vested in the owners of ancient burgages in the borough, who have a right of common on Whitcliffe pasture; the number of voters is about two hundred and seventy: the mayor is the returning officer, and the preponderating influence is possessed by Lord Dundas. The living is a rectory, in the archdeaconry of Richmond, and diocese of Chester, rated in the king's books at £15. 5.'7., and in the patronage of the Crown. The church, which is dedicated to St. Mary, is conjectured, from tne style of part of the building, to have been erected about the time of Henry III.; it presents some portions in the Norman style, but the variety of additions and alterations it has undergone has left little trace of its original architecture: it contains a few handsome monuments and armorial bearings, a beautiful font, and an excellent organ. The chapel of the Holy Trinity, in the centre of the town, is supposed to have been the original parish church; it formerly belonged to the abbey of St. Mary at York, but was suffered to become ruinous, and no service was performed in it from the year 1712 until 1740, at which period it was repaired by the corporation: the living is a perpetual curacy, endowed with £200 private benefaction, £600 royal bounty, and £1200 parliamentary grant, and in the patronage of the Mayor and Corporation; in part of the ancient church, adjoining to this chapel, the Archdeacon of Richmond holds his consistorial court. There are places of worship for Baptists, Wesleyan Methodists, and Roman Catholics; in a window of the Roman Catholic chapel is a very fine painting of the Crucifixion. The Society of Friends had a meeting-house, but in consequence of there being none of that sect in the town it was disposed of, and has been converted to other purposes. The free grammar school, which enjoys considerable repute, was founded and endowed by the burgesses in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, who granted letters patent authorising its institution, and vesting the government of it in the bailiffs of the borough, which power is now exercised by the mayor and aldermen, who appoint the master; the children entitled to be taught, free are those who " are natives of the borough, or children of persons exercising any trade or occupation therein;" the average number of free children instructed is about eighteen, and the present produce of the endowment amounts to about £335 per annum. A rent-charge of £8 was bequeathed by Dr. Bathurst, in 1659, towards the maintenance of scholars going from this school to the University of Cambridge; the candidates are elected by the trustees, and may hold the exhibitions until they take the degree of M.A. In 1730, Dr. William Allen left his estate at Bures St. Mary, in Suffolk, for founding two scholarships at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, with preference to his next of kin, and afterwards to this school; they are now worth £17 per annum, with a prospect of considerable increase when the present leases expire. A National Sunday school was built in 1825; and the corporation have also a school for which they provide a master to instruct forty poor boys in reading, writing, and arithmetic. The Rev. Matthew Hutchinson's charity, bequeathed in 1704, and now producing about £68 per annum, is appropriated to the education of twelve poor boys, for which £10 per annum is paid; to the payment of £4 each to poor boys as apprentice fees, and £3. 3. per annum each to sixteen poor widows having a settlement in Richmond; there is also a rent-charge of £4, bequeathed by Dr. Bathurst, for apprenticing a poor boy, besides several other small charities distributed in various ways. Bowes' hospital was founded, in 1607, by Eleanor Bowes, for three poor widows, two of Richmond, and one of Easby, with an endowment of £10 per annum; the management is vested in the aldermen, recorder, rector, and master of the free grammar school. Thompson's hospital was founded, in 1781, by William Thompson, and endowed with property now producing about £13 per annum, for four widows of tailors, who had been residents of Richmond; they are lodged, and receive £3 per annum each; the management is vested in four trustees, with power to fill up vacancies, the rector of Richmond being always one. Pinkney's hospital was founded, in 1699, by Mr. George Pinkney, for three poor widows, who receive £6. 10. a year between them; the management is vested in the. mayor, recorder, rector, foreman of the common council, and two head churchwardens. The ruins and relics of antiquity possess extreme interest; of these, the principal is the castle, the site of which comprises nearly six acres; the remains shew the great strength of the building whilst entire, and the great square tower, or keep, which was supposed to have been built at a rather more recent period than the other parts, and which was repaired, in 1761, by the Duke of Richmond, is in good preservation. To the northward of the town are the ruins of a house of Grey friars, of which the tower is almost the only part remaining: it is a most beautiful structure, in the richest style of English architecture, ornamented with buttresses and pinnacles, and was erected shortly before the dissolution in 1538, at which time the society consisted of a master and fourteen brethren: the establishment was founded, in 1258, by Ralph Fitz-Randal, Lord of Middleham. St. Nicholas hospital, for sick and infirm people, and pilgrims, a short distance from the town, is of uncertain origin, but is mentioned so early as the 18th of Henry II.: the present building is supposed to have been erected soon after the dissolution of the religious establishments, and contains little of the original edifice. Nearly opposite the castle, on the other side of the river Swale, are the ruins of the priory of St. Martin, which was granted to the abbey of St. Mary, York, and richly endowed by Whyomar, Lord of Aske, chief steward to the Earl of Richmond, and founded in 1100, under John de Poppleton, the first prior; some fine Norman arches are nearly the only remains of this edifice. Richmond gives the title of duke to the family of Lennox."
[Transcribed by Mel Lockie © from
Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England 1835]