Welcome to the plaque tour.
To help you get the most out of Richmond's plaques, it is helpful to start with a brief history.
Richmond Castle was established in 1071, on a steep cliff looking down on the River Swale, the fastest-flowing river in England. Being built of stone from the beginning, this impressive monument is the oldest stone-built castle in England. The magnificent keep which is such a prominent feature of the town and the surrounding landscape was added about a century later. Richmond is the 'mother' of all the 57 Richmonds subsequently created throughout the world.
The medieval town grew up outside the Castle, in the suburbs of Newbiggin, and Frenchgate where the parish church was and is. Richmond soon became a chartered borough with markets and annual fairs. The town was walled against Scottish raids in 1311 when the townsfolk moved into what had been the Outer Bailey of the Castle. Soon there were several monastic houses in and around the town, and there was a Grammar School by at least the 1390s. The Green became an industrial suburb and there were several watermills on the river.
The Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s caused great social and economic disruption but in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I there was sufficient prosperity for the town to be given a new charter granting it two Members of Parliament. In the Town Hall is an original portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. During the Civil War in the mid-17th century there was an unsuccessful attempt to rally the defeated Royalist forces here, and the town became the headquarters of the Scottish army of Parliamentary occupation.
Richmond's magnificent landscape setting and splendid vistas led to it becoming a major provincial social centre in Georgian times, with promenades being formed to take advantage of the views. The Town Hall was built for assemblies and courts, there was horse-racing and militia musters. Many houses were rebuilt to reflect fashionable styles of Georgian architecture, and the town had one of the earliest gasworks to provide street lighting. The demand for a plentiful supply of coal from County Durham pits resulted in the opening of the railway line in 1846.
The town's long military associations resulted in a 19th-century Barracks being built on the top of the hill, and again in the early-20th century a new military camp was established nearby, now called Catterick Garrison, the largest military base in Europe.
Copyright: Richmond and District Civic Society 2015 Charity No. 509559