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The Rough Guide describes the town as 'an absolute gem'. Betty James wrote that "without any doubt Richmond is the most romantic place in the whole of the North East [of England]". Richmond was named UK town of the year in 2009.
Richmond was founded in 1071 by the Breton Alan Rufus, on lands granted to him by William the Conqueror, though at its inception, it was called Hindrelag. Richmond Castle, completed in 1086, had a keep and walls encompassing the area now known as the Market Place.
Richmond was part of the lands of the earldom of Richmond, which was intermittently held by the Dukes of Brittany until the 14th century. When John V, Duke of Brittany died in 1399 Henry IV took possession. In 1453, the earldom was conferred on Edmund Tudor, and was merged with the crown when Edmund's son Henry became king, as Henry VII in 1485.
The prosperity of the medieval town and centre of the Swaledale wool industry greatly increased in the late 17th and 18th centuries with the burgeoning lead mining industry in nearby Arkengarthdale. It is from this period that the town's Georgian architecture originates, the most notable examples of which are to be found on Newbiggin and in Frenchgate. One of Europe's first gas works was built in the town in 1830.
A permanent military presence was established in the town with the completion of Richmond Barracks in 1877.
Panorama of Richmond falls, close to the town centre.
Swale House on Frenchgate, built around 1750, was home to the headmaster and students of the nearby grammar school, before being used as a hospital for wounded officers in the First World War. For many years, it was the headquarters of Richmondshire District Council, before being closed and sold off in 2013.
The Georgian Theatre Royal, founded in 1788 by the actor Samuel Butler, is off the market place. A decline in the fortunes of theatre led to its closure in 1848 and it was used as a warehouse for many years. In 1963 the theatre was restored and reopened, with a theatre museum added in 1979. More recently, the theatre has become the Georgian Theatre Royal and was extended in 2003 with the addition of a new block providing services and access next to the original auditorium. It is one of Britain's oldest extant theatres.
To the west of the town, on the road to Marske, is the unusually named Richmond Out Moor. Nearby the town is the picturesque Easby Abbey.
Local newspapers include the weekly Darlington & Stockton Times and the daily Northern Echo.
The town is home to two secondary schools: Richmond School--a large school and sixth form with specialisms in Performing Arts, Science and Maths--and St Francis Xavier School, which is a smaller, voluntary aided, joint Roman Catholic and Church of England School for boys and girls aged 11-16. There are also three non-sectarian primary schools: Richmond Methodist, Richmond C of E and St Mary's Roman Catholic School.
Tourism is important to the local economy, but the single largest influence is the Catterick Garrison army base, which is rapidly becoming the largest population centre in Richmondshire.
The Station food, film and art centre admits 300,000 tourists a year. It was formerly Richmond railway station. It has a restaurant, cinema, art gallery and heritage centre, as well as a bakery, cheese-maker, micro brewery, ice-cream parlour, fudge house and honey-maker.
Alley in Richmond
Hospital of St. Nicholas, near Richmond, Yorkshire (p.112, February 1824)
The stone terminus of Richmond Railway Station, built in a Tudor/Elizabethan style, opened in 1846 and closed in 1968, a year before the branch line itself was taken out of service. After the station closed, the building was used for many years as a garden centre. It has now been renovated by the Richmondshire Building Preservation Trust and opened in late 2007 - retitled, simply, The Station - as a mixed-use space for community and commercial activities. The newly renovated station is home to two cinema screens, an art gallery and a restaurant and café. There are also artisan food makers on the premises: The Angel's Share, Archer's Jersey Ice Cream, Lacey's Cheese, Richmond Brewing Company and Velvet Heaven.
Richmond has a frequent bus service to Darlington and Catterick Garrison, and a wide range of local bus services to nearby towns and villages including Leyburn, Northallerton and Barnard Castle.
At the end of the 18th century, some soldiers found an entrance to a tunnel underneath the castle keep. They could not fit into the tunnel, so they elected to send a regimental drummer boy. The boy was asked to walk along the tunnel and beat his drum so that above ground the soldiers could follow the noise. They did this for 3 miles before the sound stopped unexpectedly. This was never explained until centuries later, when people now believe that the roof of the tunnel collapsed and caved in on top of the drummer boy, whilst drumming along. Today a stone marks the spot the noise stopped. The entrance to the tunnel is still there, but is forbidden for anyone to go in. Today schools celebrate this local legend with children marching through town annually. Legend claims that on some cold winters night, you can still hear the faint sound of the drummer boy beneath the ground, where the stone stands.
^Curiously the village of Auppegard (Appelgart a. 1160) in the Seine-Maritime département shares the same etymology as Applegarth (Appelgard a. 1160), because of Anglo-Danish farmers who settled in Normandy around the 10th century.