Thursday, September 6, 2007

The first Richmond

The first Richmond and mother of the 57 Richmond's across the globe, is a small Georgian market town in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales from which the song, “The Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill” was written.

Richmond is built around the Norman castle which towers above the River Swale. The name Richmond, comes from the Norman - Riche-Mont, to mean, Strong Hill. The castle was built in 1071 and is famous for never having been besieged.

The market place, a centre for rural commerce in the 18th century has charmingly failed to keep pace with modern England in the 21st century and originally it was the outer bailey of the castle and home to the medieval stocks and pillory.Both the Normans and the Danes have influenced Richmond and the nearby villages of Easby and Skeeby. The term, BY is Danish, to mean village.

The architecture is a reminder of Richmond's religious past. Walk up the narrow, twisting corridor of Finkle Street into Newbiggin and you will be in the square, where in 1558 - Richard Snell was burnt at the stake, for renouncing Queen Mary's brand of catholicism and where John Wesley the founder of the non-conformist sect, preached in 1774.

In 2002, Country Life magazine named Richmond in the top ten best places in Britain to live. The survey considered the towns historical setting, house prices, the crime rate and local amenities including sporting and outdoor facilities.

The King's Head with 30 bedrooms - was built in 1718 and is Richmond's principle hotel. This elegant Georgian building, is a feature of the hopscotch, cobbled landscape of the market place.

The Green Howard's museum in the heart of market place shows off - 318 years of regimental history, with rare artefact's such as Sergeant Alfred Atkinson's Victoria Cross which he won at the Battle of Paardeberg in 1900 and photographs of the Crimean War, the North-West frontier of India, the Boer War and film from both World Wars.

A walk down Millgate, brings you through a narrow twisting hillside to the River Swale. Barrie's Ice's is on hand, to offer ice cream and hot and cold snacks and beverages, served by smartly dressed assistants. Sit awhile and watch the fast flowing river splash over the shallow water falls. Across the road from Barrie's ices, families with children can play safely in the well equipped play area. By the river there is ample room to picnic or just have fun in the relative safety of the shallow waters amongst the naturally stunning beauty of the tree and shrub lined river banks.

There are clean public toilets where you can actually find them in Richmond – one is located on the car park near Barrie's Ice's and the other toilets are right next to the local tourist office on the corner of Victoria Road and convenient for Friary Gardens.

Richmond is quite steep and very cobbled – however, there is always a footpath at hand for easier walking. The town trail walk is only 1.5 miles long and peppered with interesting short walks through narrow streets, and alleyways offering history, charm and character. Friar's Wynd takes you under a medieval gateway, and to the UK's first Theater Museum, opened in 1979 by Richard Baker and home to Britain's oldest set of theater scenery.

Next door, is a little jewel, Richmond's Theater Royal. It was built in 1788, and is Britain's only complete Georgian Theater. The 214 seats are set in an intimate, rectangle setting with boxes on three sides and a small gallery above. The furthest seat, is only 11m from the stage, whose proscenium width is only 5m. The current summer season includes classics to modern comedies and from musical classics to tribute bands such as the ELO Experience.

The local tourist office is on Victoria Road, adjacent to the well kept Friary Gardens where the Franciscan Friary bell tower, built by the Greyfriars of Richmond, still stands.
Walk down behind the Kings Head Hotel and into Ryders Wynd and you will come across Richmond Museum. The tiny museum, established in 1978, is home to a transport gallery which has a model of Richmond station, a chemists shop from Catterick Garrison and also the famous James Herriot set from the TV series 'All Creatures Great and Small.

Millgate House Gardens, is a must for any visitor and although a small, intensively planted garden, the displays are simply breathtaking. It's full of surprises, designed to encourage you into intriguing little corners and tempt you with winding paths through elaborate planting to hidden floral treasures.

What about family fun? There a an excellent family swimming facility set in beautiful surroundings, within 5 minuets walk from the market place - offering a main pool with a smaller accompanying children's pool. There is also a Leisure Suite incorporating sauna, steam, spa and sunbed facilities.

The cricket and bowls club is just off Victoria road and another safe play area for children on Quaker Lane. There is a full 18 hole golf course with club bar and restaurant located at the top of Gallowgate, on the road from Richmond to Ravensworth.

Richmond has inspired artists for generations and today there are several highly competent artists dotted around the market place, but its the work of Middlesbrough born, Mackenzie Thorpe in Finkle Street who has become world famous for his original pastels of square sheep, shocking landscapes and childlike images.

Visitor's have a wide range of accommodations to choose from but if you wish to indulge in a little self catering opulence, then Culloden Tower designed by Daniel Garrett, architect of The Banqueting House, is for you. Here is two tall octagonal rooms, bathed in glorious daylight and decorated to the highest standard. The Gothic style carving and plaster work of the lower room is in sharp contrast to the Classical style of the upper room. Here you can sleep under what must be the Land Mark Trust's grandest bedroom ceiling and well worth the 60 steps hike up the tower to reach it.

Richmond is only 15 minutes from the main bus and rail links in Darlington and only one hour by road to the famous Gateshead Metro Shopping Centre and south to Leeds City Centre. Although, only 4 miles from Scotch Corner and the main A1 link, you are in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales and only 15 minutes from Wensleydale and its rambling, unspoilt villages.

Richmond caters well for the visitor, you will find traditional English cafĂ©'s and tearooms in and around the market place including Thai, Italian, Indian and Cantonese restaurants. For dining with a difference – you can visit The Restaurant on the Green, located on the corner of Bargate and Craven gate. It was re-built in 1689 and comes complete with original inglenook fireplace and flag stone floors or if you prefer a modern Bistro setting, 29 The New Frenchgate Restaurant at the bottom of Frenchgate also enjoys a good reputation.

For excellent dining, a short drive from Richmond to the village of Kirby Hill - you will find the 18th century inn – The Shoulder of Mutton Inn. The old English pub restaurant set in this tiny Georgian hamlet serves up first class fare and real ales by top class chef Micheal Yates - who along with his wife Toni Bennett, runs the pub. The views from the pub car park across the dales are simply breathtaking

Escaping the stress of everyday life can sometimes be difficult in a modern consumer driven culture, but a visit to the Georgian town of Richmond in the North Yorkshire with its brisk walks and friendly folk and you will soon recharge your batteries.

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