AMONG the 102 famous people from Richmond over the past 900 years who are profiled in a new book are politicians and knitters, architects and comedians, artists and gentlemen as well as the inventor of the lifeboat and two women who rejoiced in the name of Tryphora.
The book ranges from Alan Rufus, who founded Richmond Castle in 1071, to Lady Serena James, an honorary Freeman from the city who died aged 98 in 2000 and described as “a much-loved Richmondian who was the embodiment of what a woman should be”. ”.
And there is a journalist who played a major role in the creation of the Darlington & Stockton Times.
The book was compiled by Jane Hatcher from her years of studying Richmond history. She admits her list of 102 Richmond residents is “very subjective,” but each of her essays is a fascinating look into a past life.
People of Richmond by Jane Hatcher
Here are some of its renowned residents of Richmond:
John Bell (1829-1890), journalist
JOHN’s father, Matthew, had a bookshop and printing press in Finkle Street and was absorbed in the great political debates of the day. John’s older brother George went to London as a printer and started an extremely successful business which is now part of HarperCollins.
John remained in Richmond, taking over the Finkle Street business and, in 1855, starting the area’s first newspaper, the Richmond & Ripon Chronicle.
In 1870 he was declared bankrupt at Northallerton with debts of £4,540 (more than half a million in today’s values, according to the Bank of England’s inflation calculator) and fled to New York. Zealand, where he died.
In 1894, the Chronicle was picked up by the D&S Times – which celebrates its 175th anniversary later this year. The Yorkshire edition of the D&S still bears the name of the Chronicle under its heading although, curiously, since at least the Second World War it has had its Ripon and Richmond upside down.
Jane Hatcher, doing research at the Richmondshire Museum. Photo: Guy Charpentier
Anne Bowman (1796-1886), writer
ANNE’s father, Thomas, had a print shop where Thomas the Baker is today in the High Row market square. Through study of the books, Anne largely trained herself to be able to run a boarding school and exhibit her many talents: she spoke French, played musical instruments, wrote poetry, and was a talented gardener.
Then, remarkably, at the age of 56, she wrote the first of her 13 teenage adventure novels, The Bear Hunters of the Rocky Mountains. Published in London, these well-researched novels are said to have “sold by the hundreds of thousands and read by the millions”.
Anne Bowman, the Richmond woman who became a nationally acclaimed author
Suddenly, Anne became such a best-selling author that her publishers put her name on everything from educational books to collections of acrostics (early crossword puzzles) and a hugely successful cookbook that may have been inspired by his grandmother, who was a cleaner at Carlton Hall near Stanwick.
She died aged 90 in Richmond, and the R&R Chronicle noted that she had “acquired a great reputation as an author, having written many valuable and interesting books”.
John Fenwick (1846-1905), merchant
NO 83 Frenchgate is now a holiday home, but it is one of the few properties in Richmond that retains an old small-paned storefront, and it was here that in the 1840s John and Mary Fenwick were sellers of tallow – makers and sellers of candles, as well as the sale of other groceries.
Their son, also John, helped make candles from an early age: dipping the wicks in melted animal fat, then hanging them up to dry. Richmond might have been ideal for this business, because sheep fat made candles that smelled the least when burned.
In 1860 Mary died and was buried in the cemetery; in 1861 young John left council school with a good report and moved to Newcastle where he worked in a drapery shop. He did well, spotting a new market for women’s clothing and in 1882 opened his own shop in Northumberland Street: he was a draper, coat maker and furrier, and he began designing women’s clothing himself.
The store, of course, was called Fenwick’s, and John expanded it to even have a branch in London’s Bond Street. He died in 1905, leaving an estate of £40,000, and his sons continued to develop Fenwick’s so that today it stands as Newcastle’s ‘ultimate shopping experience’.
Joseph Sager (1735-1806), eccentric
JOSEPH was the severely handicapped son of a canon. He was well educated at Oxford and went to London, where he involved himself in such “debauchery and extravagance” that he had to escape to Richmond and start a school.
He was married four times, had at least nine children and, because he was unable to walk, was well known in Richmond for always riding a donkey.
His last wife, Jane, survived him and she must therefore be responsible for his tombstone which reads in Latin: “Salisbury produced me, Oxford educated me, London ruined me; Ah! What little space of land suffices for a man, however learned.
Isabelle Tinkler (1702-1794), bookseller
Isabella Tinkler, the bookseller of Richmond, drawn by James Cuit, artist Richard
TIBBY set up a bookshop in Finkle Street which has become famous throughout North Yorkshire for its wide range of publications and also for being a place where customers can browse and discuss literary matters. Its presence helped Georgian Richmond develop its reputation as a very fashionable place.
She died aged 92 in 1794, and George Cuit (the famous Richmond artist who, of course, has his own entry in the book) created a fabulous aquatint of her surrounded by bound volumes, indicating her intelligence, but also with his knitting close at hand and his clay pipe in his mouth, a sign of his banality.
His shop was taken over by Matthew Bell whose son went on to found the R&R Chronicle.
John York (1758-1820), servant
JOHN was born on a slave plantation in Jamaica and was one of two black house boys who sailed to London with the plantation owner’s daughter, Elizabeth Campbell. In 1769 she married John Yorke of the famous Richmond family – her father was the town MP who built Culloden Tower on a hill above The Green.
Richmond by moonlight in 1860. JohnYorke’s Culloden Tower reaching for the moon; Alan Rufus’ castle is at the top of the hill; below is Henry Cooke’s Paper Mill. All are featured in Jane Hatcher’s new book, as is artist Jessey Joy, a
The two black servants must have made a lot of noise in the Richmond countryside.
In 1772, slave breeding was banned in England. Although the two boys were servants rather than slaves, the Yorkes encouraged them to go their own way. One, called “Richmond”, went to work for the curate of Muker, while the other, “York”, became a servant to the Hutton family at Marske Hall in Swaledale.
They educated him, baptized him – when he took the first name “John” – and appreciated his musical abilities.
In 1800 he married Hannah Barker of Kirkby Ravensworth and had seven children – on their birth certificates he is referred to as “John York the African”.
He was probably in his sixties when he died, having been accepted and well regarded in the valley.
- Richmondians: Nine Centuries of Men and Women of This Yorkshire Town, by Jane Hatcher, is available for £18.99 from Castle Hill Bookshop in Richmond, Tennants in Leyburn and the North Yorkshire County Record Office in Northallerton. Email [email protected] or call 01748-824243 for details including delivery.