“Richmond is one of the most beautiful towns in England – and surprisingly few people know.”

– Lonely Planet

Richmond is a market town that’s home to around 8,000 people. Located in North Yorkshire, originally the North Riding of Yorkshire, it can be found along the River Swale.

The town is known for its well preserved castle ruins and beautiful surroundings. It’s also home to the largest military base in the country.

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Richmond Castle

Richmond Castle was built in 1086. It became a strategic defensive position in the North against Scottish invasion.

The castle itself has a concentric structure. This means that it was built with huge outer walls to protect the castle and keep inside.

By the end of the 14th Century, Richmond Castle became surplus to requirements. As a result, the castle descended into ruin.


During the Victorian era, parts of the building were repaired. When construction was completed, the castle was then used as a garrison for the North Yorkshire militia.

Image of Richmond, Photo Credit Mat Robinson, (IFY Community)
Image of Richmond, Photo Credit Mat Robinson, (IFY Community)

In the early 20th Century, Richmond Castle was the home to Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the scouting movement. It also became the base for conscientious objectors during World War I.

These objectors included the “Richmond Sixteen”. This group of men refused to fight in the conflict and were eventually court martialed to France for hard labour as punishment.

Nowadays, Richmond Castle is a tourist attraction owned by English Heritage. Visitors can explore the ruins, the castle’s history, and shop.

It has a garden which is also known as the cockpit. In 2000 it was modernised and now boasts herbaceous borders, picnic area, and sixteen yew trees which commemorate the punished objectors during the war.

Museums in Richmond

In 1974, the Richmond Local History Museum was founded. This museum charts the history of the town and its surrounding dale.

There are prehistoric artefacts on display. Visitors will also find reconstructions of the town’s station and post office.

The interactive displays act as a learning zone for children. Each of these displays show life in Richmond market around the 1870’s.

The Green Howards Regimental Museum explores the history of a famous Yorkshire regiment. This was until it merged with another battalion in 2006.

It has 3,000 medals plus eighteen rewards including Victoria and George Crosses from the regiment. They first saw action at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

There are artefacts from the Crimean War, Boer Wars, and World War I. It also includes letters, diaries, and photographs.

Things to do in Richmond

Friary Tower and Park is another prominent landmark in the town. Dating back to the 14th Century, the site contains the well-preserved remains of the Friary bell tower.

This would have been part of a friary built and established here by Franciscan Greyfriars order of monks around 1257. The gardens are well-kept and adorned with bright flowerbeds.

Richmond walks, Photo Credit Kev Taylor, (IFY Community)
Richmond walks, Photo Credit Kev Taylor, (IFY Community)

Richmond is also known for its ghost walks and there are many spooky tales to tell. One of the most famous is the drummer boy of Richmond Castle.

At the end of the 17th Century, some soldiers found an entrance to a tunnel running underneath the castle’s keep. It was too small for them to fit so instead they sent the local drummer boy.

He was told to bang his drum loudly as he walked so they could follow the route of the tunnel from above ground. After three miles, the drumming suddenly stopped.

The drummer boy was never seen or heard of again.

It’s thought the ceiling of the tunnel caved in and crushed him to death. A stone currently marks the spot where the drumming stopped and when all is quiet, a faint drumming can still be heard.

Theatres in Richmond

Richmond’s Georgian theatre royal was built in 1788. It’s the oldest original working performance venue in Britain.

The theatre was founded by actor Samuel Butler. He owned other venues around Yorkshire in places such as Beverley, Northallerton, and Whitby.

Up until 1830, the theatre was in regular use. In the decades after that, the space was used for other purposes such as an auction room and wine storage.

The Georgian Theatre closed down in 1848. For more than a century it lay unloved in the middle of the town.

In 1963, the Georgian playhouse was reopened. It was then expanded and refurbished in the following decade.

Much of its original Georgian features were still intact. This includes a set of woodland scenery dating back to the 1820’s which are the oldest in Britain.

The theatre is also a tourist attraction for locals and visitors. Regular tours are conducted between February and October.

Currently, the Georgian theatre offers a mixture of shows. These range from plays, music concerts, and even the town’s pantomime.

Army Barracks in Richmond

Catterick Garrison is located three miles to the south of Richmond. It’s become the largest British Army barracks in the world covering 2,400 acres.

Within the barracks, there’s an integrated community. This is complete with retail park, sports facilities, and primary school.

Travelling In & Out of Richmond

Richmond is well linked to other towns in North Yorkshire. This is largely by the A1 South.

The A66 takes travellers into Cumbria. To the south, there are winding unmarked roads through the hills of the Yorkshire Dales which provides a fantastic scenic drive for those who wish to explore.

In 1847, Richmond Railway Station opened. However, 122 years later in 1969, the station closed.

Since its closure, the site has been redeveloped into a community space. This includes two cinema screens, restaurant art gallery, and heritage centre which opened in 2007 and is known as “The Station”.

The town does have a number of bus services which travel to Darlington, Ripon, and Northallerton. There is also a Dales service to Ingleton and Middlesbrough.

Shopping in Richmond

Shopping in Richmond is dominated by the town’s large market square. This surrounds its unusual obelisk which is located in the centre of the market square.

In 1771, the obelisk was built to replace an older market cross which had stood there since mediaeval times. The obelisk stands on a large reservoir which can hold 12,000 gallons of water.

Shopping in Richmond, Photo Credit, Paul Buttitta (IFY Community)
Shopping in Richmond, Photo Credit, Paul Buttitta (IFY Community)

The market has been around since 1090. It took place before it was given its charter in 1155.

Nowadays, the markets are held on Saturdays around the obelisk. Items such as fresh fruit, fish, cheese, and flowers are sold here.

The indoor market hall is open seven days a week which also sells a wide variety of goods. Every third Saturday of the month, the farmers have stalls to sell their produce.

Around the marketplace, the streets are full of local independent shops. People can discover all sorts of different items such as walking boots, jewellery, and gifts.

Richmond is both a historic and romantic town at the top of North Yorkshire. Surrounded by the spectacular valleys of the Dales, it’s the perfect place to do a bit of shopping and completely unwind.

History of Richmond

Strong evidence has been found that there once was a Roman settlement in the Richmond area. Over the centuries, several Roman hordes have been discovered.

The largest to be found was in 1724. 620 silver coins and spoons were found.

Since then, there have been other more recent discoveries. These include a haul of pottery in 1937 and more Roman coins in 1956.

Norman Rule

The town of Richmond was founded by the Norman baron Alan Rufus. He was given the land by William I in 1071.

Alan named his new estate after Richemont. This was a place in his native Normandy which meant “strong hill”.

His castle soon followed and construction was completed in 1086. Then, in 1146, a keep was added.

The Scots Attack

Richmond’s central location in the north made it a key defensive position. Especially against Scottish attacks throughout the mediaeval periods.

King William the Lion was the leader of Scotland. In 1174, he was kept prisoner here after the battle of Alnwick.

The Scots reached the town during their short lived invasion of the North. This happened after their victory at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

A town and market grew near the castle walls. It would later become one of the largest cobbled marketplaces in the country.

In 1349, Richmond suffered badly from the bubonic plague which wiped out large numbers of its inhabitants. It took a while for the population to recover.

Richmond’s Heyday

During the Georgian period, Richmond reached its heyday. Many magnificent buildings and structures were created including the obelisk in the market square which replaced an older cross.

The Georgian Theatre dates back to 1788. This is one of the oldest surviving entertainment venues in Yorkshire.

The town’s prosperity was further fuelled by the growth of wool making and lead mining in the surrounding dales. Travellers along the Great North Road were also welcomed with hospitality.

Birthplace of Innovation

Throughout the 19th Century, Richmond saw little of the rapid expansion that affected other Yorkshire places. However, it was the birthplace of one innovation; street lighting.

In 1821, Richmond Gas Works was funded to provide the town with a very far-fetched scheme to light its streets at night. This project was the first of its kind in Europe.

Richmond marketplace pictured in 1975. Picture credit: fotorus flickr creative commons.
Richmond marketplace pictured in 1975. Picture credit: fotorus flickr creative commons.

Military Town

The 20th Century saw Richmond become one of the North’s principal military towns. Catterick Garrison was first established in 1914.

Located three miles south of Richmond, it was originally used as a Prisoner of War camp during both World Wars. Since then it expanded to become the largest British army garrison in the world.

Turning to Tourism

Richmond has, in the modern day, lent itself to tourism. Dominating the skyline is one of the best preserved castle ruins.

The town is located close to the Yorkshire Dales National Park. This means that it’s surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the country.

Richmond has prompted travel writers to describe the town as one of the most romantic places in the country. In total, there are fifty-six other places sharing the name Richmond in the world.

Richmond Trivia

Richmond is one of the most popular place names in the world – there are 57 in total.

The walls of Richmond Castle are some of the oldest outside London, dating back to 1071.

Richmond was given to Alan Rufus, the nephew of William the Conqueror. His estate was reportedly 250,000 acres, which has a modern equivalent value of £80bn, making him the richest man who ever lived.

The 9th Century Gilling Viking Sword was found by a nine year old boy playing in a stream near Richmond in 1976. This sword is on display at the York Castle Museum. As a reward, the boy got a Blue Peter badge.

Richmond is one of the first towns to have street lights thanks to Europe’s first gas works which was founded in the 1820’s.

Lewis Carroll, who wrote “Alice in Wonderland”, attended Richmond Grammar School.