Saturday, 31 January 2009

On Richmond's Hill

To Richmond this morning to collect a book I had ordered from the bookshop - "Nigh-no-place" by Jen Hadfield, the recent winner of the TS Eliot poetry prize; more of that in a later post.
I went armed with camera to take photographs for today's post. Richmond is a lovely little Georgian town and very photogenic - so first to the Market Square. Saturday is market day and the flower stall was very colourful - but four buildings were swathed in scaffolding and the accompanying orange safety netting; one section of the square was being re-cobbled and was surrounded with plastic fencing, orange tape and traffic cones; and every available space was taken up with cars. So I have resorted to two views of Richmond slightly out-of-town. One is of looking down from the top of the hill towards the Culloden Tower (which is a holiday let) and the other is of Georgian houses in Bargate. You will have to imagine how the town looked in Georgian times - most of the houses would have been there but thankfully, no cars (what would we do without them?)
But Richmond is an attractive town and is the Richmond featured in the song:
On Richmond hill there lived a lass
more bright than May-day morn.
Her charms all other maids surpass,
a rose without a thorn.
Her looks so neat,
her smile so sweet
would win my right good will.
I'd crowns resign to call her mine -
sweet lass of Richmond hill.
The "lass" of the song was one, Frances I'Anson, who lived in Frenchgate. She was being courted by an Irish barrister called Leonard McNally - a bit of a lad by all accounts. But how could she resist his charms when he wrote this poem to her? It was quickly set to music by James Hook and in 1789 it became the most popular song of its day when it was sung for the first time in the Vauxhall Gardens in London by the most famous tenor of the day - Charles Incledon.
Frances married her barrister, but there was to be no happy ending. Frances died a short time afterwards - in childbirth.
But her name lives on in the song and the house where she lived still stands in Frenchgate, which is a perfect Georgian street. If I ever catch it without cars and scaffolding I'll take a photo of it.


Dominic Rivron said...

I parked at the top of this hill only an hour ago - just before you posted this. I looked down it, thinking what a photogenic spot it was.

I was on my way to the Oxfam shop round the corner, where I bought Hesse's Steppenwolf, a Maigret and three old classical records. We then drove off down the said hill, stopping to eat lunch on the hill over Downholme.

Teresa said...

Oh, how sweet and how sad! Loved the photos, though.

HelenMHunt said...

Great photos and your post really brought the place alive.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Sorry I missed you Dominic.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Glad you enjoyed the sad story Teresa and Helen.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Lovely photos, Weaver. What a charming place is Richmond!

Beautiful song also, and sad story.

Enjoy your new book!

jinksy said...

I enjoyed singing the song in my head as I read the words. Thanks for this musical interlude.

Derrick said...

Hello Weaver,

I can say that I've been to Richmond and it is a lovely town, if a little hilly! I also knew the song but not the story behind it, so thanks for that.

It's always a shame when places we want to photograph are shrouded in scaffolding, isn't it?!

Coastcard said...

I tried to write a haibun (to date my first and only) after my first visit to Richmond Castle. I loved the sensory garden and the parliament of rooks. You have pipped me to the post with the Jen Hadfield book! Yet another for my aNobii wish list!

Heather said...

What a lovely old town Richmond is. Many people have told me so and from your photos I can see what they mean. We used to sing 'Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill' at school, many moons ago. It is such a happy sounding song - so sad that the happiness didn't last.

Annie Wicking said...

Another great posting, Weaver.

Thank you for sharing it with us and a lovely cuppa too.

best wishes, my dear friend,


Elizabeth said...

Such a glimpse of lovely England.
A delight.

Elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leenie said...

There are many towns in the US named Richmond, probably after this original place. It is always inconvenient when things are under renovation, but it is usually so nice when the spiffery is completed. So few places here have cobblestone streets. That must be a skill, like thatching roofs, that remains more appreciated on the other side of the pond.

Sal said...

It looks a lovely place.I think I have been there just once,years ago...would love to visit again ;-)

Dragonstar said...

Those Georgian houses are beautiful. Such an elegant style.

Mistlethrush said...

At first I thought you meant Richmond, London - now that would have been a long way to go for a book!
Since I now know it's not that far away, I'll have to go visit it sometime - sounds charming.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Glad you all enjoyed the post - hope some of you may visit sometime. If you do, let me know - then perhaps we could meet for a coffee.

Reader Wil said...

Thank you for writing this beautiful post with the sad story!
The photos are lovely.I like these towns.
I hope you stay warm indoors, si do I. Yesterday I was on a bird watching tour with a friend of mine. We went to Zeeland in the southwest of the country.The three times we went out of the coach it was extremely cold, but it was worth the trouble. We saw many geese and other waterbirds, even a seal.

Pam said...

What a picturesque thoroughfare (scaffolding aside).So many women in those days died in childbirth - it was a general concensus that I would have then,with my birthing experience as well! One child's enough thanks. I guess with the scaffolding, we have to be grateful for repairs and maintenance, but was I was not too happy to finally reach Florence, and unable to see Michealangelo's David due to scaffolding and no admission!Very disappointng.I enjoyed this post -thanks!

Anonymous said...

A fascinating story, Pat. My dad used to sing the song to me when I was a child living in Kingston-on-Thames in suburban Surrey. Richmond being next door, I used to assume that it referred to that most Home Counties of little towns.

Dreadnought said...

I like Richmond although in my opinion its spoilt by allowing cars to park or even in to the centre of it like they do as are many of these old market towns. Bob.

William said...

It took me a while to get the Hadfield book. Bloodaxe were overwhelmed by orders.

I've just posted an interview with Jen Hadfield here and a blog post about her here.