RICHMOND, a parish in the wapentake of Gilling West, and liberty of Richmondshire; 8 miles from Leyburn; 10 from Reeth; and 16 from Northallerton. The town stands on an eminence, boldly rising from the Swale, which winds in a semi-circular form at the foot of the castle.
In the time of Leland, this was a walled town, and in the wall there had been three gates:- French gate,- to the north; Finkle gate, to the west ; and Barr gate, leading to the Bridge over the Swale; but even then the gates were down, and their sites were marked only by vestiges. Alan Rufus, one of the adventurers who accompanied William the Conqueror, in his descent on England, and who commanded the rear guard of his army in the battle of Hastings, was the founder of this town and Castle, which, though seated on a rock, and on the verge of the moors, received the name of "Rich-mount", on account of the partiality of its lords. Alan, who was the nephew of the Conqueror, and afterwards became Earl of Bretagne, received from his uncle the title of the Earl of Richmond. The Charter for dispossessing Earl Edwyn, the Saxon lord, of his Yorkshire estates, and conferring them upon Alan, was granted at the siege of York, in the year 1069, and is couched in these brief but comprehensive terms
I, WILLIAM, surnamed the Bastard, do give and grant to thee Alan, my nephew, Earl of Bretagne, and to thy heirs for ever, all the towns and lands which lately belonged to Earl Edwyn in Yorkshire, with the Knights fees, churches, and other privileges and customs, in as free and honourable a manner as the said Edwyn held them.
Given from the siege before York.
It appears from Madox's history of the Exchequer, that this grant conveyed 140 Knight's fees, each fee containing 12 plowlands, or 640 acres; and Richmondshire, the seat of these ample possessions, contains 104 parishes. This jurisdiction comprehends the five wapentakes of Halikeld, Gilling East and Gilling West, and Hang East and Hang West. It has the Tees for its northern boundary the Wiske to the east; the Ure to the south; and the wapentakes of Claro and Staincliffe to the west. The foundations of Richmond, and of its Castle, were laid about the year 1087, and this archdeaconry, like all the archdeaconries in the Cathedral of York, was founded in the time of Archbishop Thomas, who sat from 1070 to 1100.
In fixing upon a site for his castle, which was to serve at once for a place of residence and a station of defence, Earl Alan selected the strongest point in his domain, and laid the foundations on the almost perpendicular rock on the left bank of the Swale. To increase its security, his successors, Alan the younger, and Stephen Fergeaunt, encompassed it with a high wall, about 800 yards in length, embattled and flanked with lofty towers. To the south, the west, and the east, the fortress was rendered impregnable by the combined operation of nature and art; and on the north, which was the weakest side, Conan, the fourth Earl of Richmond, built the great square tower, or keep, in 1146, the walls of which, with their pinnacled watch towers, from their extraordinary thickness, have braved the dilapidating hand of time, and retain at this day their original dimensions and stability. From this tower, which is 99 feet high, with walls 11 feet thick, the defenders of the castle had a commanding view of the surrounding country; and in case of attack, all the movements of their enemies became as visible to them, as if they had been made in the court yard of the fortress. To strengthen this approach, an outwork, called the Barbican, was erected, which defended the gate and the draw-bridge at the principal entrance. On the top of the walls, and on the flat roofs of the buildings, stood the defenders of the castle, and from thence discharged their arrows and missiles, according to the usages of war, before Schwartz, the German priest, had facilitated the work of destruction by the invention of gunpowder (in 1320). A tower, about 14 feet deep, which probably served as a staircase to the Scolland, so called from the name of the high steward in the time of Earl Alan, still remains; and tradition, which is apt to deal in the marvellous, has made it the entrance to a subterraneous passage from the castle to the priory of St. Martin, under the bed of the Swale! The Earls, who were the friends, and of the family of princes, lived here in almost regal style; and the Scolland, which wad a hall 72 feet long by 27 broad, was the banqueting room for the lord and his numerous officers and retainers. Happily, this castle, with almost all the other inland fortresses of England, has long since fallen into ruins. The people want not their protection, nor the prince their aid. Rapine and hostile alarm have ceased, and the settled administration of law neither craves nor allows of these feudal auxiliaries. Richmond Castle does not appear to have owed its destruction either to the hostile attack of an enemy, or to the dismantling enactments of a parliament, but merely to the neglect of the possessors, who, in a succession of ages, had suffered the buildings to fall into decay; and when Leland made his itinerary, in the 26th year of tha reign of Henry VIII. this castle was then in ruins (The site of this castle contains nearly six acres and its lord is the Duke of Richmond). "After having stood." says the historian of Richmond, "the conflicts of the war of elements, and the depredation of man for upwards of seven centuries, nothing is now left but a poor vestige of its former strength and magnificence, and a melancholy monument of the destructive hand of time!"
At the back of French gate, a little without the walls, stood the monastery of the Grey Friars, founded in l258, by Ralph Fitz-Randal, Lord of Middleham, and, after flourishing nearly three centuries, was surrendered in 1538, by Robert Sanderson, the last warden, and fourteen brethren. Several of the families of Scroop, Plessey, and Frank, were buried here. In the time of Leland, the house, garden, orchard, and meadow, were walled in, and the edifice existed unimpaired; but there now remains only a solitary steeple, majestic and beautiful in ruins, to mark the residence and the sanctuary of that order of mendicants, called after their founder, the Franciscans. The ruins of this little monastery, and the premises, with the walls, are now the property of John Robinson, Esq. through whose public spirit the grounds have been freed from many unsightly incumbrances, and planted with shrubs and ornamental trees. To the west of the Friary was a Nunnery, but it has disappeared, and even its history is unknown.
The ruins of the Monastery of St. Martins's stand on the southern bank of the Swale, near a mile from the town. The corroding hand of time has been busy here, and, saving the situation, there is little to admire about this ancient cell of the Benedictines. (See Martin St. Abbey). On the north east side of the river, at about a mile below Richmond, the remains of the Praemonstratentian abbey of St. Agatha attract the attention of the visitor, and reward him for thee time bestowed upon the inspection of this monument of baronial munificence. The abbey, owing to its vicinity, is generally called Easby Abbey, and the date of its erection with the name of its founder are given under the name of Easby.
The parish church of Richmond, which is situated on the declivity of the hill, is dedicated to St. Mary; the living is a rectory, and the patron is the King. This church is provided with a fine toned organ, and within the church and the burial ground are several monuments that may serve to gratify the curious and impress the contemplative. The chapel of the Holy Trinity stands in the middle of the town, and formerly belonged to St. Mary's at York. The Rev. Mr. Atkinson, A.B. is the perpetual curate. Divine service is performed here every Sunday morning and afternoon. The Consistory court, for the Archdeaconry of Richmond, is held in two rooms adjoining the north aisle in this chapel. This court has the institution of churches within the archdeaconry, and the care and custody of them as long as they shall be vacant; it has also the power of proving wills, granting marriage licences, letters of administration, and all other matters relating' to ecclesiastical causes; but there is an appeal from the decisions of the Consistory court, to the Archbishop of the Province. The Rev. Francis Blackburne, Archdeacon of Cleveland, and author of "the Confessional," was for eight and forty years rector of the parish church of Richmond, and died here in 1787, in the eighty-second year of his age.
The Methodists have a handsome and commodious chapel In Ryder's Wynd, built in 1807; The Quakers have also a meeting-house in Fryer's Wynd, but it is now otherwise appropriated. There is also a Baptist chapel. Besides these places of Protestant worship, a Catholic chapel was erected in 1811, in Newbiggin, at a cost of £900. by Sir John Lawson, Bart, in the gallery window of which there is a fine painting of the Crucifixion.
Richmond is a town corporate, and has been a borough ever since the erection of the castle. Indeed, a Norman castle was never without a borough (Dr Whitaker's Richmondshire). and the term "burgeness," implies merely the inhabitants who constructed their dwellings' under the walls and protection of a castle. Alan Ill. Duke of Bretagne, made a grant to the burgesses of Richmond of his borough and land of Fontenay in Fee Farm, on condition of paying him £29. a year, which charter was confirmed by Edward III. Queen Elizabeth afterwards incorporated the town, in the 19th year of her reign, and in the 27th of the same reign the burgesses were called upon to send members to Parliament. By a charter granted by Charles II. on the 14th of March, 1668, the government of the town was placed in the hands of the mayor and aldermen; and the corporation now consists of a mayor, a recorder, (The Recorder is nominated by the Mayor and Aldermen, and that office is filled by George Wailes, Esq. Barrister at Law). 12 aldermen, a town clerk, 24 common council men, and two sergeants at mace. The mayor is chosen on the feast of St. Hilary, and is a justice of the peace during his mayoralty, and one year afterwards. The magistrates hold their meetings every Monday morning; and a Court-Leet twice in the year, namely, at Easter and Michaelmas. A Court of Record is also held here every fortnight throughout the year, before the Mayor, Recorder, or Seneschall, and three aldermen for all manner of actions, suits, and demands below £100. The revenue of the corporation amounts to about £800. a year, and the two Chamberlains, who collect the rents, are annually chosen by the Mayor out of the Common Council.
The right of electing members of Parliament is in the owners of ancient burgages in the borough, who have also a right of pasture in a common field, called Whitecliffe pasture: the number of voters is about two hundred and seventy, of which Lord Dundas possesses a decided majority. The mayor is the returning officer, and the present members are, Samuel Mountain Barett, Esq. of Carlton Hall, and the Hon. Thomas Dundas.
The town hall is a handsome and convenient structure, in which the public business of the town is transacted, and the General Quarter Sessions, both of the borough and riding are held. The corporation, to whom the town is indebted for this edifice, has had an eye on its erection to pleasure as well as business, and hence it contains a large and elegant room, 70 feet long and 24 wide, in which balls and assemblies are held, and the other public gaieties of the town enjoyed. The Duke of Leeds is the chief bailiff of the liberty and franchise of Richmond and Richmondshire.
The Gaol belongs to his Grace, who holds a court here for the trial of causes, when the amount at issue does not amount to 40s.
The following is a list of the Corporation in 1822: Mayor - John Foss, Esq., Recorder - George Wailes, Esq., Town Clerk - Ottiwell Tomlin, Esq., Aldermen - William Thompson, George Kay, Philip Macfarlan, William Close, George Gill, William S. Goodburn, George Smith, William Thompson, jun. Michael Brunton, William Terry, Thomas Simpson, and Thomas Bradley, Esquires.
Common Councilmen,..... Messrs. Simm, Metcalfe, Edward Cowling, William Denham, John Cooper, George Croft, P. Brackenbury, John Lowes, James Coates, John Colling, Thomas Bowman, Francis Howson, William Dale, John Watkin, Michael Yarker, Edward Mason, John Simpson, J. C. Ibbetson, William Gill, Edward Macfarlan, George Smurthwaite, Thomas Lambert, George Croft, jun. John Cowling, and John Metcalfe.
"The Free Grammar School of Richmond", says our usual authority upon these subjects (Mr Carlisle), "is situated in the church yard of the low church, (St. Mary's) and was founded and endowed by the burgesses, on the 14th of March, 1568." The guardians and governors of the school and its revenues are the Mayor and Aldermen of Richmond, and in them, as the successors of the Bailiffs, the right of nominating the master is vested. The gross amount of the revenue, Mr. Carlisle states at £330. per annum, arising from land, but it happens to be within our knowledge, from an unquestionable source of information, that since his book on "Endowed Schools" was compiled, and even since the last visit of the parliamentary commissioners, the depreciation in the value of land has reduced the clear revenue of the master to a sum much below three hundred pounds a year. "All children, natives in the borough, and the children of all burgesses and other persons inhabiting in the said borough, and exercising any trade, mystery, or manual occupation therein, are intitled to be taught free in the said school." The number of boys upon the foundation seldom exceeds 20, and the average number of boarders and free scholars amounts to about 50 in the whole. The present master is the Rev. James Tate, M.A. (or as he is frequently called, Dr Tate, public estimation having conferred upon his worthy divine that honour, to which, by his learning he is well entitled.) This gentleman takes pupils at one hundred guineas a year each for board and education, of whom the number is limited, and does not exceed those of his own children. The usher, the Rev. E. J. Lockwood, A. B. who is engaged at a salary of one hundred guineas a year, takes ten boarders, at forty-six guineas per annum. This school, which ranks among the first free grammar schools in England, has produced several eminent men, and from the estimation in which it is held at the universities, to which it yearly, (particularly to Cambridge,) sends its well qualified contributions, many more may be expected to proceed from the same source.
There are here several minor charities, which do not call for any particular enumeration: the liberality of the town also supports several Sunday schools; and the provident care of the humbler class of inhabitants has established two Friendly Societies, one for women and the other for men, from which the contributors derive assistance in sickness and old age.
From the time of the Conqueror, through several successive reigns, Richmond was a rising town, and possessed almost the exclusive trade of the shire, to which it gives its name. It had then many wealthy merchants, artificers, and other substantial inhabitants, but in the early part of the fifteenth century it had fallen into decay, and an inquisition was granted in the 18th year of the reign of Henry VI. to inquire into the causes of this reverse of fortune. From the report of the inquisitors, it appears that these causes were several - First, Richmond used to be the great mart and centre of trade, but since the time of Earl Alan, royal charters had been granted for holding markets at Masham, at Bedale, and at Middleham; second the adjoining Counties of Lancaster and Cumberland, which were formerly supplied with a considerable share of their grain from hence, had brought large tracts of their own moors and wastes into cultivation, and had, in consequence, withdrawn themselves from this market; third, the pasture of Whitecliffe had become overgrown, and no longer produced its accustomed profit to the inhabitants by the agistment of their cattle; and fourth, many burgesses, artificers, victuallers, and other inhabitants of this borough had been swept away by the plague, and other epidemical diseases, and others had been obliged, in consequence of the force used to collect the fee-farm rents, to abandon their houses to desolation, and were wandering as mendicants about the country, with their wives and children. The depopulating influence of these adverse events, was, it is probable, soon checked, and Richmond is as large, but no larger now than it was six centuries ago. Among the modern improvements in Richmond may be mentioned the short rectilinear and level approach which has been made into the town, by which the precipitous descent from the north and the steep ascent into the market are avoided; and coeval with this great public accommodation is the erection of a handsome bridge of three arches, over the Swale, in 1789, at the joint expense of the Corporation and the North Riding.
There is here a good weekly market held on the Saturday, at which a great deal of corn is sold to the corn factors and millers from Swaledale and Wensleydale, where grazing is the chief pursuit of the farmer. The want of a communication for the transit of merchandise by water, has operated much to the disadvantage of this place, and the rocky nature of the bed of the Swale, with the sudden swells to which that river is liable precludes the idea of navigation. The annual fairs here are two, one of them on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, and the other on the feast of the holy Cross, the 14th of September. According to ancient custom the men and tenants of the town of Richmond were free from payment of tolls, pontage, stallage, &c. these privileges were confirmed by a charter granted in the 20th of Charles II. and a copy of that grant signed by the mayor and bearing the seal of the corporation, exonerated a freeman of Richmond from tolls in every part of the kingdom. This right we believe still exists, but it has ceased to be exercised, and like many other feudal privileges is in the present state of society a name without a substance. The banking concerns here are the Old Bank of Messrs. Stapleton and Co. in the Market place, who draw upon Barclay and Co. London; and the New Bank of Messrs. Hutton, Other, and Simpson, also in the Market place, who draw upon Pole and Co. London. At the King's Head Inn, in the Market place, there is a Subscription Coffee-room, at which the London and country newspapers are received.
The town is abundantly supplied with water from Aislabeck Spring, which is conveyed into reservoirs prepared for the purpose by the corporation, and thence by pipes to the different parts of the town. There is in this spirited little town a Gas Light Company, founded in 1821, the dispersion of whose brilliant fluid serves to enliven the streets and adds to the security of the inhabitants.
Here was born in 1705, Archdeacon Francis Blackburne. He received his education at the schools of Hawkeshead and Sedburgh, and was entered of Catherine-Hall, Cambridge, in 1722; and about 1739 obtained the rectory of his native place. He was some time chaplain to Dr. Hutton, Archbishop of York, who gave him the Archdeaconry of Cleveland, and a prebend in the cathedral, he wrote " The Confessional," and " a short historical view of the controversy concerning the intermediate state, &c." in which are maintained the notion of the souls sleeping in an unconscious state during the interval between death and the resurrection. His works have been collected and printed in 6 vols. 8vo. He died in 1787.
The country round Richmond is extremely beautiful; the valley of the Swale seen from the terrace of the castle appears to great advantage. This place is admired by tourists for its romantic beauties, and by many is thought preferable to that "Rich, Mount," on the banks of the Thames, to which it imparted its denomination four hundred years after the Earls of Richmond had built this castle on the Swale. Within the last ten years the population of Richmond has increased 15 per cent. though for ages before it had been stationary, and the number of the inhabitants of the parish and the borough, which are co-extensive, now amount to 3,546, though according to the parliamentary returns of 1811, there were then only 3,050.
[Description(s) edited mainly from various 19th century sources by Colin Hinson. ©2010]