Richmond Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Richmond Castle

Richmondshire, England, United Kingdom

Richmond Castle is a picturesque ruined Norman Castle which was originally built to help secure Norman control of the North of England. Today visitors can explore the castle’s ruins as well as taking in the stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

Peta Stamper

20 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Richmond Castle

Richmond Castle in North Yorkshire is a picturesque ruined Norman Castle in northern England. Strengthened throughout the Norman period, the castle largely fell out of active use in the 14th century and slowly fell to ruin.

Nonetheless, the castle boasts more surviving 11th-century architecture than any other castle in England. Today, managed by English Heritage, visitors can explore the castle’s ruins as well as viewing the interactive exhibition detailing the history of the fortress and taking in the stunning views of the surrounding Yorkshire Dales.

Richmond Castle history

After the Norman Conquest of 1066, the new rulers of England set about establishing their power by building imposing fortresses. While the exact date is unknown, Richmond Castle was likely founded in the 1070s by Count Alan Rufus ‘the Red’ of Penthièvre, granted land by William in return for his service during the Battle of Hastings.

Richmond Castle established a vigilant position over the Scottish border – then further south than it is now. The earliest sections included the curtain wall, the great archway in the keep, and Scolland’s Hall. It was under Alan’s nephew Alan – who attributed himself the title Earl of Richmond – that the castle housed a mint, issuing coins to support King Stephen. His son Conan built the keep as a statement of exceptional power and wealth.

When Conan died in 1171, Henry II took control of Richmond, repairing and building the tower and establishing the ‘King’s House’ in Scolland’s Hall. During the reigns of John and Henry III, Richmond Castle was besieged as property of the king. Richmond’s fate was tied to the duchy of Brittany, but enjoying this power demanded both obedience to the king of England and fealty to the king of France.

In 1372, Richmond was surrendered to the English Crown and the castle was from then on invested in by successive owners. Repeated Scottish raids did a lot of damage to the castle, so much so that by 1538, Richmond was considered derelict. However, parts of the castle were still in use and during the 18th and 19th centuries, JMW Turner and others admired Richmond as a romantic ruin.

In 1854 the Duke of Richmond leased the castle to the North York Militia, and as World War One approached, Richmond Castle was occupied by the northern Non-Combatant Corps – a military unit for those exempt from fighting. These men also included those who objected to taking part in the war effort, detained in rooms now containing graffiti.

During World War Two, the keep was used to watch out for enemies in the area while soldiers were detained in the cells, once again leaving their mark on the walls.

Richmond Castle today

Today, visitors have a wealth of highlights to explore around Richmond Castle, including a new permanent exhibition tells the castle’s rich story from 11th century conquest to conscientious objection.

While the ruined walls are topped with curly grass, these incredibly well-preserved remains provide a splendid sense of the castles dominance and value within medieval power struggles. After exploring the castle, take a peaceful stroll around the Cockpit Garden or grab a memento at the gift shop.

Getting to Richmond Castle

Located just off the A1, exit at Catterick and follow Richmond Road to reach the castle by car. There is parking off-site at the Market Place in Richmond town. Buses 55, 79, 159 and 825 stop at Market Place, a 2 minute walk to the castle.

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