UK town of the year 2009, lovely market square, a rich history and a mediaeval Norman castle.

View Over Richmond

View Over Richmond1

Richmond, described by the Rough Guide as an “absolute gem”, is a large market town on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park with a long and rich history.

The town is dominated by Richmond Castle built in 1071 on the bank of the River Swale but, sadly, now a ruin.

There are plenty of other attractions in the town and nearby, as well, coupled with a huge choice of places to stay and to eat.


In brief

  • Large market town on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales
  • Main tourist centre in the Yorkshire Dales National Park
  • Huge, historic Richmond Castle dating from Norman times
  • The first of the, now 57, Richmonds around the world
  • Plenty of shops, restaurants, theatres and places to stay
  • Many fine Georgian buildings
  • UK town of the year for 2009.

A bit of history

The area around Richmond was settled from Neolithic times, the stone flints and other tools found locally would suggest. Bronze age relics have also been found along with earthworks from the Iron Age constructed by the Brigantes. The Romans occupied the area from c.43BC to 400AD and various Roman artifacts have been recovered including coins, pottery and spoons. There is also evidence of Roman lead mining further up Swaledale. The Roman road of Dere Street ran close to Richmond.


When the Romans withdrew, Anglo-Saxon invaders filled the vacuum, followed, many years later, by Vikings from Denmark and Norway. Richmond and Swaledale became part of the Viking kingdom of Deira. The Danish villages turned to farming and by the late 800AD the area had settled into mixed farming, raising crops alongside sheep and cattle.

Norman conquest

In 1066 William the Conqueror arrived and quickly took the whole country in a bloody conquest. William rewarded one of his relatives and supporters, Alain Le Roux (also known as Alan Rufus or Alan the Red) of Brittany with huge tracts of land throughout Swaledale and elsewhere in the country. The modern name Richmond stems from this era, coming from the French “Riche monte” or “Strong hill”. Rufus started building the castle at Richmond in 1071 and the town grew rapidly around it, the inhabitants protected by it. Rufus also built the castle at Middleham in Wensleydale as well.

Growth & wealth

The Dukes of Brittany held Richmond and its lands, on and off, until the 14th century. The death of John V, Duke of Brittany in 1399 lead to Henry IV taking possession of Richmond and, in 1848, it was incorporated into Crown lands. By then, in recognition of its growing wealth, the town had been given a royal charter to hold a weekly market on Saturdays.

The growth of the town was fuelled by agriculture, specifically wool, and lead mining. Many fine Georgian buildings replaced the mediaeval ones during the late 17th & 18th centuries.

Richmond today

Richmond Market Square

Richmond Market Square2

Agriculture remains an important industry today, along with tourism. The huge Catterick Garrison army base nearby, with it’s enormous population, is also vitally important to the local economy.

Richmond is used regularly as a film location and has attracted TV shows and films like The Fast Show, Century Falls, Earthfasts, A Woman of Substance (1984) and All Creatures Great and Small.

The Saturday market is still held each week and there are a large number of independent and speciality shops in the town alongside major high street names.

Richmond Castle

Richmond Castle

Richmond Castle3

In 1069 William the Conqueror put down a rebellion at York and then went on a bloody rampage across Yorkshire and the North aimed at ending opposition once and for all. It was then that he divided up North Yorkshire amongst his followers with the area around Richmond going to Alain Le Roux (Alan Rufus), his nephew. Alan began building the Castle 2 years later in 1071 both to defend his lands and to consolidate his power base. A 100ft (30m) Keep was added in the 12th century, but the castle had fallen into disuse by the 14th century and was a ruin by the 1500s. Fortunately, some repairs were made to the building early in the 19th century as people became more interested in their history. Thereafter, it was used, from time to time, as barracks and a prison. Conscientious objectors were held in the Castle during World War I, including the ‘Richmond 16’.

Richmond Castle Keep

Richmond Castle Keep4

Today Richmond Castle is one of the finest examples of Norman buildings in Britain. The roof and floors of the Keep have been restored. It is classified as a Scheduled Monument, a “nationally important” historic building and is protected from unauthorised change. It is also a Grade I listed building and recognised as an internationally important structure. English Heritage is responsible for its care and provides a Visitor Centre which explains the history of the building and has many exhibits on show.

More information: Richmond Castle website

The Station food, film and art centre

The Station food, film and art centre attracts c.300,000 tourists a year. Formerly Richmond railway station, it holds a restaurant, a 2-screen cinema, art gallery and heritage centre, as well as a bakery, cheese-maker, micro brewery, ice-cream parlour, fudge house and honey-maker. The Centre is open 364 days a year from 9am – 11pm and there is free parking on site.

More information: The Station website

Theatre Royal

The Theatre Royal, which is one of Britain’s oldest surviving theatres, was founded in 1788 by the actor, Samuel Butler. Housed in a fine Georgian building it is located just off the market place. There was a decline in its fortunes in the early 1800s and it closed in 1848 to be used as a warehouse for many years. Thankfully, in 1963 the theatre was restored and reopened. It thrived and in 1979 a theatre museum was added. More recently, the theatre was renamed the Georgian Theatre Royal and, in 2003, was extended. The new block provides services and access next to the original auditorium.

More information: Georgian Theatre Royal website

Green Howards Museum

The Green Howards Regiment has a long an illustrious history in the British Army dating back over 300 years to when the regiment was first raised in November 1688. Richmond lies right in the middle of its traditional recruiting area. The Green Howards have a distinguished list of battle honours and have seen action in, among others, The American War of Independence, the Crimean War, the North West Frontier of India, the Boer War, both World Wars, The Falkland Islands, the 1991 Gulf War and Bosnia.

The history of the Regiment, its battle honours, displays and much more can be found at the Green Howards Museum .

Other attractions

Other attractions nearby include Culloden Tower, Easby Abbey, Friary Tower & Gardens and Millhouse Gardens.

The Legend of The Little Drummer Boy of Richmond

Inevitably myths, legends and ghost stories spring up around areas steeped in history and Richmond is no exception. One of the best is the The Little Drummer Boy.

Nearly 200 years ago, it is said, some soldiers discovered a tunnel entrance near the castle keep. It was believed to connect the castle to nearby Easby Abbey. However, it was small, and the grown men couldn’t squeeze in to explore it. A brave little lad, a regimental drummer boy, volunteered to go in. It was agreed that the boy was would beat his drum as he made his way along the tunnel. Above ground the soldiers would follow the noise. It appeared to be a good plan and they followed the drumming for 3 miles before the sound stopped unexpectedly. The boy was never seen again.

Some people, the pragmatists, believed that the roof of the tunnel collapsed on top of the boy. Some, more romantically inclined, said that he stumbled into King Arthur’s chamber and was invited to stay. Others claimed they could hear the sound his drumming day after day underneath Richmond, sometimes by the river, sometimes heading towards the Abbey and sometimes in the town.

Today a monument, known locally as the Drummer Boy Stone, marks the spot near Easby Wood where the noise stopped. And the local legend is celebrated in Richmond with children marching through town each year.

Where to stay

Richmond offers a huge number and range of accommodation from hotels and pubs to guest houses, self-catering, camping and caravanning. There are a few suggestions here but for more choices contact the Tourist Information Centre ( 01748 828742.

Hotels in town

The Black Lion
The Talbot Hotel
The Buck Hotel

Bed & breakfast guest houses

Willance House
Arandale Guest House
Cordilleras House
Old Brewery Guest House

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2© Copyright David Martin.
3© Copyright Phil Smith.
4© Copyright JThomas.
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