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.