Richmond’s Georgian Diary

Richmond, Yorkshire, abounds in Georgian buildings.
Richmond, Yorkshire, abounds in Georgian buildings.

Richmond’s Georgian Heritage

Richmond, Yorkshire, is noted for its Georgian heritage.  Georgian hotels and shops cluster around the cobbled market place, while the original Georgian Theatre still entertains residents and visitors alike.

But what was it like to live here at the height of the Georgian era?  Now, we can find out, as historian Jane Hatcher and literature expert Bob Woodings have published a diary kept by a Richmond woman when King George III was on the throne.

Authors Bob Woodings and Jane Hatcher
Bob Woodings and Jane Hatcher, pictured in Richmond

Daily life in Georgian Richmond

Jane and Bob have created a rich read by not only reprinting the diary, but also meticulously researching all aspects of the writings within it, and adding an illuminating commentary.

Bob and Jane write about the Races – events that considerably swelled the town’s population.  The excitement was too much for the Diarist’s mother, who left town, while other beds filled up.  The winners were faithfully recorded.

The Races were an excuse for other social events, including dances.  These were held in the newly-built Town Hall, with its sprung dance floor.  Before big dances, a professional dancing master visited, to ensure everyone knew the latest moves.

Even when the races weren’t on, there were other dances, tea drinking, shopping, visitors bringing news from London, and travelling shows.  The shows were held in the Town Hall, as the now famous Georgian theatre was yet to be built.

The diary, says Bob, “Turned up at an antiquarian booksellers in Dorset.  We have no idea how it got there – it had probably been sold multiple times.”

Richmond, Yorkshire, grew around the castle founded in 1071
Richmond grew around its castle, founded in 1071

The diary was bought, back in the 1980s, and transcribed by historian LP Wenham, who sadly died before he had completed studying it.  Jane and Bob continued to work on his transcript, until 2018, when they decided to publish.

Who was the Diarist?

The number one question, of course, was who was the diarist?  Discovering that apparently simple fact was, says Jane, “A nightmare.”  The Diarist does not reveal her own name, nor that of her ‘Mama’ or ‘Sister’.  But she does name friends with whom she drinks tea, and relatives who send letters.

One relative was ‘Uncle Smith’, in London.  “I had a hunch,” says Jane, “That he was involved in the Beldi Hill dispute in Swaledale.”  The dispute was over mining rights.

“It was a real jigsaw,” continues Jane, “I looked at family trees.  It wasn’t easy, but that’s research.”  Some of the family trees are published in the book.  The authors have also traced many other characters named in the book: friends, shopkeepers, and so forth.  It forms a picture of Richmond as a growing area, with many new incomers.

A Georgian shopfront in Richmond
A surviving Georgian shopfront in Richmond

Jane believes the diarist herself was an incomer, which made her so difficult to trace.

But, in the way of life, after deciding to publish, new information came to light which Jane believes reveals the identity of the Diarist.

And who was she?  Jane and Bob reveal her name in a postscript to their book, “Life in Georgian Richmond North Yorkshire, a Diary and its Secrets.

INFORMATION

Read more about Jane and Bob’s investigations of Richmond’s diarist in Dalesman Magazine

Buy the book (postal sales available) at Castle Hill Bookshop, Richmond, Yorks.

About Helen Johnson

Freelance writer specialising in Yorkshire's history and heritage.

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