Richmond Castle
Castle Richmond North Yorkshire

Richmond Castle

Castle In Richmond, North Yorkshire

Early Norman castle built in the 1070s by Alan Rufus.

Richmond Castle is a beautiful ruin in the heart of Richmond and a prominent feature of the town. It is now managed by English Heritage and is well worth visiting. There is a museum there which gives you the full lowdown about the history of the castle, the views from the keep are amazing and you can also wander around the ruins of the best preserved Norman castle in England. There is a small charge for non members, and is free of charge for members.

Standing over the River Swale, Richmond castle's construction began in the late 1070s under the orders of Alan Rufus, a kinsman of William the Conqueror. The 12th century saw further expansion, including the addition of the impressive 100-foot keep, by Rufus' great-nephew Conan.

Richmond Castle's architecture reflects the early Norman style, with its motte-and-bailey layout and strong emphasis on defence. The thick walls and strategically placed towers were designed to withstand attack and assert Norman dominance over the surrounding area.

Despite its formidable defences, Richmond Castle's fortunes fluctuated over the centuries. Conan enjoyed his inheritance from the 1150s until 1166 when he gave up some of his rights in order that his daughter Constance could marry King Henry II's son, Geoffrey. When Conan died in 1171, the castle passed to the crown.

During the 13th and 14th centuries when France and England were at loggerheads, the castle changed hands a number of times until 1372, when it was re-claimed for a final time by the English crown. By the 16th century, the castle had fallen into disrepair and by 1538 it was derelict.

Later centuries witnessed a revival in its use. The castle served as a military base during the 19th and early 20th centuries, even housing the founder of the Boy Scouts, Robert Baden-Powell, for a brief period.

Notably, the castle also became a base for conscientious objectors during World War I. This military unit who refused to fight for religious or personal reasons, could still contribute to the war effort, however some known as absolutist conscientious objectors refused to contribute in any way to the war. Some were detained in a cell block at the castle and sixteen of the men were taken to France where they faced a firing squad.

In the cell block, the walls are still covered in graffiti by the men which records their feelings, thoughts and drawings they made. The graffiti is mentioned on an episode of Digging For Britain with Alice Roberts and one poignant quote reads:

'you might just as well try to dry a floor by throwing water on it, as try to end this war by fighting'.

There is no access inside the cell block so that the graffiti can be preserved, however, you can see a video of it in the castle museum.

The Digging for Britain episode also shows that parts of the castle were rebuilt many years later in the 20th century after collapsing, and concrete can be seen underneath one of the outer walls to act as a foundation for the stones. Not quite a fake medieval castle, but nearly!

Also during the dig at Richmond a silver penny was found, which had the face of William the Conqueror on it, meaning it dated back to the time when the castle was being built. How exciting for the community team who found it!

The episode is currently on BBC iPlayer if you fancy watching it.

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How To Find Richmond Castle

Where Is Richmond Castle?

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54.402207, -1.737523

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Where To Park For Richmond Castle?

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54.403339, 54.403339

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There are a few spaces in Richmond market place, a few minutes walk away.

Contributed by Sandra Clemens

I love the great outdoors and have been a National Trust & English Heritage member for years. I also love going off the beaten track and finding places like Sharp's Folly or Rothley Castle which are hidden gems in Northumberland. My favourite recent hike was climbing Red Screes in the Lake District on a whim, not fully grasping how high 776m was. It was still an achievement to conquer a Wainwright walk and I hope to do more one day.

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Sandra Clemens

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Richmond Castle was listed in Castle // North Yorkshire // Richmond