Richmond Town Trail

The Town Trail involves a walk of about one and a half miles and includes some quite steep hills, so if you feel you may find this difficult, we recommend you stay on the level of the Market Place and look at the Castle, go round Castle Walk - which affords spectacular views down onto the river, the Green Bridge and the Falls - and then go along Finkle Street to Newbiggin.

This walk, like many in Richmond, starts at the Castle, which Alan Rufus began building in 1071 to establish the rule of the Norman invaders. Before the Conquest Gilling West had been the most important local stronghold. The imposing keep, at the present entrance to the Castle, and which is particularly prominent in distant views of Richmond, was constructed slightly later, in the 12th century. The Castle reached its final form in the mid-l4th century and subsequently began to fall into decline.

The Market Place
This large open space, one of the largest market places in England, was originally the outer bailey of the Castle, hence its distinctive horseshoe plan. By 1311 the civilian population had taken the bailey over, for in that year the crown granted them permission to begin construction of a defensive wall against the Scottish raids that were causing considerable damage in the north of England. As Richmond grew in importance its markets became very important, drawing traders from a wide area, even as far as Lancashire and Cumbria, particularly for corn and leather.

In the Market Place there once stood the stocks and pillory, for punishing wrongdoers, as well as the Shambles, or butchers' stalls, and the medieval Market Cross, replaced in 1771 by the present Obelisk. In the centre of the Market Place is Trinity Chapel, originally the chapel of the Castle's outer bailey, which has had a chequered history, its many uses including a prison, shops, warehouses, school chapel, and for many years it housed the Consistory Court of the Archdeaconry of Richmond. Today it houses the Regimental Museum of the Green Howards.

Around the Market Place are shop fronts of varied quality, but the upper storeys reveal that most of the buildings are of Georgian date. The most impressive facade is that of the King's Head Hotel, built about1718 as the elegant town house of the Bathurst family who made money from their lead-mines in Arkengarthdale. There was another hotel, the Blue Bell, where Heron Foods is now, at the bottom of the Market Place. The Town Hall was built as a Georgian assembly room in 1756.

 

Leave the Market place at the top and walk a short distance down New Road. Then turn left down the narrow lane called The Bar.

New Road dates from about 1773. The narrow lane called The Bar, once an important pedestrian route into the Market Place from the bridge over the River Swale, leads to the Bar, or small postern gate, situated at its lower end, one of the few remaining fragments of the medieval town wall built in 1311. In northern dialect a gateway in a defensive wall was called a bar, hence the street-name.

 

Pass through the Bar and go down Cornforth Hill, turn left and go towards the Green Bridge.

The steep cobbled lane called Cornforth Hill passes some attractive cottages and gardens. Here lived the ancestors of Matabele Thompson who played a large part in the development of southern Africa with Cecil Rhodes.

Bridge Street leads to the Green Bridge, so-called because it is near the Green. This bridge was built in 1788-9, the dates and the names of the mayors in those years being carved on the parapet in the centre of the bridge. Opposite is a milestone giving the distances to Askrigg and Lancaster, for this was the start of the Richmond-Lancaster Turnpike Road. The bridge was designed by the famous architect of York, John Carr, and replaced an older structure that was damaged in serious floods that affected the whole of the North-East of England in 1771. Even today the level of the river can rise dramatically and treacherously as a result of heavy rain higher up Swaledale. This was the only bridge crossing the River Swale until a new bridge was built near the railway station in 1846.

The Green
The Green was the industrial suburb of medieval Richmond, and here there were tanneries, corn and fulling mills, a brewery and nail-makers. From here you get a good view of Culloden Tower, which you have probably already noticed as a conspicuous landmark from several other vantage points on your walk. John Yorke built this folly, or landscaped garden feature, in the Gothic style in 1746 to commemorate the Duke of Cumberland's victory at the Battle of Culloden. John Yorke was one of Richmond's two Members of Parliament, who had a mansion at the west end of the Green. The Landmark Trust now lets Culloden Tower as holiday accommodation.

 

From the Green, walk back up Bridge Street to Bargate and up towards Newbiggin at the top of the hill.

As you pass the bottom of Cornforth Hill, notice the old lamp bracket over what was once a public water point. Opposite is St. James' Chapel Wynd, where there was a medieval chantry chapel dedicated to St. James of Compostella. Many of our local street names include elements of Scandinavian languages, for there were Norse and Danish invasions in the centuries before the Norman Conquest. 'Wynd' means narrow through lane, gate means street, and 'biggin' means settlement, so Newbiggin was a new development soon after the Castle was begun. Newbiggin is one of the finest of Richmond's streetscapes, with elegant Georgian town houses, including one in Gothic style. At the far end of Newbiggin was the old gaol.

 

From Newbiggin return to the Market Place by walking along Finkle Street

'Finkle' means crooked, and where Finkle Street changes direction there stood a larger Bar permitting wheeled vehicles to enter the medieval walled town - this was the main Bar to which the street called Bargate led until it was demolished in 1773.

 

Turn left into the Market place and left again into Friars Wynd.

The 'tram lines' in the floor of Friars Wvnd were for a trolley on which to push heavy goods between the Market Place shop of ironmonger Robert Spence, and his warehouses in the Wvnd. Here you will find the second surviving postern gate in the town wall, which provided the medieval inhabitants with access to good supplies of drinking water at the nearby Friary. Through the postern gate on your right is one of Richmond's greatest treasures - the Georgian Theatre Royal. Externally it is an unpretentious building, but inside is preserved the country's oldest Georgian theatre surviving in its original form. Built in 1788 by actor-manager Samuel Butler, the theatre closed in the 1840s and had many uses until being re-opened in 1963.

 

Cross Victoria Road and enter the Friary Gardens.

You are now in the precinct of the house of Greyfriars, founded in 1258 just outside the walled medieval town. The attractive belfry tower was added to the church about 1500. The gardens in front of the tower contain one of the town's war Memorials.

 

Leave the Friary Gardens and turn left into Queens Road, follow the road to Pottergate and on to the Green Howard's War Memorial.

Queens Road was known as Back of the Friars' until it was widened in 1887 to connect with King Street which had been formed in 1813 to open a new road into the Market Place.

At the traffic lights is the junction with Gallowgate, the street which led to the gallows. At the junction is Oglethorpe House, which was the home of a Richmond Jacobite, Roger Strickland. Further along, largely hidden from view by bushes is Hill House, once occupied by the grandparents of Frances I'Anson, the Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill. From the Green Howards War Memorial there is a superb view down Frenchgate, with its cobbled road and mixture of small and more impressive Georgian town houses; it is one of the most picturesque and well preserved of Richmond's historic streets.

 

From the War Memorial go down the steps into Frenchgate, then left down Church Wynd to St Mary's Parish Church.

As you climb down the steps from the Green Howards War Memorial, stand still and look left through the gap of Lombards Wynd to catch a glimpse of the ruins of Easby Abbey and also of St. Martins Priory behind the former railway station.

The parish church is known to have been in existence by 1135. Ralph Nevil, Earl of Westmoreland, added its tall west tower in 1399. Much of the church was rebuilt in the 19th century but inside there are interesting monuments, and the medieval choir stalls and misericords once in Easby Abbey. The churchyard contains many fascinating tombstones, including those of two veterans who fought at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The Grammar School, re-founded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1567, stood in the churchyard until it was replaced in 1850 by a new building, the Tate Testimonial, in memory of the school's famous headmaster James Tate, on the opposite side of Station Road.

 

Turn right out of the churchyard into Station Road to rejoin the Bottom of Frenchgate.

Station Road was formed to give access, across Station Bridge, to the railway station in 1846. Next to the former passenger station have been built Richmond swimming pool, an award-winning example of modern architecture which harmonises with the old. Across Station Road at the bottom of Frenchgate is Swale House, until recently the offices of Richmondshire District Council, but at one time the home of the headmaster of the Grammar School where his pupils boarded, and later the home of the Pease family. This part of lower Frenchgate is known as the Channel, because it was always wet. Here was another main gate in the town wall.

 

Just after Swale House turn left down Park Wynd to the River Swale.

The open space beside the river is called the Batts. The river powered waterwheels for grinding corn, fulling cloth, papermaking and sawing wood. The Falls, in dialect called the Foss, may have helped determine the site of the Castle, for it provided an excellent site for the Castle Mill, to which access was gained by Millgate.

From the Falls climb up Millgate and turn left onto Castle Terrace at the top of the Hill. Walk along the terrace to Castle Walk to enjoy the spectacular views, probably the most beautiful in the Town. From Castle Walk you will see spectacular views of the Green Bridge and further along of Culloden Tower. Walk along Castle Wynd back to the Castle gates where you began the Richmond Town Trail.


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