Isle of Albion
Norman castle that has sadly suffered from insensitive development.
Photographed: Wednesday 21st July 2004
Site rating:  

The castle and town of Richmond take their name from the French "riche mont", meaning "strong hill". The lands were granted to Alan de Ponthievre (Alan the Red) of Brittany by William the Conqueror after a campaign of reprisals intended to crush a northern uprising.

When building work began in 1071, Richmond was conceived as a fortress that would protect against the risk of further rebellion, whilst at the same time defending the region against incursions from border raiders. It was positioned on a natural rock outcrop high above the River Swale.

The 12th Century saw Conan (Alan's son) begin work on an imposing tower-style keep, 100 foot in height with walls 11 feet thick. Upon Alan's death in 1171, ownership of the castle passed to Henry II. Henry completed work on the keep, as well as adding walls, towers and a barbican.

As a deterrent, the castle was a success, never seeing major military action. By the 16th Century, it was of little use as a military installation and was already falling into a state of disrepair. By the 18th Century, it was in ruins.

Today, the keep survives in excellent condition, and the crumbling curtain wall still runs a complete circuit around the castle precinct. The ruins of the hall, gatehouse and towers offer other points of potential interest, and the views over the river from the walls and the top of the keep are striking.

I did find myself disappointed when visiting Richmond. Despite being central to the town, the castle finds itself tucked away like an afterthought behind more recent buildings. The river below is picturesque, but largely inaccessible and apparently forgotten. The layout of town, castle and river bear a striking resemblance to Ludlow, but the comparison does Richmond no favours. Richmond can only be recommended for a passing visit.