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Museum of Richmondshire, Richmond, Yorkshire

Founded: 1974        Governance: Independent Trust        Scope: Local History    Visited: Autumn 2016

It calls 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.

Museum of RichmondshireMuseum of RichmondshireMuseum of Richmondshire
Museum of RichmondshireMuseum of Richmondshire

Museum of Richmondshire
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