IMS and Medieval Society members take a trip to sunny Richmond on an historical trail

Staff and students of the IMS department and Medieval Society travelled to Richmond to visit the castle and Easby Abbey.

On Saturday 20th May, students and staff, as members of both the Institute for Medieval Studies and the LUU Medieval Society at the University of Leeds, took a trip to the town of Richmond in North Yorkshire as an away day for engagement and to visit some medieval historical sights. 

The Institute for Medieval Studies often ran these kinds of trips, as well as workshop events closer to Leeds University campus, back before the global pandemic. As part of their on-going desire to rebuild a sense of community within the department after the pandemic, the Head of the Institute, Dr Alaric Hall, set to work to bring together people to help organise a trip. The proposed trip would be a way for both staff and students to attend and build on their relationships within the department outside of the academic setting, while also learning about some local connections to the medieval period.
On the day, there were 22 staff members and students, led by Dr Hall and Robert Woosnam-Savage, the guide for trip. Together they set off from Leeds at 9am on a coach to Richmond. Arriving in Richmond at 10:15am, they headed straight for the castle. Richmond Castle began construction in 1071, a year after William the Conqueror’s harrying of the North, under Alan Rufus after receiving the borough of Richmond from William. The castle is triangular in shape with the widest part overlooking the sheer drop into the River Swale. Bob Woosnam-Savage guided the group through the castle grounds, providing much of the historical background for the castle, and explaining the purposes of the different buildings. He particularly pointed out the log holes, both inside the great hall and outside on of the towers, where the first floor of the hall and a wooden balcony respectively would have existed when the castle was originally built. The last thing we explored was the tower, built after the original construction of the castle in the twelfth century by Duke Conan IV of Brittany. The castle then was taken over by King Henry II and was strengthened with additional towers, with more additions to the keep implemented by Edward I. By the end of the fourteenth century, the castle stopped by used as a fortress and slowly fell into ruins. At the top of the tower, the the landscape stretched for miles around and the views were incredible. Here the group posed for some photos under the glorious sunshine before leaving the castle for a lunch break. 

After lunch, they took a walk down to the river and saw the waterfalls that sit in the shadow of the castle. Due to the weather, many of the locals were on the riverside, paddling and soaking in the sun. Following the river, they reached the grounds of Easby Abbey. This Premonstratensian abbey was founded in around 1152 by Roald, Constable of Richmond, and is a daughter of Newsham Abbey in Lincolnshire. After its initial foundation, the abbey was further extended in the fourteenth century, resulting in an impressive building. The abbey is similar in look to a Cistercian abbey, as the Cistercians inspired the Premonstratensian orders. Today, the abbey only exists in ruins, because of Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries in the sixteenth century. Despite this, a great amount of the floor plan for the abbey has survived including the nave, the cloister, and the infirmary buildings. Next to the abbey, the still-active St Agatha’s Parish Church was also open and inside there are the remains of thirteenth-century frescos and a replica of the ninth-century stone-carved Easby Cross that now resides in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  

After some time at the abbey, we walked back along the river to the coach to take us back to Leeds. All who attended the trip said that they had a great time, spent in the sunshine with colleagues and friends, with thoughts and discussions had between all attendees throughout the day. 

The Institute for Medieval Studies has run many events over the past academic year, including individual seminar talks and conferences. Although there is still to come from the department, particularly the IMC, it has been a very busy year for the IMS and plans will soon be in place to make next year just as busy. To see a list of the events we have run this year, go to the Whats on at Leeds page.