The Story of Robert Willance
Robert Willance was a successful Richmond merchant who is remembered for his famous riding accident in 1606 that is now commemorated at a local beauty spot - Willance’s Leap.
On a chilly November day, Robert Willance was out hunting, riding an inexperienced and nervous young horse, when a thick mist suddenly came down. The horse bolted and fell 212ft over the edge of Whitcliffe Scar and was killed. Willance himself survived the fall but severely injured his leg. Realising he would not be rescued until the fog lifted, he used his hunting knife to slit open the horse's belly and inserted his fractured leg into the warm belly of the unfortunate horse.
It is said that this act probably saved his life, as the extra warmth would delay the onset of gangrene and protect him from the cruel cold weather on Whitcliffe Scar.
When he was found many hours later he was taken back to his house in Richmond, now Willance House (24 Frenchgate), where his injured leg was amputated. He made such a good recovery that he was able to serve as the first Alderman of Richmond in 1608.
To thank God for his miraculous deliverance from the jaws of death, he set up three stones marking the last strides of his horse with the inscription:
"Hear Us - Glory be to our Merciful God who Miraculously Preserved me from the Danger so Great"
He died ten years later in 1616 and was buried in the churchyard of St. Mary's parish church, close to the garden wall of Willance House on 12 February. According to tradition, he was reunited with his leg which had been buried there ten years earlier. His grave is marked by a flat stone near a door in the garden wall, but the inscription is no longer legible.
The Tale of the Little Drummer Boy
Legend has it that, many years ago, probably at the end of the eighteenth century, a previously undiscovered tunnel was found to lead away from Richmond Castle and towards the neighboroughing hamlet of Easby.
Eager to discover the exact route and destination of the tunnel, but too big (or scared) to fit down it themselves, soldiers persuaded one of the regimental drummer boys to go down, with instructions to walk along the tunnel whilst continually beating his drum, so that the route could be followed above ground.
The drum’s beat could be plainly heard leaving the enclave of the castle, heading across the Market Place and along Frenchgate, to the banks of the River Swale and heading towards Easby.
However, about half a mile from Easby Wood, the drumming ceased – and was never heard again. Did the tunnel end there? Had the roof collapsed? What happened to the Drummer Boy?
The answers to these questions have never been discovered and the only marker of the tunnel above ground is the Drummer Boy’s Stone, pinpointing the spot where the drumbeats of this poor unfortunate lad were last heard.
Download the Drummer Boy Walk and follow in his footsteps.
The Tale of Potter Thompson
One day, Potter Thompson was walking past the castle bank when he noticed an opening which on further investigation turned out to be a cave. Although fearful, he pushed on into the darkness and became increasingly alarmed when he heard snoring. Just a few feet on, he saw a sleeping King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Legend has it that whenever England is in danger they will awake and come to its rescue.
Potter Thompson dashed off to tell his friends but when they returned they could not find the opening and the apparition was put down to the 'demon drink'. But you never know...