Legend of Richmond Castle
by Ben Johnson
High on a cliff above the River Swale in North Yorkshire sits Richmond Castle. Built by Alan the Red after the Norman Conquest in the late 11th century, the castle is one of the finest Norman castles in Britain. Indeed, there are only two other stone built castles in England that are as old as Richmond: those at Colchester and Durham.
Maintained by English Heritage, Richmond Castle is a popular destination for tourists. There are glorious views over Richmond and the Yorkshire Dales from the top of the 12th century keep which was built over the original 11th century gate house. Scolland’s Hall, named after a Constable of the Castle, is a fine example of a Norman great hall.
Richmond Castle is also one of the places associated with King Arthur and his knights. According to legend, the castle is built over a cave where King Arthur and his knights are sleeping in their tombs, waiting to rise from their slumber to defend England in her hour of need. *
It is said that whilst out for a walk, a local potter called Peter Thompson found his way by chance into this cave. There he saw King Arthur’s horn and his sword Excalibur lying on top of one of the richly carved tombs. Intrigued, Peter picked up the sword. Immediately he was deafened by a thundering clatter of armour all around him and slowly the tombs began to open. Terrified, he promptly replaced the sword and instantly the noise stopped and all was still.
As he fled from the cave, half crazed with terror, Peter heard a voice say:
“Potter Thompson, Potter Thompson
Hadst thou blown the Horn
Thou hadst been the greatest man
That ever was born.”
He stopped only to block the entrance so that no-one else would stumble upon the sleeping knights.
Richmond Castle is maintained by English Heritage. For more details of opening times, directions etc. please see the English Heritage website.
*Cadbury Castle in Somerset is also associated with the legend of a sleeping Arthur and his knights, waiting to arise and defend England