Richmond Obelisk
Obelisk Richmond North Yorkshire

Richmond Obelisk

Obelisk In Richmond, North Yorkshire

An obelisk standing in Richmond Market Place dating to 1771 with a surprising hidden secret.

Many historic towns around the UK have a market square, a place where markets and public events have been held over the centuries and Richmond in North Yorkshire is no different. There was originally a market cross at its centre, although they were often just a stone column to mark a place of trading. The idea of the “cross” was to represent “the sanctity of the bargain” and provide a reminder that nobody should be ripped off.

Richmond's original market cross was described as “the greatest beauty of the town” and sat on a stone plinth that was surrounded by a 6 foot high wall. The wall itself was also highly ornamental, with the shields of the most influential families in the area; namely the Fitz-Hugh, Scrope, Conyers and Neville families. The four corners of the cross were guarded by carved, stone dogs.

The year 1771 saw the replacement of this market cross with what is known as Richmond Obelisk, by the Mayor of the time, Christopher Wayne. Indeed, there is an inscription on the obelisk - "Rebuilt AD1771 Christopher Wayne Esq Mayor" and this may suggest that the original had fallen into disrepair or become outdated. The Georgian era, known for its architectural elegance, saw a shift towards obelisks as more fashionable and classical market markers.

The new obelisk was not particularly well received, despite being quite elegant to the modern eye, as it was described as “a crude and bulging obelisk” by some of its critics.

What makes the Richmond Obelisk stand out from others of its kind is not something visible to the world at large, but hidden from view with no clues as to its presence. Unbeknownst to most, a 12,000-gallon reservoir lies hidden beneath the cobblestones. This reservoir, constructed earlier than the obelisk itself, played a crucial role in the town's water supply system. Though no longer in use, the existence of this hidden chamber adds another layer of intrigue to the monument's history.

The history of this underground reservoir is fascinating and revolves around the supply of fresh water to the town. Richmond has a number of fresh water springs which rise on the higher ground to the north of the town itself, but the issue was always how to get the water from there to the town and its residents.

In 1583 a solution was presented which saw the creation of a pipeline from Aislabeck springs to a wellhead at the northern edge of the Market Place. This pipeline was built from hollowed out Elm tree trunks! Each pipe was bored by hand using a tool that looked like a giant corkscrew. Elm is incredibly durable as a timber and does not decompose even in water. There is still a surviving Elm pipe that can be seen in the Richmondshire Museum.

The pipes were eventually replaced in 1749 by lead pipes, which were then connected to the new underground reservoir in 1771. The Obelisk was then built on top to mark the location.

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How To Find Richmond Obelisk

Where Is Richmond Obelisk?

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54.403124, -1.738125

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Where To Park For Richmond Obelisk?

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54.403312, 54.403312

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There is parking in the Market Place although this is limited.

Contributed by Andrew Gardner

I love being outdoors, in nature, and experiencing the relaxation it brings. Wandering through the northern countryside seeing unexpected buildings, historic places and occasionally surprised wildlife is one of life's great pleasures.

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Andrew Gardner

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Richmond Obelisk was listed in Obelisk // North Yorkshire // Richmond