Museum of Richmondshire, Richmond, Yorkshire
1974 Governance: Independent
Trust Scope: Local History Visited: Autumn 2016
itself the Museum of Richmondshire, rather than Richmond Museum, and this is
not a misnomer as it doesn’t really cover that much of the history of the town
as such. For an insight, for instance, into the relationship between town and
Castle – it is to the latter that the former owes its existence – you have to go
to the little ‘museum’ at the Castle itself, although that isn’t much of a
museum as it doesn’t have a lot in the way of objects. The focus of the town museum is rather broader.
Sort of. The
first question I was asked (apart from ‘have you ever visited us before?’ which
you get asked everywhere) was whether I’d like to watch a ten-minute film about
the town and its history. I said yes, as I am up for most things, though I was
pretty sure in the event that it was longer than ten minutes and my energy was flagging long
before the end. ‘In this film you will see several Mayors,’ the Mayor told his
viewers, ‘Rest assured that we only elect one at a time.’ Well, thank goodness for that. The purpose of the video is not
really to relate Richmond’s history but to press home how heritage-conscious
its public authorities are, which is, in itself, not a bad thing.
As so often
happens, the building in which the Museum is situated looks interesting, but
you don’t get any information about it - although the area where you sit to
watch the filmic exploits of Mayors past contains some reused crucks and
timbers from a building elsewhere in the area, and you are told about that. As for the rest, it’s a miscellaneous
gathering of themes and items, with Roman archaeology cheek-by-jowl with a
display about the long-lost local railway, and a pretty good mock-up of a Victorian shop nudging the very
informative material about the once-mighty lead-mining industry of the Dales.
Pride of place goes to the area’s James Herriot connections: the museum
displays most of the surgery set from the television adaptation of the
adventures of the Yorkshire vet (with an endorsement by the author himself,
albeit from 1984). It’s presided over in terrifying fashion by a stuffed Jack
Russell on a table, whose basilisk stare doesn’t appear to put off child
visitors as much as I would have thought. I liked the white-painted iron door with its
sign requesting visitors not to touch (surely not for conservation reasons, as
the sign is attached with blu-tack), and a corridor of prints of Richmond which
you could easily miss as it lies behind a closed door leading to the toilets.
It was here that I discovered the wonderful watercolour of ‘battling belle’
Miss Moore, a female boxer from the turn of the last century whose act
culminated, to general public acclaim, in wrestling a bear, though I don’t know
whether she wore her splendid velvet outfit to do so.