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Richmond in 1841

RICHMOND, an ancient borough, a market-town, and parish, and the capital of the extensive baronial liberty of Richmondshire, in West Gilling wapentake, the most north-western division of the North Riding of Yorkshire. The whole wapentake is in the liberty of Richmondshire, in the archdeaconry and deanery of Richmond, and in the diocese of Ripon. Richmond is 239 miles north-north-west of London, 44 miles north-west of York, and 52 miles north by west of Leeds. The municipal borough comprises only the parish of Richmond, and the corporate body consists of a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors, with a com mission of the peace of six magistrates besides the mayor and recorder. Richmond was deprived of its quarter-sessions by the Municipal Act, but they have since been re stored. The parliamentary borough comprises the parishes of Richmond and Easby, and extends over 10,000 acres of land, and has a population of 4,722. The population of Richmond alone, in 1831, was 3,900. This borough returns two members to parliament, and is one of the polling-places for the North Riding.

Alan Rufus, son of Hoel, count of Bretagne, a kinsman of William the Conqueror, who accompanied him in his expedition to England, is generally stated to have been the founder of both the castle and town of Richmond. By some authorities the town is said to have been in existence prior to the Conquest. William conferred on Alan the title of earl of Richmond, and the estates of the Saxon earl Edwin, embracing nearly 200 manors and townships, and a jurisdiction over all Richmondshire, about a third of the North Riding. In the situation of his castle Earl Alan selected not only an eligible residence, but also a place of defence ; its foundation was laid on an almost perpendicular rock on the left bank of the Swale, about a hundred feet above the bed of the river. The site contains about six acres, and commands an extensive view of the surrounding country. To the original buildings of the castle, additional walls, towers, and outworks were erected by the successors of the founder. The earls of Richmond enjoyed these possessions till they fell to the crown on Henry, earl of Richmond, becoming king of England by the title of Henry VII. Charles II bestowed the title of duke of Richmond on his son Charles Lenox, to whose descendants the dignity continues. The walks round the castle present a succession of varied and romantic scenery. Swaledale is in many parts skirted with bold rocks almost covered with trees and shrubs. From the hills on the north-west side of the town, the castle and town seem to be situated in a valley. The ruins of the castle are still majestic. The bold Norman keep is almost entire ; the walls are nearly one hundred feet high and eleven feet thick. It is the property of the duke of Richmond. The dilapidation's seem to be solely owing to the neglect of repairs.

A small monastery, called the Grey Friary, was founded at Richmond in 1258, the sole remains of which are a steeple, which Rickman describes as 'a remarkably elegant specimen of good perpendicular work.' The extensive remains of St. Agatha's Abbey are about a mile below Richmond : many of the arches and columns of the finely pointed windows and doors are in good preservation. These ruins are in the parish of Easby, and are surrounded by well-wooded grounds and fine scenery.

Richmond is said to have been a place of good trade for three centuries after the Conquest, but many causes contributed to its decay ; among these may be mentioned the charters granted for holding markets in neighbouring towns, and the want of water-communication, which is precluded by the rocky bed of the Swale and the sudden swells to which the river is subject. The market of Richmond is held on the Saturday, and it is well supplied with corn and other provisions. Many wealthy people reside in the town, and the country for several miles round is studded with the parks and mansions of numerous landed proprietors. The races are well attended, and are held in the first week of September, on the high moor about a mile from the town, where there is a commodious grand stand. Several of the resident gentry have training-stables neat the race-ground. Three fairs are held at Richmond in the course of the year. The chief manufactory is an extensive paper-mill. Gas works were established in 1821, and waterworks in 1837. The town-hall is a convenient building, in which the public business of the town is transacted and the quarter-sessions held both for the town and Riding. It contains a spacious assembly-room.

A court of record is held once a fortnight before the mayor, recorder, and aldermen ; it takes cognizance of all pleas, actions, and suits in which the debts or damages do not amount to more than £100 ; the recorder is the sole judge in this court. A court baron for the liberty of Richmondshire, of which the duke of Leeds is the chief bailiff, is held once in three weeks for the recovery of debts under forty shillings.

The parish church is a Gothic building, and consists of a nave, chancel, and aisles, with a tower at the west end. It has been enlarged several times, and exhibits several varieties of architecture. The rectory is in the patronage of the crown. Holy Trinity chapel stands in the market-place. The consistory court for the archdeaconry of Richmond is held in two rooms adjoining the north aisle. Some portions of this building are occupied as shops and dwellings. The upper part of the north aisle is fitted up for divine service. The other places of worship are a Catholic chapel, erected by Sir John Lawson, Bart., in 1811 ; an Independent chapel ; and a Wesleyan chapel.

Richmond free grammar-school was founded and endowed by the burgesses, and incorporated by Queen Elizabeth, by which Act it was called ‘The free grammar-school of the burgesses of the borough or town of Richmond, in the county of York, for the education and instruction of boys and youths in grammar.' The four bailiffs were to be the governors of the possessions of the school. The property now produces a yearly income of £337, 7 shillings and 4 pence. All natives and the sons of burgesses and other persons residing within the borough are entitled to admission as free scholars by the payment of seven shillings a year for fire, candles, and cleaning. The instruction in writing and arithmetic is also paid for.

The Corporation School is endowed with an annuity of £50 from the borough funds and charities, for which fifty scholars are taught. The National School contains about one hundred boys and eighty girls. There are also an infant-school, a mechanics' library, a subscription library, and a news-room.

There are charities at Richmond for poor tradesmen and widows, for the distribution of coals, bread, and medicines, and various small bequests for education and apprentice fees.