Richmond, the capital of Swaledale, lies on the river Swale. Steep, narrow, cobbled streets and an abundance of Georgian houses give the town its unique character. It is a town bursting with activity yet it still retains a typical Yorkshire charm.
The lands, manors and possession that came to be known as the honour of Richmond were wrested from the English following the Norman Conquest in 1066 and given by William the Conqueror as a reward to one of his loyal supporters, Alan Rufus (Alan the Red of Brittany), who had ruthlessly stamped out Saxon resistance. Rufus had the Castle constructed between 1071 and 1091 to serve as a stronghold against any future attempts at rebellion. It was an impressive construction protected by massive stone walls on two sides and the steep banks of the River Swale to the south. The Castle was untypical of the period in several respects. It was built of stone rather than earth and wood and it was the first Norman Castle in England to have projecting mural towers to improve the defences of the walls and eastern gateways.
Legend has it that deep in a crypt below the keep King Arthur and his Knights sleep around the Round Table. Peter Thompson, a potter by trade, found his way in, and saw King Arthur's Sword and Horn lying on the table. He raised the sword and immediately armour clattered on every side and the sleepers began to wake. Fearing for his life he dashed away and stopped the entrance-hole. The story goes that the King and his knights will emerge in England's hour of need.
A second story tells how a secret passage is supposed to run from the Castle to the nearby Easby Abbey. Some soldiers once sent a drummer-boy along it to test the theory and followed the sound of his drum almost halfway to the Abbey. Suddenly the drumming stopped. The poor boy was never seen alive again - but his ghost still haunts the tunnel, from where a slow drumbeat can sometimes be heard.
Alternatively, you can take a walk to the Abbey along the river.
Richmond Castle is one of the few Norman castles that never suffered a serious siege and remains today in a better state of preservation than do most other castles from those times. During World War I it was used as a prison for Conscientious Objectors who refused other forms of National Service. In 1916 following the Conscription sixteen Conscientious Objectors were sent to France. After refusing to carry out military duties they were Court Martialled and sentenced to death. Questions were raised in Parliament in response to this harsh treatment and as a result the prisoners were returned to England to serve ten years hard labour in civilian prisons. The Castle was again used to imprison Conscientious Objectors of the Second World War.
The Castle adhered to a common pattern in maintaining a large open space or outer bailey beyond the defensive walls, essentially so that any attackers would be clearly visible and would have no protective cover. This area subsequently became the market place and was known as the "Bailey" for many centuries. Nowadays markets are held here every Saturday.
Castle View: Richmond and Swaledale
The Richmond Online Guide to Richmond, North Yorkshire
Photos of Richmond on www.freefoto.com
The Ghosts of Richmond Castle
The Richmond Drummer Boy Walk
Richmond Castle - an English Heritage property
The Georgian Theatre Royal