Richmond Castle

A Brief History and Description of Richmond Castle, Yorkshire, England


Richmond Castle, founded in 1071, is a gray stone fortress standing proudly atop a rocky spur overlooking the turbulent River Swale. The castle's primary purpose was, apparently, to defend Alan Rufus and his followers against attacks by the dispossessed English of the area who didn't look too kindly upon their Norman conquerors. Except for skirmishes with Scottish raiding parties, Richmond Castle saw very little fighting. Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge The best preserved part of Richmond Castle is the Great Tower, or Keep, which rises to a height of more than 100 feet. This was a 13th century addition built over the castle's original Gatehouse. The archway at the base of the Keep is 11th century and possibly the only remaining portion of the original entrance. The climb to the top of the Keep is by interior staircases set inside the thick walls. The view from the Keep displays the surrounding Yorkshire countryside, as well as, the borough of Richmond. The tower view also affords an opportunity to study the design and arrangement of the various castle yards.
Although little remains of the original sections of Richmond Castle, some masonry dating back to the late 1000's can be seen along the Eastern Wall, its occasional "herringbone" courses are conspicuous. In the southeastern corner of the castle stand the Gold Hole Tower and the Scolland's Hall. The latter hall received its name from Scolland, the sewer to the first Earl of Richmond in the early 1100's. A sewer, in medieval time, was a household office of rank in charge of serving the dishes at the banquet table. Scolland's Hall, what remains of it, is a good example of the period's architecture. Through its basement is the entrance to the Cockpit or Second Court, which is enclosed by masonry walls of the late 12th century. Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge From the South Wall a magnificent view of the River Swale can be seen. Here crumbled foundations are all that remains of once existent buildings. Close to the southwest corner is a plaque set into the wall that commemorates the fact that Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout movement, was a resident here from 1908-1910. The West Wall, like the East Wall, also reveals the old "herringbone" masonry. In this wall is a wide, tall arch marking the west end of the castle's Greater Chapel. Beneath this, is an 11th century archway.
It has been said that Richmond Castle is the oldest stone-built castle in England. This may be difficult to prove some 900 years after the fact. It is however, the oldest English stone castle still surviving in our time. Our Richmond ancestors lived in this Castle from the time it was built in 1071 until the late 1300's. One branch of Richmonds continued to live at the castle and others inherited nearby Yorkshire manors. The ancestors of the early New England settler John Richmond moved from Yorkshire to Wiltshire in the 1400's. Any connection between the Scottish Richmonds and those of Richmond Castle has not yet been determined.


(Information taken in part from The Richmond Family News-Journal, vol. 1 no. 3, July 1972)