Richmond, Yorkshire, England - Encyclopedia

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RICHMOND, a market town and municipal borough in the Richmond parliamentary division of the North Riding of Yorkshire, England, 50 m. N.W. from York, the terminus of a branch of the North-Eastern railway. Pop. (1901) 3 8 37. It is finely situated on the left bank of the Swale, the valley of which is narrow and the banks steep. The interest of the town centres in the castle founded about 1071 by Alan Rufus, a son of Odo, count of Penthievre in Brittany, who is also said to have rebuilt the town on obtaining from William the Conqueror, among other possessions, the estates of the Saxon earl Edwin, embracing some two hundred manors of Richmond and extending over nearly a third of the North Riding. This tract, comprising five wapentakes, was called Richmondshire at this time, but the date of the creation of the shire is uncertain. When Henry VII. came to the throne these possessions reverted to the crown. Henry VIII. gave them to his son Henry, afterwards duke of Richmond, by a daughter of Sir John Blount, and Charles II. bestowed the title of duke of Richmond on his son by the duchess of Portsmouth. The castle is situated on a perpendicular rock rising about loo ft. above the Swale, and from its great strength was considered impregnable. Originally it covered an area of 5 acres, but the only portions of it remaining are the Norman keep, with pinnacled tower and walls loo ft. high by 11 ft. thick, and some other smaller towers. The view from the keep is very fine, extending westward up the bold valley and over the hills which wall it, and eastward over the rich plain of the centre of the county. The church of St Mary is transitional Norman, Decorated and Perpendicular, and is largely restored. The church of the Holy Trinity retains only the nave and the detached tower. The building is ancient but was restored to use from ruins. Close to the town are ruins of Easby Abbey, a Premonstratensian foundation by Roald, constable of Richmond Castle in 1152, beautifully situated by the river. The remains, which are considerable, include a Decorated gateway, an Early English chapel and fragments of the transepts and choir of the church, with sufficient portions of the domestic buildings to enable the complete plan to be traced. For the free grammar-school founded by Elizabeth a Gothic building was erected in 1850, in memory of the Rev. James Tate, a former master. The tower of a Franciscan abbey founded in 1258 remains. The chief modern buildings are the town hall, market hall and the mechanics' institute. The principal trade is in agricultural produce, but there are a paper mill and an iron and brass foundry. An annual meeting is held on the racecourse in September. In 1889 Richmond became the seat of a suffragan bishop in the diocese of Ripon. The town is governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen and 1 2 councillors. Area, 2520 acres.

The name of Richmond (Richemont, Richemund) has not been traced further back than 1145. But it is probable that there was a settlement on the site of the present town before that date. Possibly it was the Hindrelaghe of the Domesday Survey, a place which, although large enough to have a church in r086, appears to have vanished before the close of the 12th century. As far as is known the earliest charter was granted in 1145. But a later charter (1146) shows that the burgesses had enjoyed some municipal liberties at an earlier period. The charter of 1145 gave the burgesses the borough of Richmond to hold for ever in fee farm at an annual rent of £29. Other charters were granthd by Earl Conan in 1150, by Earl John II. in 1268 and by Edward III. (the first royal charter) in 1328, and confirmed in subsequent reigns. A charter of incorporation was granted by Queen Elizabeth under the title of aldermen and burgesses in 1576, and another by Charles II. in 1668 under the name of mayor and aldermen. This last, though superseded later, was restored in the reign of James II. and, until the passing of the Municipal Reform Act of 1835, was regarded as the governing charter of the borough. Although Richmond received a summons as early as 1328, it was not represented in parliament until 1584, from which time it usually sent two members. In 1867 the number was reduced to one. Since 1885 the representation has been merged in the Richmond division of the North Riding. The charter of Earl John II. points to the existence of a market before 1268, but there is no grant of it extant. In 1278, Edward I. granted the same earl a yearly fair to be held at Richmond from the 3rd to the 16th of September inclusive. Queen Elizabeth granted the burgesses a market every Saturday, a market every fortnight for animals and a fair each year on the vigil of Palm Sunday. At one time there appear to have been as many as four annual fairs. There is now only one, which takes place on the 2nd and 3rd of November. The weekly market is still held on Saturday, and there is a fortnightly market for cattle. In the middle ages Richmond had an important market for corn and wool. There is evidence later of traffic in lead, and also of a flourishing manufacture of hand-knitted stockings. As the town possesses the only railway station in Swaledale, the market is still of consequence. But the stocking industry decayed with the introduction of machinery. William the Lion of Scotland was imprisoned in the castle in the reign of Henry II., but otherwise the town owes its importance chiefly to its lords. The honour was a valuable possession in the middle ages, and it was usually in royal or semi-royal hands.

See R. Gale, Registrum Honoris de Richemund (London, 1722); C. Clarkson, The History and Antiquities of Richmond (Richmond, 1821); T. D. Whitaker, A History of Richmondshire (London, 1823); Victoria County History, Yorkshire.

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